Symbolism in the Adoremus Christmas Card

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.

This entry was posted in Latest News and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.