Wayne's Worldview is a place to share my unique perspective of the world as formed from my interpretation of the scriptures and my experience as a Christian. As a pastor, I am asked a lot of questions about current issues, life dilemmas, personal problems, politics, biblical interpretation...etc.I offer these "How I see it" thoughts in effort to challenge people to think about their worldview, and to stimulate good conversations that will help us become more whole.
Welcome to the conversation.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Letters on the Cross IHS

Letters on the Cross, What do they mean? Part 2 Now that you know about INRI, you may have noticed that the cross in our sanctuary has the letter IHS on it. The "IHS motif" is popular inmany different styles and is often super-imposed on each other to form a single icon or emblem similar to a personal monogram of your name using your initials. Because the letters have been used with different meanings in the past it is difficult to say emphatically, like we can with INRI, what IHS means, because it has over time, had various meanings assigned to it. "IHS" is an abbreviation for “In hocs sign,” which is an abbreviated version of in hocs sign vinces.” This phrase is in Latin, translated to mean “in this sign, thou shalt conquer.” This symbol was often used on battlements and weaponry to give divine assistance in battle to assure victory. Similar thinking motivated the incorporation of crosses themselves into shields and swords… etc. during the crusades in the middle ages. The symbol of the cross itself was believed to have divine power and similar thinking goes into the crossing of oneself or being crossed over with water during baptism in some traditions, desiring God’s blessing from above. Another assigned meaning is that the symbol is representative of the first three letters of the name "Jesus" in the Greek alphabet. ‘Jesus' in Greek: ΙΗΣΟΥΣ. In technical language: the first two characters, iota (Ι) and eta (Η) are almost identical in appearance to the Latin 'IH'. Since there is no correlating Latin character for the third character sigma (Σ), the pronunciation gives us a close approximation to the Latin 'S', giving us the set 'IHS'. In plane words: The letters form a monogram of the name of Jesus, like the initials of your name. Early church history records the name of Jesus or some of his other titles shortened, particularly in symbols or art. The letters IH and XP (for Jesus and Christ) are numerous before the third century. These Greek monograms, along with several others, continued to be used in Latin during the Middle Ages. This type of abbreviation is seen around Xstmas time, although many Xstns find this use offensive, thinking that people are taking Christ, out of Christmas. It is also prevalent in Christian art and stained glass windows. Another popular symbol that uses this kind of lettering is the Ichthus (ΙΧΘΥΣ). The Greek word for fish is also used as a Christian acronym of Greek words: I=Jesus, Ch=Christ, Th=Theou (God's), U=Uios (Son), S=Soter (Savior). Thus, IChThUS means "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior". There are a few other interpretations of letters 'IHS'; the most popular being an acronym of the Latin: Iesus Hominum Salvator (Jesus, Saviour of man). In Latin: Jesus Hierosolymae Salvator (Jesus, Saviour of Jerusalem); Iesus Habemus Socium (Jesus is our companion); In Hoc Signo spes mea (This sign, the cross, is your hope); In Hoc Signo Vinces (By this sign you shall conquer); In Hoc Salus (Safety). In German: Iesus Heiland Seligmacher (Jesus, Redeemer and Saviour). In English: In His Service Whatever perspective is adopted to explain the "IHS" insignia, there is no single definitive meaning. Regardless of intent, a symbol has no particular meaning unless one is assigned to it. In other words the IHS on the cross in our sanctuary is meaningless to you, unless you assign meaning to it. In a similar fashion, it does one no good to wear a W.W.J.D (bracelet), or a cross, or a fish beyond adornment, if you don’t know what it means or assign it a meaning, it is meaningless. Madonna was once quoted that she loved crosses because a naked man hung on one. Religious symbolism is effective precisely in the measure in which it is helpful to the average person to understand an assigned deeper meaning. For example: The lighted candle is typical of the illumination of and spread of the gospel, but to others it is a representation of ongoing prayers. The giving of rings in a marriage ceremony is originally a pagan practice that has been given a “Christian” meaning of never ending love and fidelity. As for the letters on the cross in our sanctuary… if one of the historical possibilities assists you in your worship, then adopt it as your own. Because I am a student of history, I would lean toward one of the simplest, oldest and easiest to remember - The initials of Jesus inscribed on the cross. It reminds me of his great sacrifice and the empty cross reminds me of his victory over his death on the cross. If were a soldier serving in a holy war against Islam extremists, I might very well adopt the In Hoc Signo Vinces.I don’t know what you would choose, but if the symbol is to mean anything, you need to be intentional about making that choice.

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