On its hem you shall make pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, around its hem, with bells of gold between them, 34a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, around the hem of the robe. Exodus 28:33-
The nation of Israel may have first encountered the fruit of the pomegranate when, having escaped from Egypt and having received the covenant from the LORD God, twelve spies were sent into the Promised Land. When the spies returned they brought with them fruit that was large and plentiful. Among the items they brought back was the pomegranate. (Numbers 13:23) As we read above, the pomegranate also became an important image for the religious life of Israel. The instructions God had given to Moses for the creation of the vestments to be worn by the priests were to have woven into them “pomegranates of blue and purple.” 1 Kings 7 describes Solomon’s temple and the furnishings it was decorated with. There we learn, “The capitals were on the two pillars and also above the rounded projection which was beside the latticework. There were two hundred pomegranates in two rows all around, and so with the other capital.” And later, “the four hundred pomegranates for the two latticeworks, two rows of pomegranates for each latticework, to cover the two bowls of the capitals that were on the pillars.” The pomegranate was for Israel a symbol of the Promised Land God had promised to Abraham and brought them into to be their own. A symbol of God’s generosity and his presence with them in the Land. Later, when God was angry with the faithlessness of Israel the absence and the drying up of the pomegranate showed his punishment for the people. “The vine dries up; the fig tree languishes. Pomegranate, palm, and apple, all the trees of the field are dried up, and gladness dries up from the children of man.” Joel 1:12
The pomegranate is not mentioned in the New Testament, yet it became for the church throughout her history a symbol of Christ Jesus. Examples of art and clergy vestments from as early as the 4th century have included images of pomegranates with the Christ. It is believed to have been a symbol of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The deep red juice of the fruit which drips from pomegranate when it is cut open reminds us of the cross and Jesus’ shedding of his blood for our sin. The fruit, so often appearing in Christian art as bursting open, reminds us also of his open grave and the promise of the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
For this reason, our new Christmas altar paraments, the communion vail which covers the chalice and paten, and the stole worn by the pastor – maybe not too unlike those ancient Israelite vestments -