Symbols of Inspiration
Christianity has developed a rich history of symbols and signs which identify Christians as being followers of Jesus. Early symbols, such as the Fish (following Christ's promise to make his disciples
Fishers-of-Men) and the simple Empty Cross, may have been used to connect with others of the Faith when it became dangerous to be a Christian. As the Church evolved many other designs were developed as congregations endeavored to develop their own identity and express their own interpretations of Jesus's lessons. Although each symbol is unique, all are significant in that they represent our intention to be seen as part of Christ's mission.
IThe Luther Rose, also known as the Luther Seal, is easily the most recognized symbol for Lutheranism, and for good reason. Martin Luther personally oversaw the creation of this coat of arms in the year 1519. It provides a beautiful summary of his faith, a faith that is common to all Christians, of every place and every time. Here is how Luther explained the meaning of his seal:
"Grace and peace from the Lord. As you desire to know whether my painted seal, which you sent to me, has hit the mark, I shall answer most amiably and tell you my original thoughts and reason about why my seal is a symbol of my theology. The first should be a black cross in a heart, which retains its natural color, so that I myself would be reminded that faith in the Crucified saves us. 'For one who believes from the heart will be justified' (Romans 10:10). Although it is indeed a black cross, which mortifies and which should also cause pain, it leaves the heart in its natural color. It does not corrupt nature, that is, it does not kill but keeps alive. 'The just shall live by faith' (Romans 1:17) but by faith in the Crucified. Such a heart should stand in the middle of a white rose, to show that faith gives joy, comfort, and peace. In other words, it places the believer into a white, joyous rose, for this faith does not give peace and joy like the world gives (John 14:27). That is why the rose should be white and not red, for white is the color of the spirits and the angels (cf. Matthew 28:3; John 20:12). Such a rose should stand in a sky-blue field, symbolizing that such joy in spirit and faith is a beginning of the heavenly future joy, which begins already, but is grasped in hope, not yet revealed. And around this field is a golden ring, symbolizing that such blessedness in Heaven lasts forever and has no end. Such blessedness is exquisite, beyond all joy and goods, just as gold is the most valuable, most precious and best metal. This is my compendium theoligae [summary of theology]. I have wanted to show it to you in good friendship, hoping for your appreciation. May Christ, our beloved Lord, be with your spirit until the life hereafter. Amen."
The Episcopal Shield
The shield was adopted by the General Convention of 1940 and is rich in symbolism. The red cross on a white field is the St. George Cross, an indicator of our link to the Church of England, the mother church of the Anglican Communion.
The miniature crosses in the blue quadrant symbolize the nine original American Dioceses that met in Philadelphia in 1789 to adopt the constitution of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. They are: Connecticut (established in 1783), Maryland (1783), Massachusetts (1784), Pennsylvania (1784), New Jersey (1785), New York (1785), South Carolina (1785), Virginia (1785), and Delaware (1786).
The blue field in the upper left is the color traditionally associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary and is symbolic of Jesus’ human nature, wich he recieved from his mother.
The outline of the miniature crosses is in the form of St. Andrew’s Cross in tribute to the Scottish church’s role in ordaining the first American Bishop, Samuel Seabury, in 1784.
The colors red, white and blue symbolize, respectfully, (Red) the sacrifice of Christ and Christian martyrs,(White) the purity of the Christian faith, and (Blue) the humanity of Christ received from the Virgin Mary. In duplicating the colors of the American flag, they also represent the Episcopal Church’s standing as the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion.
TAGS: Episcopal Church, protestant, Christian
About the Author
Malcolm X Diaz has been a parishioner of St. James Episcopal Church in Goshen NY since 2006 & a member of the Vestry since 2014. A computer programmer by trade, currently specializing in web development, Malcolm has been managing the technical development of the Saint James website since 2008.
The Cross At Grace & Holy Spiri
The Cross in our sanctuary combines elements of three traditional representations of this sacred symbol.
Fleur-de-Lis - A cross with the ends of the arms flory (fleury), having a shape somewhat like a fleur-de-lis (fleur-de-lys); this cross is a reminder of the Holy Trinity and of the Resurrection.
Latin - This most common of all cruciforms reminds us of the supreme sacrifice offered by Jesus for the sins of the world. The cross is empty to remind us of the resurrection and the hope of eternal life. This cross is also known as the crux ordinaria.
Natal - This cross is shaped like a star, reminding us of the story of Jesus' birth and foretelling the purpose for which he was born. "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star." - Revelation 22:16