This article is a printing of the Grand Orator’s speech that was given at the 201st Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Mississippi.
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In This Sign
Most Worshipful Grand Master, Grand Lodge Officers, Distinguished Guests, and Brethren All: I am humbled to stand before you today to act, pro tempore, as your Grand Orator. While Right Worshipful Brother Jordan Downs is unable to address us today, I am sure that you will join me in recognizing him and expressing our gratitude and appreciation to the Great Architect of the Universe for this inestimable Brother still being among us.
Brethren: From Ptolemy’s recording of the ancient constellations, including Cygnus or the Northern Cross, to the eventual adoption of the Crux or Southern Cross, humanity has sought in the sacred pages of the celestial hemisphere an understanding of the sign of the cross. As ancient and enduring as the stars are, nearly every human culture and numerous faiths have also used variants of this symbol for their own purposes. Of the multitude of Christian related crosses in use today, four form the basis of these variants: Crux Quadrata or the Greek Cross, Crux Decussata, commonly known as Saint Andrew’s Cross, Crux Commissa, or the Tau Cross, and Crux Immissa, or the Latin Cross. However, before Christianity adopted these crosses, there were two other forms of crosses that humanity widely used.
Perhaps the most ancient cross-type symbol is the Crux Grammata, or Swastika. Variants of this symbol can be found throughout ancient history in the Ukraine, England, Bulgaria, Iran, India, Africa, and more locations into recent history. While individual cultures use the symbol for more specific iconography, its most ancient use appears to be to symbolize the rotation of the Earth, as well as the Sun, other astronomical objects, or the absolute God or His emanations. Seen as being composed of four Greek capitals of the letter Gamma, it is marked on many early Christian tombs as a veiled symbol of the cross.
The other ancient cross is the Crux Ansata, or Ankh, which is generally accepted to be representative of life. This symbol, used since approximately 3,000 BC, was probably derived from an even earlier symbol, the Tyet, which symbolized protection. As such, the Ankh was depicted in several forms, including the Egyptian gods feeding the Ankh, or life, into the Pharaohs. It was adopted, in a slight variation, by the Coptic Christians of Africa.
In ancient Babylonia, predating the Latin cross, a variant of the Greek cross was used to symbolize the sun-god Shamash, with equilateral arms pointing to each of the cardinal compass directions, and was the first cross used by the early Christian Church. It is believed to have represented the Church, as opposed to the sacrifice of the Christ. It too can be found used in conjunction with the Ankh. The equilateral nature of the 4 arms has numerous esoteric applications which are much worth the effort to research.
Equally simplistic in its design is the Saltire, or Saint Andrew’s Cross, named such for its association with the tradition of the martyrdom of that Apostle. As such, it bears all of the characteristics that have been associated with Andrew the Apostle. It has been adopted as a heraldic symbol by many groups and countries and can be found represented in flags, such as the flag of the Great State of Mississippi, and is used in symbology throughout the world.
Thanks to its design, the Tau Cross is sometimes linked to numerous symbols used throughout antiquity from a vast array of cultures, including the Druids, Egyptians, and more. Potentially the cross form more appropriate to the actual crucifixion of the Christ, the Tau is traditionally connected to the Father of all Monks, Saint Anthony. The Tau is particularly familiar to Freemasons for its use in the Triple Tau. However, understanding the Tau, or T, as the final letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Tav, and how its written symbol is reminiscent of a gate, the adept may draw out many further meanings.
The Latin Cross, perhaps the symbol we are most familiar with, takes on many deep meanings as well. From representing the redeeming act of the Christ, to the characteristics of patience and humility which He displayed while in the mortal flesh. While these symbolisms are more than satisfactory, a deeper learning can be had by considering the earthly horizontal bar with the heavenly vertical one, their intersection, and so much more. From the Latin cross, many other adaptations have been made, such as the Cross of Salem, the Patriarchal Cross, and the Jerusalem Cross, just to name a few.
In all, the cross, in whatever form, has always been used to represent that which brings light and life, and to symbolize the most honorable and venerable characteristics of mankind. How will you conquer through this sign? Will you adopt those same venerable characteristics? Will you be the light that is not hidden under a bushel? My Brethren, whatever your understanding may be, I assure you, when you seek to apply it well, in this sign, thou shalt conquer.