The three stages of the butterfly's metamorphoses are symbolic of the three stages in the life cycle of Christ and the Christian.
The caterpillar's incessant crawling and chewing reminds us of normal earthly life where people are often preoccupied with taking care of their physical needs. The chrysalis or cocoon resembles the tomb and suggests the empty graveclothes of our risen Lord. The butterfly represents the resurrection into a new and glorious life free of material concerns and restrictions.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam's soul is symbolized by a butterfly or drawn with butterfly wings. Early Gnostics portrayed the Angel of Death as a winged foot stepping on a butterfly. This insect is also found in paintings of Mary and the Christ Child who cherished human souls.
Almost in opposition to its resurrection symbolism, the butterfly is also a symbol of frail humanity and the vanity and brevity of life. This delicate insect might even be torn apart by a hard rain. The dainty butterfly represents women, fickleness, autumn, joy, beauty, life, immortality, and new beginnings.