Chrismon Tree 2015

When Ursuline Sister Mary Sheila Higdon was ministering at Holy Name Parish in Henderson, Ky., from 1982-85, she created her first Chrismon Tree. Chrismon means monogram of Christ. These symbols of Christianity and the Church are made into ornaments and hung on a tree during the Christmas season. The idea of a Chrismon tree originated with Mrs. Frances Spencer of the Ascension Lutheran Church in Danville, Va., in 1957 as a way to protest against the commercialization of Christmas. While in Henderson, Sister Mary Sheila and a group of women ordered a pattern booklet from Ascension Lutheran and made ornaments to decorate a tree in the sanctuary of Holy Name Church.

Sister Mary Sheila with the Chrismon tree she created.

After ministering for many years in schools and churches throughout Kentucky, Nebraska and Missouri, Sister Mary Sheila returned to the Motherhouse in 2011. This year she decided to create a Chrismon tree at Mount Saint Joseph. She started working on the 24 ornaments in November of this year, using foam board, glitter, cotton and other embellishments. The tree was decorated in mid-December and it stands in the lobby of Paul Volk Hall.
Below is a list of the Chrismon symbols and their meanings:

ALPHA AND OMEGA: The first and last letters of the Greek alphabet which signify that Jesus is the beginning and the end of all things. (Revelation 1:8.)

BELL: A bell calling people to worship symbolizes the need of priority for the things of God over the secular. In general, the sounding forth of the Word.

BIBLE, OPEN: Symbolizes the Word of God.

BUTTERFLY: Symbol of the resurrection and eternal life. As the butterfly leaves the pupa and soars upward with a new body, so through Jesus Christ are his followers borne to a new life.

Chrismon Tree 2015 (7)CUP: A symbol of the blood of Christ and of the sacrament of Holy Communion.

CHI RHO: A monogram of the first two letters, Chi (X) and Rho (P), of the Greek word from Christ.

CHRISTMAS ROSE: Symbol of the Nativity and of messianic prophecy, a white hardy rose that blooms at

CIRCLE AND TRIANGLE: Suggests the eternity of the Trinity.

ANCHOR CROSS: Used by the early Christians in the Catacombs. Ancient Egyptian in its origin.

BUDDED CROSS: It suggests the young or immature Christian.

CROSS AND CROWN: These symbolize the reward of the faithful in the life after death to those who believe in the crucified Savior. “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

Chrismon Tree 2015 (8)CROSS PATTÉE: Resembles the Maltese cross. A beautiful form of the cross used widely for decorative purposes.

DAISY: Conventionalized, symbol of the innocence of the Holy Child. Popular usage started toward the end of the fifteenth century.

FISH: A secret sign used by the early persecuted Christians to designate themselves as believers in Jesus. The initial letters of the Greek words for “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior,” spell the Greek word for fish.

FLEUR DE LIS: One of the most popular symbols for Mary.

HARP: The symbol for music, especially that rendered in praise of God.

LAMB: The blood of a lamb without blemish was commanded by God to be sprinkled on the doorposts of Hebrew homes in Egypt so his destroying angel might pass over and spare Israel. This was memorialized in the Passover Festival. In the New Testament, the lamb is often used figuratively to symbolize Christ and his sacrifice.

LAMP: A symbol for the Word of God. Probably coming from “Thy word is a lamp to my feet” (Psalm 119:105).

MANGER: Suggestive of the simplicity of poverty surrounding the birth of Jesus and typical of his entire life.

Chrismon Tree 2015 (3)SHAMROCK (or Clover): The prominent three leaves make the clover an easily understood symbol of the Trinity.

SHELL WITH DROPS OF WATER: A symbol of our Lord’s baptism.

STAR, EPIPHANY: The star of Jacob (Numbers 24: 17) finds its fulfillment in the “manifestation” of Jesus to the Gentiles (Matthew 2: I -2).

TORCH, BURNING: As a Christian symbol it signifies witnessing for Christ. “Let your light so shine” (Matthew 5:16).

TRUMPET: Symbol for the day of judgment, the resurrection, and the call to worship.

DOVE: The dove expressed innocence and purity. It signifies the Holy Spirit and the presence of God as hovering over the water at creation, and above Jesus at his baptism.



  1. Sister Elaine Burke

    Sr. Mary Sheila’s Chrismon tree is beautiful and very meaningful. Thanks for making the lobby of Paul Volk Hall so inviting and full of inspiration! Sr. Elaine


    How beautiful. I know that took a lot of time and patience. Thank you for sharing the finished tree with us.

  3. Marie Wafzig Underwood

    A joyous symbol of the Christmas season. Thank you, Sr Mary Sheila for sharing your talents and message. Marie Wafzig Underwood, St Barth’s, 1962

  4. Suzanne and Wayne Gibbons

    Sister Mary Sheila has been our dear friend (and so much more)for many years. We are blessed to know and love her. Sister was so excited about creating a Chrismon tree for her community. We talked with her several times during the planning and making of the
    the ornaments. Her enthusiasm and joy were contagious. We knew from her descriptions, the Chrismons would be beautiful and seeing Sister Mary Sheila next to the decorated tree is a wonderful Christmas gift for us!

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