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The Orthodox Church is the Church founded by Jesus Christ and described throughout the New Testament. All other Christian Churches and sects can be traced back historically to it. The word Orthodox literally means "straight teaching" or "straight worship," being derived from two Greek words: orthos, "straight," and doxa, "teach­ing" or "worship." As the encroachments of false teaching and division multiplied in early Christian times, threatening to obscure the identity and purity of the Church, the term "Orthodox" quite logically came to be applied to it. The Orthodox Church carefully guards the truth against all error and schism, both to protect its flock and to glorify Christ, whose Body the Church is.
(credit: antiochian.org)

 

God-fearing Christians believe that Jesus accepted crucifixion on a cross for the benefit of us all. The message from this is at the heart of all true gospel preaching and consequently the cross symbol is used by two billion Christians all over the world.

This has not always been the case however. Christians didn't use the sign of the cross as their religious symbol for many generations after Christ was crucified. Rather than being a Christian symbol it had associations with executioners.

So initially, Christians adopted the fish fish symbol to identify their religion. Then, early in the fourth century, when execution by crucifixion was abolished by Emperor Constantine and Christianity became the state religion of Rome, the cross became the emblem for Christians.
Here are some samples of Crosses

Eastern Orthodox Cross

Also known as the Russian Cross, Ukraine Cross, Slavic Cross and Byzantine Cross, the Eastern Orthodox Cross is a Latin Cross with two additional cross beams. This cross is distinctively different from other Christian crosses. The deep symbolism and the tradition of icons was preserved from Byzantium through the Christian Empire it created in Russia. Byzantium was the captial of the Christian Byzantine Empire, later renamed Constantinople and currently Istanbul. The culture of the area is a rich mixture of different traditions of iconography. This is reflected in the additional beams on the cross.

The top beam represents the plaque bearing Pontius Pilate's inscription written in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, "Jesus the Nazorean, King of the Jews". The letters INRI typically inscribed on this beam are from the Latin which reads, "Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum". This upper beam is found not only on the Orthodox Cross but also on the Patriarchal Cross.

A popular theory from the eleventh century, is that the slanted lower beam represents a foot-rest. The slant symbolizes a balance scale showing the good thief, St. Dismas, having accepted Christ would ascend to heaven, while the thief who mocked Jesus would descend to hell. In this interpretation, the Cross is a balance-scale of justice. A similar lower beam is also found on another form of Patriarchal Cross where there is only one upper beam.

The slant is invariably shown high on the left and low on the right and when interpreted as the Slavic Cross, the lower beam is understood to be one arm of a superimposed St. Andrew's Cross. The Apostle St. Andrew was the first Christian missionary to Russia. The story goes that when Andrew preached in southern Russia, he used a large three-bar cross as a visual teaching aid. All three bars were parallel, and when relating the Passion he tilted the lower footrest to signify that those on the right side of Christ will rise up into heaven and those on the left will slide down into hell.

The Cross of St. Nicholas

Like most saints there is no single specific cross associated with St. Nicholas, and in his case, we hear more of Santa Claus than Saint Nicholas himself or his cross. Even so, he is one of the most popular saints, especially for Eastern Catholics and the Orthodox. Due to his charity and concern for the welfare of children, the Archbishop Nicholas (280-342 A.D.) of the Mediterranean port of Myra (Turkey) became Saint Nicholas and is the patron of children and travellers.

Budded Cross

A Latin Cross with three 'buds', it is called a Budded Cross.

In Christianity, the three-leafed clover end caps remind believers of the Trinity. This trefoil design is probably copied from earlier Celtic Druidry, where they represent the three dominions of earth, sky and sea. Like the appendages of other crosses, the 'buds' have other interpretations. For example, a connection with Aaron's staff that budded (see Numbers 17) and was preserved in the Ark of the Covenant, showing that life can emerge from death and renewed life from difficult circumstances. Or like the buds of a flower where a journey of growth in faith, like flowers growing but not yet bloomed.

Since there are four arms, each with three buds, another name of this cross is the Apostles Cross, with one bud for each of the twelve budding Christian apostles. (See also the Consecration Cross.)

This cross is known in heraldry as the Treflee, Trefoil, Bontonee or Bottony Cross (from the French bouton a button) and is an artistic variation of the Cross Crosslet.