With help from family and much confusion here is a litle information about our Three Bar Cross.
Perhaps more a problem tan solution. Much is taken from different sources and some of my thoughts and memories.
The cross is the most prominent of all Christian symbols. It is symbolic of the crucifixion of Christ and His suffering and death for the sins of the world. St. Constantine, Emperor of the Roman Empire, placed the cross over the symbolic eagles of Caesar, and this emblem has been the standard symbol of Christian faiths the world over. The Slavonic cross is distinctive, especially in that it includes the lower bar or foot rest set at a diagonal. There are several historical explanations for this. Beginning in the ninth century, crucifixes began to have the additional footboard in the shape of a horizontal bar in addition to the earlier form which had an upright bar and a single cross bar. This lower bar provided a place for Christ to rest His feet. Byzantine artists used this form of the cross regularly.
The first Byzantine crosses had the added footboard placed horizontally, but successive Slavonic crosses put the lower bar at a sharp diagonal. This change took place between the tenth and eleventh centuries. One explanation is that it serves as a graphic rebuke to those who held the opinion that Christ did not actually suffer on the cross but only seemed to suffer. The inclined position of the lower bar indicates the intense reality of the suffering in the flesh by Jesus as He hung on the cross. His agony was so intense that His nailed feet wrenched loose the nailed parts of the cross when He thrust one foot down while drawing the other up.
Still another interpretation of the slanting footboard is that it symbolizes the part played by those two thieves who were crucified with Christ. The thief on the right repented and is represented by the raised side of the lower crossbar, while the lowered left side represents the other thief who blasphemed Christ during His crucifixion and was condemned. The extra cross bar at the top of the Slavonic cross represents the inscription board nailed above Christ on the cross. The inscription, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews", was written in three languages, Greek, Latin and Hebrew. One explanation sometimes given in Eastern Church literature is that the Slavonic cross is the replica of the cross planted by the Apostle Andrew when he looked over the Carpathian Mountains of Ukraine bless the land and predicted that a great Church would arise. This would be the great church complex of Aya Sophia Holy Wisdom ( not Holy Wisdom of Constantinople ) or more commonly called St. Sophia in Kyiv to-day.
The top bar is the title-board which Pilate ordered to be hung in mockery over Christ’s head on the Cross. On this board was inscribed: "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin (abbreviated to the Greek initials ‘INBI’ or the Latin initials ‘INRI’ in the Western tradition). In Ukrainian it is written ( Isus Nazorey Tsar Iudivsky ) but you will find it as I H U I, ( The Letter U should be slightly different)
On brass (any metallic ) or carved wooden hand cross or pectoral cross there are some drastic differences. This “ I H U I “ is replaced with the Christian inscription: "King of Glory" – below the knees of the image of angels which are seen on this cross. On the title-board is inscribed the initials 'IC XC', being the first and last letters of Christ’s name in Greek. In addition, just above Christ's arms we see the inscription: ‘NIKA’, which in Greek means: "He
conquers" or "He is victorious." Frequently, we see these last two
inscriptions together: 'IC XC NIKA', meaning: "Jesus Christ is victorious"
(over death and sin).
The middle bar is that on which the Lord's hands were nailed. Again on hand crosses on either top corner we see the depiction of the sun (left) and the moon (right), for "The sun hid its light, and the moon turned to blood." (Joel 2:31) The inscription: ""Son of God" is placed on both sides of Christ's head, and below His arms we read the inscription: "Before Thy Cross we bow down, O Master, and Thy holy Resurrection, we glorify". The halo of Christ is inscribed with three Greek letters meaning "The Being" or "He Who Is", to remind us that Christ is the same God Who identified Himself with those words to Moses in the Old Law
The slanted bottom bar is the foot-rest. There is some question of whether it was actually on the Cross of Christ, but it is acknowledged to be a necessary attribute of the Cross, worthy of veneration and prophetically alluded to in the words [Let us] worship the footstool of His feet... (Ps. 98:5).
