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The Chi Rho Window
    
The Chi Rho is a very ancient monogram that is commonly used in nearly every Christian tradition: Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant. Next to the cross, it is probably the most widely used of Christian symbols. The letters "X" and "P" are the first two letters of "Christ" in Greek. They are superimposed to form the monogram that is displayed in the fourth north window. The letters also form the first two letters of the Greek word "Christos Rex," or Christ the King. The "X" is identical to the St. Andrew's cross. It is common to see the Chi Rho on altar hangings, vestments, banners, hymnals, and sometimes Bibles.

The Chi Rho was originally a rather militaristic, triumphal, conquering symbol. The symbol became popular under the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine. It was used on the armor of his armies, stannards, flag staffs, coinage, statues, palace decorations, and sarcophagi. Flags flew from staffs that were topped by a Latin cross with the Chi Rho at the top, often within a circle.

Constantine was converted to Christ on the eve of his military victory over Maxentious in 312 AD. Maxentious claimed title to the empire and led a strong revolt. When Constantine was planning his attack, he saw a vision at noonday of a cross of light superimposed above the sun and heard a voice proclaiming, "By this sign you will conquer." That night in a dream Christ commanded him to use the Chi Rho in all his military engagements. After his victory in the battle of the Milvian Bridge, Constantine embraced Christianity. He came to see himself as the chosen servant of the "Highest Divinity," which he identified as the God of the Christians.

Scholars debate whether the vision was legend or fiction; whether he was consolidating political power by accommodating to the growing number of Christians; and whether the conversion was real, political, or a mix. Constantine soon had his armies baptized. Laws were changed. Church bishops were given civil authority. Clergy were favored. He tried to mediate in various church doctrinal disputes. His mother, Helena, went off to the Holy Land famously seeking the true cross of Christ; identifying holy locations for the birth, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ; and later having grand churches built upon those locations. Under Constantine the Roman Empire became Christian.

Especially during the Crusades of the Middle Ages to reclaim the Holy Land from the Muslim "infidels," soldiers, volunteers, and even children commonly marched off under the sign of the Chi Rho. It became associated with a crusading, militant, Christian spirit. The bloodshed and excess of the crusades was reprehensible, and came to represent the very opposite of the spirit of Christ and the ethics of Biblical Christianity. The Chi Rho still powerfully represents triumph, but of a spiritual, non-warring kind. It represents personal and societal victory over the power of sin in the world. Today Christians ought to be militant for love, kindness, goodness, and personal faith in Jesus.

The design is of simple, clean, and unadorned lines. It is not encircled. The Chi is colored dark red or maroon, and the Rho is colored a streaked yellow and green. The inscription in the small window above is from Psalm 100:4: "And into his courts with praise." This seems to be linked in message to the first smaller window, "0 go your way into his gates with thanksgiving."  

 

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