Julie Lyles Carr: Sunday Selah

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Selah

See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands
Isaiah 49:16

When I fell in love with Michael while in college, I would often find myself during long, boring lectures doodling his initials into the margins of my spiral notebooks. Alongside my notes on abnormal psychology and Victorian poets are curling letters wound around each other, a cursive blend of his given names. I was enchanted when ordering the invitations for our wedding with the monogrammed thank-you notes that came with them, the first letter of Michael's name, the first letter of my name surrounding the letter that would become our shared last name. The rune of our romance. The unical portrait of our unity.


Mono, single. Gram, letter. His monogram, meaning his name alone. My monogram, meaning my name alone. And now a monogram to symbolize us, a calligraphic seal showing the combining of our lives.

I gave Mike a signet ring with those letters many years ago, a few months before we were married. And later, on the door of our home, I painted a decorative monogram of our initials. Our children's names all start with either the first letter of Michael's name or the first letter of mine. And so, the monogram that was created when we married is now the monogram that fits each member of our family.

But there is a monogram on the door of my heart, even more precious, even more telling.

In the history of the early church, it was called a Christogram.

For the Greeks, it was the use of the first and last letters contained within the name Jesus Christ, ICXC. These letters can often be seen in the symbol of the ichthys, the fish symbol so familiar to us today, the silver outline of the fish pasted on the to back of the car in front of us, assuring us of the faith of the occupants of that car. Because ICXC was so close to the word for 'fish' in Greek, early Christians adopted the symbol as a hidden emblem for the letters of Jesus's name.

In Latin, IHS or IHC became the monogram of His name, a Latin-ized tranliteration of the Greek letters that make up the first three letters of Jesus. In modern times, we often think of these letters as meaning In His Service or I Have Suffered. And we sometimes see the letters INRI above depictions of the crucifix, symbolized the the first letter of each word of the Latin phrase, Jesus Nazarene, King of the Jews.

ICXC. IHS. INRI.

Christogram.

The monogram on the door of my heart isn't as defined as these letters but the mark of its seal is no less clear. The blade of His Word has made quick work in exposing this heart of stone, in cutting away and in circumcising the sin. And there are so many words written there, all proclaiming the One who now owns that heart. Prince of Peace. Emmanuel. The Lion of Judah. The Lamb. The Bridegroom.

Jesus.

But the monogram for all those letters, the interplay of Hebrew and Greek and Latin and English symbols, is a simple one.

It is a wound. A ragged, blessed hole, a puncture of promise. A symbol comprised of sacrifice. The consummate monogram. The strength of His name folded over the sin that threatened to obliterate mine. The requirement He met to make me His.

When He came for me, He wrote His monogram on my heart.

And then He wrote mine in the palms of His hands.

Selah.
(originally posted June 21, 2009)

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