In prayers for the Ninth Hour, the Church likens the Cross to a type of balance of righteousness:
"Between two thieves Thy Cross did prove to be a balance of righteousness: wherefore one of them was dragged down to Hades by the weight of his blasphemy whereas the other was lightened of his transgressions unto the comprehension of theology. O Christ God, glory to Thee."
The meaning of this prayer is as follows: the Cross of Christ stood for a scale of justice between the two thieves: for one of them sank in to hell, dragged down by his blasphemous words; and the other, the wise thief, ascended into heaven, because of his repentance. The church fathers attempted to render tangible the thought of the unfaithful thief going to hell for his blasphemy through the just judgment of God (the lower end of the bar), and of the wise thief going to heaven for his repentance and his praise of God (the upper end).
The modern St. Andrew's cross, however, is in the form of an "X", the shape of the cross upon which this disciple was crucified. (In his honour, the slanted portion of his cross was added to the bottom of the Saviour’s cross). The Slavonic cross, with its added inscription bar at the top, and one slanting footboard bar below, more fully symbolizes the crucifixion that the commoner simple cross, which has only one upright bar and only one crossbar.
On the Cross is our Savior, Jesus Christ… Note that He does not wear a crown of thorns, and that His feet are nailed with two nails.
Behind the body of Christ, on either side, are a lance (which pierced Him) and a sponge (which was soaked with gall and offered to Christ to drink) on a pole made of reed or cane.
At the very top of all three bar crosses is the icon "Ne-ruko-se-tvor-nay"=not made by hands or the veil of Veronica/Veronika. Here, for interest, her name means Vera=true or real, ika/ikona=icon and hence "true icon
This cross is used extensively both by Catholics of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church here in Canada and in Ukraine. and used by the Ukrainian (Greek) Orthodox, and Carpatho-Rusyn Orthodox Greek Catholics ( Orthodox most OCA) all of whom are of Slavic descent who share the same heritage of Eastern Christianity.
To-day, even, Roman Catholics have started to come to appreciate the value of the Orthodox church’s iconography of “ Theology in Colour and Form”.
It was the custom to erect such large crosses before the entrance to towns and villages in Eastern Europe to ward off evil and unfriendly spirits, but, more to serve as a sign of welcome to fellow Christians passing by, and as a pledge to God of their solidarity as a deeply rooted Christian community.
But, you know, we Eastern Christians are a strange lot and more so strange because we are Slavs, and there is always "Shcho baba I mama meni skazalè =What baba and mama told me.”
Now, baba (Blessed Memory) was told by her mother, my prababa/greatgrandmother (Blessed Momory) that the lower bar which used to be straight, was for us.
On it, we put our sins and then we put ourselves on it.
We, at the bottom, are joined with Jesus on the cross .
Sometimes, we complain and ask Jesus if we can have at least one hand free …..He says “You are always free to choose”…you know the result….the weight is no longer evenly distributed and the bar “slants…downward”…pointing to where we are headed!
But… on the other side, it also points upward to
where Jesus wants us to go.
Baba said that we can always come back but the bar now will not correct itself but will always remind us of sinning and failure but, also, always of hope.
Most westerners see the cross only as crucifixion and death……….
but we Eastern Christians don’t see it like that. We see death, surely, but we see “Death”………and…………… “Resurrection” at the same time.
If fact, one day, I shall tell you of the priest’s two sided hand cross and the great two sided altar cross and its theological significance. But, my friend, you have enough here to digest.
Now back to babology ( A baba’s theology)……So, how do you hold on baba?
Simple! she said. “ Now you hang on to the feet of Jesus and remember where He walked….if you only walk where He would walk you can never get into trouble!”
This story brings back so many memories!!!!! And it is so old! But I never forgot.
It almost made sense to me but after reading this and without pictures it became difficult. So forgive me and my helper. I tried!