Sunday 27 August 2017

The Coat of Arms of Kyr Andriy (Rabiy)

A Revolution of Quality

            The coat-of-arms of Bishop-elect Andriy Rabiy, by heraldic artist and draftsman Matthew G. Alderman, represents a “revolution of quality,” in the world of Ukrainian ecclesiastical heraldic design. After years of waiting for such an opportunity, it is my pleasure to present this magnificent example, in the creation of which I had the honour to act in a small advisory role.

Arms of Andriy Rabiy

            The arms of Kyr Andriy (Rabiy), newly-elected Auxiliary bishop of the Ukrainian Archeparchy of Philadelphia, represents one of the most refined examples of contemporary Ukrainian ecclesiastical heraldry, and this for three reasons: because it was created by a professional heraldic artist; because it is faithful to the laws of ecclesiastical heraldry; and because of its simplicity. 

            Coats of arms consist of two components: a shield and its external ornaments. The symbols (charges and ordinaries) upon the shield represent the identity of the person who bears the arms, while the external ornaments denote their rank and position. Each arms is described in a heraldic language; an archaic form of English containing Norman-French terminology. In that language, Rabiy’s arms are to be officially described as follows:

Or, in base three hillocks vert, from the central hillock a cross couped azure of three bars, the central bar longer than the upper and lower bars; on a chief enarched of the third, three mullets of five points argent in arc. The whole placed on a mantle purpure, tasselled and corded or, lined argent, ensigned with a Greek mitre, all set over an Eastern crozier and processional cross in saltire.

            In heraldry, the two metalic tones of gold and silver are equivalent to the colours yellow and white. They are described as “or” and “argent.” Other colours are similarly described with archaic terms: green=vert, blue=azure, purple=purpure. A hillock is a small hill; “couped” means that the cross’s arms do not extend to the edge; mullets are stars with straight edges. “Saltire” means the episcopal cross and crozier are arranged in an “x” shape.

            The internal elements (charges and ordinaries) of a new coat of arms can be chosen with a certain degree of freedom, provided they conform to heraldic principles. The external ornaments, however, are determined by heraldic law. A good heraldic artist will select (or help the bearer of the arms select), arrange, and depict elements and colours of the arms tastefully. The internal elements of these arms were carefully selected by Bishop-elect Andriy himself, after a period of reflection and prayer. When doing so, he wisely chose to follow the rule of noble simplicity.

            The “charges” and “ordinaries” on the shield symbolize various aspects of Andriy Rabiy’s life and mission, which began in Ukraine and continue in the United States of America. The upper heraldic “field” (background/zone) is blue and contains three white stars arranged in an arch. These symbols come from the arms and flag of the United States of America and also represent the Archeparchy of Philadelphia, where he serves. The curve of the blue field can be said to recall the curve of the heavens and the protective mantle of the Mother of God.

The lower field is yellow and contains a blue three-barred cross mounted on green hills. Blue and yellow are the colours of Ukraine and a cross with three vertical bars is the symbol of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. The first hill recalls Mount Sinai, where Moses received The Law. The second— Golgotha, where Christ became the New Law in fulfilling the Old Covenant. The third symbolizes two hills in the city of Lviv, Kyr Andriy’s birthplace: the first is the hill on over which the city’s namesake, Prince Lev, built the High Castle (a symbol of the city); and the second, the hill on which Saint George’s Archcathedral stands, where Rabiy served as a young man, and where he will be ordained a bishop.

The form of the shield was chosen to best depict the internal elements, while drawing on a number of typical late medieval/ Renaissance Central European examples.

            The external ornaments of the arms are the episcopal mantle, an Eastern crozier with two serpents entwined around the Cross (recalling Moses’ healing staff), and the processional cross carried before the bishop (In heraldry, only an archbishop has a double bar on this cross). While the internal elements are characterized by the simplicity of their number, colour, and arrangement, the externals are designed to reflect the dignity and solemnity of the episcopal office.

            As an additional decoration, the heraldist trimmed the mantle with a yellow and blue band containing wheat and grapes, symbolizing the priesthood and the Eucharist. The mantle (mandyas) is ornamentally tied with chords to reveal the shield.

            The Greek (Byzantine) mitre is ornamented like a crown with precious stones. This symbolizes the bishop’s authority, while reminding us of the crowns which the just shall received from Christ. Crowns are important in Byzantine sacramental theology and are used for the Mystery of Holy Matrimony (also known as Crowning).

            Episcopal mottos are not mandatory but are very common. Kyr Andriy chose a portion of a verse from the Holy Scriptures that summarizes his high-priestly calling and also alludes to his studies in Church Law. Psalm 118 (119) verse 77 is a prayer for God’s mercy upon those who follow His Law: “Show me your compassion that I may live, for your law is my delight.” (In the original Church Slavonic: “Да прїидутъ мнѣ щедрѡты твоѧ, и живъ бyду, іакw законъ твoй поучeнїє моє єсть.”