The Coat of Arms of Immaculate Conception Seminary
The Coat of Arms of Immaculate Conception Seminary
Argent, four bars wavy azure, over all the Chi-Rho and in flanks thereof the Greek letters Alpha and Omega gules, on a chief of the last, a crescent between two trefoils of the field. Crest: On a wreath of the colors a crown fleury or. Motto: Dispensatores Mysteriorum Dei. Four wavy blue bars on a silver background, superimposed a red Chi-Rho, on either side of the Chi-Rho, the Greek letters Alpha and Omega in red. In an upper compartment, on a red background, a silver crescent with a silver shamrock on both sides. Crest: A gold fleur-de-lis crown on a wreath of silver and blue.
The principal elements of the coat of arms, composed of the arms of the Archdiocese of Newark in their entirety, identify Immaculate Conception Seminary as under the auspices of the Archdiocese of Newark.
The wavy blue and silver bars are derived from the coat of arms of Newark in Nottinghamshire, England. These arms were granted by Dethick, Garter King of Arms, on December 8, 1561. On the archdiocesan arms they recall that Newark, New Jersey, was named after Newark in England. In 1666, a band of about thirty Puritans from Milford, Connecticut, led by Captain Robert Treat, settled at Four Corners. They were joined the next year by another group equal in number from Branford and Guilford, Connecticut. The name of the settlement was chosen in honor of their pastor, the Reverend Abraham Pierson (1608 -1678), who came from Newark-on-Trent, England.
To difference the English coat and make the arms peculiar to the See of Newark, a red chief (upper compartment) was added that it might bear the lunar symbol of the Immaculate Conception, the title under which Our Lady is Patroness of the United States of America and of the Archdiocese of Newark. It is a happy coincidence that the arms of the city of Newark, granted during the reign of Elizabeth I, were bestowed on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The crescent is accosted on either side by two shamrocks, known as trefoils in heraldry, to honor Saint Patrick, the titular or patron of the Pro-Cathedral of Newark.
To permit the arms of the Archdiocese to refer specifically to the seminary, the monogram of Christ, the Greek Chi-Rho flanked by the Greek letters, Alpha and Omega, have been emblazoned in a form similar to that found on the coins of Constantius (Emperor Flavius Julius Constantius, 337 -361, son of Constantine the Great and Fausta).
As in the Cross, early Christian writers recognized in the Chi-Rho the mystical seal alluded to by the Prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 9:4, 6) and in the Apocalypse or Book of Revelation (Revelation 7:2, and 14:1); Tertullian (born 160) and St. Clement of Alexandria (died c. 215), both allude to it; Origen (185 -253) and Epiphanius (died 403) explain it as symbolical of Christ's two-fold nature. There are many varieties of the Chi-Rho monogram in early Christian art in the catacombs and in the first Roman Churches.
The Chi-Rho, the symbol of the High Priest of the New Testament who offered the Bloody Sacrifice of the Cross for the redemption of mankind, is indeed an appropriate charge for the shield of a seminary that trains Alteri Christi to offer the Eucharist, the unbloody sacrifice commanded by Jesus Christ in commemoration of the Sacrifice of the Cross. It is an equally appropriate symbol for those who seek to serve Christ in various ministries of the Church and in the study of Catholic theology.
The Alpha and Omega have been cryptically significant of the divinity and infinity of Christ since the writing of the book of Revelation. "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty (Revelation 1:8). Another reference in Revelation to these letters is, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give water from the well of life to anybody who is thirsty (Revelation 21:6). As Alpha, God is the beginning of all things at the creation in Genesis; as Omega in Revelation, He is the consummation of all things. Commenting on the words quoted above from Revelation, the Venerable Bede (672 -735) wrote: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, says the Lord God. The beginning without predecessor; the end without royal successor. He who is, and who was, and who is coming, the Almighty."
On a wreath of silver and blue a golden crown is displayed as a crest above the shield. The origin of this wreath or torse is interesting. In the tournament or joust, the knight, as he passed his lady in the arena, received at times a token or favor from her; this usually consisted of a handkerchief or some other fabric in the metal and color of her family arms --in the livery colors, as they are called. The knight took this and wound it like a wreath around the base of the crest where it joined the top of his helmet. The wreath has now become but a stand for the crest; it is always in the principal metal and color of the shield, and the metal must be the first of the six pieces.
Fortunately, but happily, the principal tinctures of the shield of the Archdiocese of Newark are silver and blue, the Marian colors. These are the tinctures that must be used for the wreath. In this instance the wreath stands for the seminarian's esteem for the Immaculate Virgin, and is, therefore, a most appropriate foundation on which to place the crown that symbolizes Mary as Queen of Heaven. In the year of the establishment of this coat of arms for Immaculate Conception Seminary (1955), Pope Pius XII instituted the feast of the Queenship of Mary for the Universal Church.
The motto Dispensatores Mysteriorum Dei is taken from St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians: "People must think of us as Christ's servants, stewards entrusted with the mysteries of God" (1 Corinthians 4:1). These same words also occur in the Roman Pontifical in the Rite for the Ordination of a Priest.
- This description was written by the designer of the coat of arms, William F. J. Ryan, in 1955. It was slightly revised in 2005 by the present writer.