June 12, 2009

Little Fishes

The church two parishes away has a little chapel off the left side of the main sanctuary. I don't know if they ever have Mass in there, but it would be great for a group of up to thirty people or so. Gated off on one side is the old baptistery, which fascinates me. It has a mosaic floor made to look like a pool, with fish swimming about in it. On the floor, in Roman capitals, is an inscription that has always fascinated me:

SED NOS PISCICULI SECUNDUM IXΘON NOSTRUM IN AQUA NASCIMUR

So today when I was there I wrote it down. A quick Google search reveals its origin in Tertullian's De Baptismo 1, 3:

Sed nos pisciculi secundum nostrum ιχθον Iesum Christum in aqua
nascimur, nec aliter quam in aqua permanendo salvi sumus.

"But we little fishes are born in water according to our Fish Jesus Christ, and nor are we saved in any way but by remaining in the water."

Whoever designed the baptistery perhaps left the Iesum Christum out of the quote to get the IXΘON right in the middle of the inscription, which is very striking.

Neat, right? That's my next baptism homily. Better translations are welcome in the comments. It took me a while to figure out how to get the Greek letters into Blogger; my usual method of cut and paste from Word didn't work. I was happy to this chart of the HTML for the Greek alphabet.

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