Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and Omega is the last. Together they symbolize the eternal nature of Christ. AlphMonogram1a and Omega may appear as distinct letters or joined in a monogram, but they are never seen apart for each other.
Monogram2Chi Rho is a Christogram from the first two letters of the Greek word XPICTOC (pronounced “Christos”). It is one of the oldest of the monograms, and today these Greek letters are familiar symbols on church vestments. Chi Rho may also be shown in combination with Alpha and Omega.
Monogram3IHS (or IHC) derives from the first three letters of the Greek name for Jesus (“IESOUS”): iota-eta-sigma. The monogram dates from the 8th century, and in the Middle Ages, the Latin-speaking Western Christians transliterated the Greek eta to the Latin H, which had the same visual appearance. The Greek sigma became the Latin S or C, which were both pronounced “s”. (IHC is actually the older form of the monogram.) Popularized by Saint Bernardine of Siena, IHS was later used by Saint Ignatius of Loyola as a symbol for the Jesuit Order.
Monogram4The letters INRI are initials for the Latin title that Pontius Pilate had written over the head of Jesus Christ on the cross (John 19:19). The words were “Iesvs Nazarenvs Rex Ivdaeorvm.” The English translation is “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”. By the way, did you know that Pilate’s title for Christ was actually written in three languages?And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin. Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, “Write not, ‘The King of the Jews;’ but that he said, ‘I am King of the Jews’.”Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
Monogram5-John 19:19-22 (KJV)ICHTHYS is an especially interesting “monogram” because it is both an acronym and a symbol. The acronym is made up of the initial letters for each of the words in the phrase “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior”, or Iesous Christos Theos Yios Soter in Greek. ICHTHYS is also the Greek word for “fish,” and the fish symbol became a code by which the earliest Christians identified themselves to one another in the days of persecution.
Monogram6Monogram6Detail[1]This is a gesture known as the Christogram, and is considered the original “sign of the cross.” The fingers are positioned to form the Greek letters ICXC, an abbreviation of the Greek name of Christ: IHCOYC XRICTOC. This gesture is unbiquitous in Renaissance images of Christ and the apostles, as well as in portraits of Saints and clergy.The Christogram is used today as a traditional gesture of blessing by priests in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Curiosly, the same gesture is known in Hindu and Buddhist traditions as the prana mudra, a symbol of healing.