Monday, October 29, 2018

Despite What Many Believe, the Crescent Moon on Russian Crosses Not about Christianity Defeating Islam

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 29 – Many Russians are surprised that some Orthodox church crosses feature a crescent moon, given the long association in their minds of Orthodoxy with the cross and Islam with the crescent, and are even inclined to conclude that because the crescent is shown impaled by the cross, this symbolizes the victory of Christianity over Islam.

            But a commentary on a Zen.Yandex channel says that this isn’t the case and that those who think in this way should remember that “the cross and the crescent as symbols existed a long time before either Christianity or Islam (

            More than that, the article continues, the cross and the crescent were often shown together before either of these faiths arose, representing respectively the Sun and the Moon, something mentioned in many places in the Bible’s Old Testament, including Malachi, Chapter 4, versus 2.

            The crescent which in the Orthodox tradition is called tsat “symbolizes several things: the cradle of Jesus in Bethlehem, the eucharistic cup, the baptismal font and even the anchor which the Apostle Paul called the hope given by faith,” as he put it in his letter to the Hebrews (chapter 6, verses 18-19), the commentary continues.   

            It is noteworthy, it says, that the tsata is often worn as a necklace and that many view the eight-pointed Orthodox star with it as forming “’an anchor.’”  And it is also significant that sometimes the Orthodox cross is shown with 12 rays at the end of each is a star, a symbol straight out of the Apocalypse of St. John.

            The number 12 also links the cross to the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles, the article says. Some theologians see this as also being linked to the Mother of God, while others suggest that it is “a metaphorical description of the Church. The latter view is why the crescent is featured on many church crosses but not on crosses worn on one’s chest.

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