Chi Rho Cross
The Chi Rho Cross is a warrior's cross and also a 'Chrismon' (a monogram of Christ)
The Chi Rho Cross (or Constantine's Cross)
One of several forms
rho (P) on a Tau. Often called a staurogram and similar to the Shepherd's Cross
With Alpha Omega
With Alpha Omega
Because this cross is formed with a 'P' and 'X', it is sometimes mis-named as Pax Cross. The correct name is Chi-Rho Cross (with or without a hyphen), and this page explains why.
It is also sometimes called an XP Cross.
Do an internet search for "XP" and "cross", and you'll find pages about Microsoft's Cross-Platform operating system, Windows XP. You might also find some interesting articles on another XP, Xeroderma Pigmentosum, which is a rare and incurable genetic disorder. People with XP must stay out of the sun, since for them, Windows can result in cancer!
A particular bright light appeared in the noon-day sky over 1,700 years ago just before the Battle of Milvian Bridge, an important crossing point over the river Tiber, northern Rome. The Roman Emperor Constantine saw this and at the same time, heard the words "In Hoc Signo Vinces" (In this sign you shall conquer). He took this as a sign from God and decided the shape drawn by the light should be an emblem for his military. This emblem became known as Labarum.
The shape he saw was of a flaming cross - "a long spear, overlaid with gold". It had a cross bar and "on the top of the whole was fixed a wreath of gold and precious stones, and within this the symbol of the Saviour's name, two letters indicating the name of Christ by means of the initial letters, the letter 'X' intersection 'P' at the centre."
The Greek word for Christ is Christos and the Greek lettering is Χριστος. The first letter 'Χ' (chi, shaped like the St. Andrew's Cross) and the second letter 'ρ' (rho), form the monogram of Christ. Add to this Alpha (Α) and Omega (Ω) and we have a complete acronym for the words of Jesus: "I am the Alpha and Omega". (See Alpha & Omega Cross.)
Constantine the Great
274 - 306 A.D.
The labarum, as a monogram engraved on soldiers' shields, is a military emblem. For Christians, it is a Chrismon and reminds them of the fight is against evil.
The Chi Rho appears in logos of several churches and mission institutes. For example the sisters and brothers of Maryknoll, the Church of Uganda, and others.
Often refered to as a Chrismon, the XP combination became the monogram of Constantine. Coincidentally, the labarum was similar to an existing pagan emblem used as a standard by the Roman cavalry. Constantine was the Pontifex Maximus, chief priest of the classical Roman Pagan religion. So it's easy to see why he warmed to the symbol.
The timing of witnessing the sign was significant; it was 27 October 312, the day before an important battle on Milvian Bridge, which he won. Since chi and rho form the monogram of Christ, he understood it was a sign from the Christian God and thenceforth Constantine became more tolerant of Christianity.
However, we can't imagine Constantine as a wholly 'good guy' and tolerant of other religions. Jews were required to convert to Christianity, and if they refused, they were regarded as outcasts and Devil worshippers.
During the Second World War, Hitler hid behind the Catholic Church and the Swastika Cross to persecute the Jews. And today, the current bellicose 'war on terror' (the absurd and tragic war on reality) hosted by 'Christian' nations hiding behind their cross, has led to increased persecution of Muslims. There has been slaughter of Muslims by Christians in Kosovo; genocide by Muslims, Roman Catholics, and Serbian Orthodox followers against each other in Bosnia-Herzegovina; mass murder of Roman Catholics by Muslims in East Timor, and...
As with Constantine, all these people started on a path they had convinced themselves was right. Persecution might not have been on their wish-list, but they had a 'natural' urge as leaders to expand their empire and power.
Perhaps 'natural' is an odd choice of words but it does seem, time and again, that many of the elite succumb to greed and wage a war against those beneath. Such people have bowed, perhaps unwittingly, to the Devil. (And for those who don't believe in God and/or the Devil, let's just agree that these people are satisfying their own greed.)
A spin-off of this greed and hunger for power is not only persecution and oppression, but also a tarnishing of certain religions. In fact true followers of these religions are not only tolerant of others, but go further than that. They love other people, even if those other people have different beliefs. (See Interfaith Cross)
"Love the Lord thy God with all your heart, all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is similar: Love your neighbour as yourself." (Matt. 22:37-39).
What an awesome responsibility for us all, especially our world leaders. But what an awesome licence, privilege and opportunity for us all, to show the love of God.
The Chi Rho Cross is a warrior's cross. A cross, like any other we could choose, to follow Christ's example to wage war on any form of evil. And the surest thing to overcome evil, the only thing to overcome evil, is of course, love.
Etymology unclear - possibly a Gaulish/Celtic word. See Lauburu Cross.
Recorded in the 3rd century by Eusebius Pamphili, Bishop of Cesarea in Palestine; Reference: Aringhi, Roma Subterranea, tom.ii. pp. 566, 705; Eckhel, Doctrina Num. Vet. 4. tom. viii. p. 88
Some writers says that Constantine made Christianity the state religion, but that didn't happen until a century later during the reign of Theodosius.