Tradition. Part 3 of 5

The cross

The cross is a global symbol of the Christian faith. Click image to enlarge.

Did you read the last post? I made a statement, “If there was a circle in it I’d have said that the cross was a Presbyterian device, however I think it’d be more technical to call it a Patonce Cross.” It occurred to me after the fact that perhaps not many have a clue what I’m talking about (possibly even fewer care but that’s another matter).

I’m sure you’ve noticed that the cross comes in many shapes and sizes. Not? Well it does, different people have iconized… mmm. Perhaps the way I’m using that word, iconized, needs some interpretation and context?

Roadsigns

mmm, in retrospect I should have thought of crossroads! Click image to enlarge.

I arrived in the Eastern Cape for our family holiday via a SAA plane but Liezl and kids drove down the national highway. But let’s say they took a tortuous road up a mountain pass and saw a road sign with a few pebbles falling down a steep hill, then they’d know to watch out for fallen rocks, right? Maybe a little later they saw a sign of two cars passing each other inside a passageway, then they’d have known a tunnel was coming up. Well, the rock fall and the tunnel have been iconized into signs, symbols.

The cross has been iconized over the centuries as well. You might be thinking “that’s awful” and maybe it is but it’s still affected your thinking. You see, round the time of Christ’s crucifixion the cross represented a terrible torturous death, a symbol of humiliation to the Roman mind and the mark of a curse to the Jew (check out this post for more). Now days we give it too our children to wear around their necks as a pretty little token.

Where were we? Oh yes, I’m sure you’ve noticed that the cross comes in many shapes and sizes. Not? Well it does, different people have iconized it in different ways. A crucifix for example emphasizes Jesus’ sacrifice upon the cross whereas an empty cross emphasizes Jesus’ resurrection and victory over death but either way they no longer mean what Jesus meant when He said:

And He was saying to {them} all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.

Here’s the crosses that I considered during the investigation of the glass of St George’s church in Knysna:

Also known as the Latin cross. It is the most common symbol of Christianity. It represents the death of Jesus and His resurrection.
Chief symbol of the Presbyterian church.
The Patonce cross which has expanded ends terminating in floriated points. The three petals represent the Trinity and the total twelve petals represent the Apostles.
The Pattée cross has splayed arm ends. The name ‘pattée’ comes from the French for ‘paw’.
The Fleur-de-lis cross is a cross adorned with lily petals at the arm-ends, and is very similar to the Fleurie Cross and the Patonce Cross with liliform ends. Not only do the arm-ends represent flowers, but they also have the appearance of a barbed fightingspear. Therefore these crosses are used mainly in heraldry, especially in France.
The Floriated cross is a cross with arms terminating in representations of flower petals. The flower is typically a lily.

So there you have it. An explanation for the statement, “If there was a circle in it I’d have said that the cross was a Presbyterian device, however I think it’d be more technical to call it a Patonce Cross.”

Paul once said,

23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness,

You see the symbolic meaning that we attach to the cross might have changed but the truth of what it represents, the Gospel of Jesus Christ crucified for the remissions of sins, remains a mystery to those who choose to stumble around in the dark after their own desires.

And on that note I’m off to the doctor.

What other kinds of crosses have you come across? St George’s cross? St Andrew’s cross? The Jerusalem cross? Do you understand the meaning or history that each is attempting to portray? Is the traditional understanding of these things important in any way?

Mark Penrith (352 Posts)

Mark is a pastor at Crystal Park Baptist Church. Crystal Park Baptist Church is a community of regenerated believers who confess Jesus Christ as Lord; gathered together for teaching, worship, fellowship and evangelism. Mark is married to Liezl, has three children, Kaitlyn, Kathryn and Thomas and loves preaching, writting and thinking.


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