Thursday, April 1, 2010

Lessons In Iconography : The Chi Rho - Christ

The Chi Rho may well be one of the most recognized of Christian symbols, and it represents Christ himself. This simple symbol is made up of a superimposed "X" (chi) and a "P" (rho), the first two letters of Christ's name in Greek.

Used from the earliest days of Christianity on lamps, liturgical objects, sarcophagi, and in catacomb painting, and still in wide use today, the Chi Rho is linked to the conversion of the Roman empire in the fourth century. In 312 AD, on the eve of his battle against Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge, Constantine received a vision of this very sign blazing in the sky accompanied by a voice which assured him, "In this sign you will conquer." Constantine had this symbol put on his imperial standard and was, in fact, victorious.

While there are certainly many other symbols that represent the Resurrection, none embodies it as completely as this symbol of Christ himself. Our Lord told Saint Martha, "I AM the Resurrection and the life." Christ is the guarantor of the Christian hope in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. As was promised to Constantine, it is in the name of Christ that we achieve victory. May we live confident in the Victor, the Risen Christ, this Easter season and always.

Rachel Ross
Curator of Art