In a world dominated by symbolism, I thought it would be appropriate to look more closely at the Luther Rose, the iconic symbol for Lutherans all across the world. It is a symbol that unifies and solidifies Lutherans in their faith.
Here in South Africa, many ELCSA members have a Luther Rose sticker on their car windows, proudly displaying their religion. On my parish’s program for the Easter weekend, they included a letter written by Martin Luther which explained his reasoning behind his symbol. Luther beautifully articulates his seal’s detailed meaning and provides the foundations for his theology in his response below:
Grace and peace in Christ, Honored dear Sir and Friend:
Since you wish to know whether my seal has come out correctly, I will tell you how I originally planned my coat-of-arms as a symbol of my theology.
There is first to be a cross, black and placed in a heart, which should be of its natural color [red], to remind me that it is faith in the Crucified that saves us. A person can only become righteous when he believes with his whole heart. Even though it is a black cross, which mortifies and which also should hurt us, it leaves the heart in its natural color and does not ruin nature; that is, the cross does not kill but keeps man alive. For the just man lives by faith, but by faith in the Crucified One.
This heart should be set in the midst of a white rose, to show that such faith yields joy, peace and comfort such as the world cannot give. That is why the rose is white and not red, for white is the color of spirits and angels.
This rose is to be placed on a field of heavenly blue, because such spiritual joy and faith are a beginning of heavenly joys to come, which are even now possessed by faith and understood in hope, although they are not yet evident to the outward eye.
And, encircling this field is a ring of gold, to signify that this bliss of heaven endures forever, and is more precious than all earthly pleasures and possessions, even as gold is the most precious of metals.
May Christ, our dear Lord, be with your spirit until it attains to that life.
Now, who doesn’t want to be Lutheran after reading that!? I continue to be proud of my church and its history, present workings, and vision for the future. After reading Luther’s letter, I can only smile and embrace his theology once more.