When Ed Riojas created “Adoremus” for ArtPrize 2012 in Grand Rapids, he did more than produce a beautiful work of art. He gave us a masterpiece with incredible theological depth, with subtle, intentional allusions to Messianic symbolism. We asked him to describe the symbolism for us, for it is in the details that we find a greater appreciation for the work as a whole.
Starting with the peak of the frame, then moving to the side windows, and finally to the Holy Family:
- Tripartite construction of the stable and its triangular peak, a subtle nod to the Holy Trinity
- The crown of thorns that literally hangs over Jesus’ head
- A laurel wreath entwined with crown of thorns, to show ultimate victory over death
- Two turtle doves (to the left of the crown of thorns), referring to humility and the 8th-day sacrifice
- The eight-pointed Bethlehem star which announces Christ’s birth but also alludes to His death by its cross shape
- The crucifix in a road-side shrine
- A ram caught in a thicket, just as Abraham’s substitute sacrifice was given to him
- The Rose of Sharon blooming, as the Messiah is now revealed
- The ram and bull are untouched, for now is come down the ultimate sacrifice
- The inn with smoke intentionally excluded from the chimney, showing a lack of hospitality
- The open tomb in front of the inn
- Circular halos, or nimbii, showing figures to be among the saints
- Mary’s blue and white clothing, traditional colors that point to her virginity (purity)
- The lily, which is a symbol of the Virgin Mary
- The draw knife (carpenter’s tool), symbol for Joseph
- The lantern next to the draw knife with a single burning light, representing Christ as the light of the world
- Jesus, the “sign” (Luke 2:12), wrapped in swaddling cloths (in a similar way as a body for burial) and lying in a manger (a typical stone manger of the Middle East, similar to a sarcophagus)
- The Latin included in the piece (Venite Adoremus Dominum) is reflected in the card’s inside text: Word of the Father Now in flesh appearing. O come, let us adore Him.
Find Adoremus and our other Christmas cards here.