Blazon: Party per pale Eparchy of Newton and Bishop Nicholas
Eparchy of Newton: Azure, a sun resplendent d’or charged with the Greek letters IC XC sable, in the nombril a crescent d’argent and in the base the Greek letters MR OU of the second; a chief paly of thirteen d’argent and gules.
Bishop Nicholas of Newton: In a chief azure, a fortified city d’or with a portal gules on a mountain argent. In the base vert, a pale urdy of the first charged with a shepherd’s staff buff facing sinister, two palets urdy of the fourth. Overall, a bar of the third, the lower edge dancetty charged with three bezants.
Motto: “Steward of the Mysteries” – 1 Corinthians 4:1
An eparchial bishop is traditionally seen as being “married” to his eparchy and, as such, joins the arms of his diocese to his own. Thus, the right side of the shield (left side to the viewer) bears the arms of the Melkite Greek-Catholic Eparchy of Newton. The left hand side bears the personal arms borne by Bishop Nicholas.
We have previously explained the arms of the Eparchy. The personal arms of Bishop Nicholas reflect upon his own family, commitments, and history.
The golden citadel atop a white mountain is doubly significant. It is a reminder of the city of Aleppo, Syria, one of the most ancient cities on earth and the ancestral home of the Samra family. The name of the city comes from the Aramaic word for white and refers to the glistening marble hill upon which the city is built. The image of the city glistening on a hilltop is additionally found in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:14) and well reflects Bishop Nicholas’ love for the Melkite Church and his commitment to it as a shining example of vibrant Christian living.
In the base of the shield we find even further symbolism reflecting Bishop Nicholas’ origins and service. The green field is a reminder of New Jersey as the “Garden State” while the blue pale flanked by the undulating white “palets” is a reminder of the “great falls” of Paterson, the city of the bishop’s birth and early years. In the center of the “great falls” is seen a shepherd’s staff. At first glance, obviously symbolic of his pastoral commitment, the bishop’s family name was originally “Rai” meaning shepherd. At the same time, the buff color of the staff reflects the present family name “Samra” meaning “brunette.” Blue and buff, it should be noted, are also the state colors of New Jersey.
The red bar charged with three bezants reflects the bishop’s two patron saints – St. Nicholas of Myra and St. James the Brother of God and First Hierarch of Jerusalem. The bezants (Byzantine gold coins) are traditionally associated with St. Nicholas, while the color red and “dancetty” lower edge call to mind the death of St. James who, according to tradition, was martyred by being sawed to death. Additionally, Bishop Nicholas was ordained to both the presbyterate and episcopacy by our first eparchial bishop, Archbishop Joseph [Tawil] who had been himself, as titular Archbishop of Myra, a successor to Saint Nicholas
The form of shield used is one commonly found in the Byzantine Empire and is surrounded with the external ornaments denoting the hierarchical status of the bearer. Behind the shield is a “paterissa” or pastoral staff and a single traversed gold cross and denoting a bishop. The cross used is called “botonny” and is the form of the cross found on the dome of St. Ann Church, now in Woodland Park, New Jersey – the parish where Bishop Nicholas was both baptized and later served as pastor. The form of the paterissa calls to mind the brazen serpent raised up by the Prophet Moses in the desert. A crown and a red ermine lined robe of estate are the traditional heraldic symbols of hierarchical dignity in the Melkite Church.
Reflecting his commitment to evangelical stewardship. Bishop Nicholas chose as his episcopal motto from the Apostle Paul: “Steward of the Mysteries” (1 Corinthians 4:1).