What Are the Symbols of Evangelical Lutheranism?
29 SEP 2017
Evangelical Lutheran worship is rich in symbolism. Many of these symbols are common to the rest of Christianity, though a few are particular to Lutheranism. While many of these symbols are fairly easy to understand, some require a little explanation for those unfamiliar with the history and teaching of Evangelical Lutherans.
1 Luther Rose
The Luther Rose -- also called the Luther Seal -- was designed by Martin Luther, and is the most common symbol used in Evangelical Lutheran churches. It consists of a black cross in the center of a red heart inside of a white rose. It is generally depicted on a sky-blue field surrounded by a gold ring. According to Martin Luther, the black cross within a red heart represents both the pain of knowing that Jesus Christ had to be crucified and that the cross gives life for Christians. Luther believed white to be the color of angels and spirits, and represented joy, comfort and peace. The blue field and the gold ring symbolize eternal blessedness in heaven.
Another common symbol in Evangelical Lutheran churches is the anchor. This is sometimes depicted with the Luther Rose superimposed over it. For Lutherans, the anchor symbolizes safety, and reminds them of Hebrews 6:19: "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure." Some Lutherans have also suggested that the anchor symbol was formed by making a stylized monogram of "Alpha and Omega," a commonly used reference to Jesus Christ that uses the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet to indicate that he is the first and the last.
Evangelical Lutherans make use of several stylized monograms. The most common include several different depictions of "Alpha and Omega." Other Evangelical Lutheran symbols which make use of monograms include the Chi-Ro, which combines the first two Greek letters in "Christ" -- which look like an English "X" and "P" -- and the Chi Cross, which combines the first letter in the Greek word "Christos," or Christ, with a cross. This is often shown on a blue field with stars to represent Jesus' lordship over the universe.
Like most Christians, Evangelical Lutherans make use of the cross in their artwork and symbolism. Commonly used crosses in Lutheran churches include a variety of plain crosses, the crucifix -- a cross with Christ on it -- and the Triumphant, or "orb," Cross which depicts a cross on top of an orb, which represents the earth, to convey the idea that the world needs Jesus Christ as King of Kings. Crosses are often combined with other symbols in Evangelical Lutheran churches.
Some Evangelical Lutheran churches include a menorah -- a special candelabra designed to hold seven candles -- among their altar vessels. The menorah has its roots in Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. Lutherans use the menorah to remind them of their faith's roots in the Old Testament. Lutherans believe the lit candles of the menorah symbolize the soul's desire to reach up to God and the flames which appeared over Jesus' disciples' heads on the Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2.
6 Other Symbols
Evangelical Lutherans share many symbols with Christianity as a whole. Common Christian symbols used in Evangelical Lutheran churches include the lamb, used to symbolize Jesus Christ as the "lamb of God"; the dove, which symbolizes both the Holy Spirit and peace; the scallop shell, which symbolizes baptism; and the "ΙΧΘΥΣ" fish -- pronounced "ick-thoos," it's the Greek word for "fish." These Greek letters are also used as an acronym which translates to "Jesus Christ, God's son, savior."