Luther’s Seal: A Reformation Day Remembrance

Luther seal_jpgSince it is Reformation Day today, I thought I would highlight a small snippet of the history of the reformation that is not as well know, namely Luther’s Seal. In Luther’s day it was normal for prominent members of the community to have a personal seal or coat of arms. The symbolism found in the seal would tell others something about the person, what they did or believed. Through his courageous preaching and teaching about God’s Word, Martin Luther had become famous. So it was that while Luther was at Coburg Castle in 1530, Duke John Frederick, the Electoral Prince of Saxony, made an order for the creation of a seal that was meant to express Luther’s theology. Luther’s seal is rich with symbols and colour. I think the best way to explain the symbolism is to let Luther speak for himself, here is part of a letter in which Luther Explains the seal

 

“Grace and peace in Christ! Honorable, kind, gentleman and friend,

Since you are keen to know whether or not your example of my seal hit the mark, let me share with you in a friendly way some of my preliminary thoughts regarding the elements of my seal that I want to fashion as a kind of trademark for my theology.

The first element should be a cross, black within the heart. That is the color that it should naturally have, by which I can remind myself that faith in the Crucified One makes us into saved people. One becomes justified according to what one believes in the heart.

Now, about why it is a black cross, it should put the flesh to death; it should hurt. But leave the heart in its proper color [red]. This is because through the cross, the human nature does not decay. The cross does not kill off the human nature altogether; rather, it preserves the human nature in new life. The just person shall live by faith, but only by faith in the Crucified One.

But this heart should be located in the middle of a white rose to show that faith gives joy, comfort, and peace. It immediately sets [the believer] into the midst of a white, joyful rose, not like the peace and joy that the world offers. That is why the rose should be white, not red. White is the color of the spirits and all angels.

This rose is set within a sky-colored field, because this joy that is comprehended in spirit and faith, this joy that is now grasped in hope but not yet openly revealed, is the beginning of the heavenly joy to come.

And around this field is a golden ring, because salvation in heaven endures forever; it has no end. It is more precious than all other kinds of joy and wealth, just as gold is the most noble, most precious of all ores.

May Christ our dear Lord be with your spirit, even unto that heavenly life to come. Amen! [See Luther’s Works. American Edition volume 49:356-359]

–from Lutheranism 101, (Concordia Publishing House), pg. 20-21

 

Are you doing anything special to remember Reformation Day? If so let us know in the comments below:

  3 comments for “Luther’s Seal: A Reformation Day Remembrance

  1. October 31, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Scripture has priority over the church, for the church is the baby born out of the womb of Scripture, not vice versa. “For who begets his own parent? Who first brings forth his own maker” (LW 36:107; WA 6:561)?
    I find this quote to be quite incredible.

    Thanks for the post Pastor Tyrell.

    As somebody very new to the Reformed, may I ask where Luther and Calvin particularly differed in their theological belief systems? Besides the fact that Calvin did not separate the church from the state the way that Luther did.

    • tyrellh
      October 31, 2013 at 3:49 pm

      Hi Noreen

      I am so glad you have benefited from that quote. It is indeed wonderful, Scripture Alone.

      In response to your question on Luther and Calvin I think I will write a small blog early next week on it, since a topic like that would fit better as a blog than as a reply here. I trust that will be helpful to you?

  2. October 31, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    That would indeed be helpful!!! 🙂 🙂

    Thank you so much and God bless!!!!

    Looking forward to it! 😀

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