You’ve seen it on cars, you’ve seen it on pendants or necklaces. But what exactly is that fish symbol, sometimes called the “Jesus Fish”? In Greek, it’s known as the Ichthys, or “fish,” according to aleteia.org, and its Greek letters, ΙΧΘΥΣ, “are the initials of the words in the Greek phrase that translates to ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.’ ” 

The origin of the symbol dates to the second century and “for Christians under persecution, the Ichthys became a covert sign to identify their beliefs,” according to aleteia.org. But the Ichthys was used as more than just a symbol or a sign of faith. It was also used as ornamentation on monuments, frescoes, catacombs, sculptured representations, rings and seals, according to newadvent.org. 

Fish are the highlight of many Scripture readings throughout the Gospels. In St. Mark’s Gospel, Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee when he saw two fishermen, Simon and his brother Andrew, casting their nets. “Jesus said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men’ ” (Mk 1:17). 

Jesus used the fish, in referencing Jonah “in the belly of the whale three days and three nights” (Mt 13:40), as a sign of his own resurrection after three days. Recorded in all four Gospels is the miracle of Jesus feeding a crowd of 5,000 with fish and loaves. In St. Matthew 18:27, Jesus tells Peter to pay the temple tax by “dropping in a hook” in the sea and taking the first fish, which would have a coin in its mouth “worth twice the temple tax.” John, Chapter 21, describes how the disciples fished all night but caught nothing until Jesus appeared, after his resurrection, and instructed them to “cast the net over right side of the boat” (Jn 21:6). The men then caught 153 large fish. 

Though there might not be a sign for Ichthys as an emoji on our smart phones or tablets, there are plenty of fish emojis to add to our praying hands.