The Grace of Conviction

Photo: Archaologisches Museum Frankfurt

According to the Chinese calendar, it is “the year of the Rooster”.  It may surprise many to find that the early Christian symbol found in Roman catacombs was not the cross, or the fish, but the rooster (!?). (Above is a replica of an early 2nd century AD Roman cockerel terracotta originally deposited in a Christian casket).

The rooster has been used by other cultures/religions to symbolize different meanings, but among early Christians it meant the conviction of sin. This is based on the gospels reminding us that during the Last Supper, Jesus foretold Peter would deny Christ three times before the rooster’s crow.

Early Christians took this symbol to remind themselves, “I was a sinner, I needed forgiveness, I am going to the One who has forgiven me, and who now welcomes me into His presence.”

Pope Gregory I (540-604 AD) declared the rooster the emblem of Christianity saying it was “the most suitable emblem of Christianity”, being “the emblem of St Peter.” The rooster began to be used as a weather vane on church steeples since a Papal enactment of the ninth century ordered the figure of the rooster to be placed on every church steeple.

Despite that historical footnote, Edna Hong laments our times as “an age without a sense of sin, in which people are not even sorry for not being sorry for their sins, is in rather a serious predicament. Likewise an age with a Christianity so eager to forgive that it denies the need for forgiveness. For such an age, therefore, Lent can scarcely be too long!”

We live in such an age.

Nevertheless, Lent calls us back to the “grace of conviction”. That’s right – it is grace to become aware of our sin in such a way that we’d be reconciled to the One who made us for Himself.  

Jesus restores our souls to Himself by His own Holy Spirit who “arouses in us the sense of sin, the sense of guilt for sin, the humble contrition for the guilt of sin that makes forgiveness possible, the sense of gratitude for the forgiveness of sins, and to motivate the works of love and the work for justice that one does out of gratitude for the forgiveness of one’s sins” (Edna Hong, A Look Inside).

This Lent may you be aroused to your sense of guilt for sin, to the humble contrition for your sin, and to the joy of forgiveness.

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