Blason: 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.
Heraldry is often referred to as both art and science inasmuch as it involves the application of precise rules in addition to artistic methodology. In heraldry, what, is called the “achievement” consists of the escutcheon (coat-of-arms), a crest above the shield; it may also include supporters and a chosen motto.
Ecclesiastical heraldry consists of both institutional and personal heraldry. Institutional heraldry includes that of eparchies and dioceses, parishes, monasteries, schools etc., while personal heraldry pertains to individuals: bishops, priests, deacons, and monastics. Those who exercise ecclesiastical jurisdiction within the Church combine, in various precisely prescribed ways, their own personal arms and achievements together with the arms of the juridical entity over which they preside.
Despite misconceptions that heraldry is western European, heraldry was commonly and widely used in the Byzantine Empire. The various Eastern patriarchates and jurisdictions have continuously used heraldry since at least the tenth century with even earlier antecedents dating to pre-Christian times.
The most important element of the achievement is, of course, the escutcheon itself – ordinarily displayed on a shield or, sometimes a cartouche, lozenge or oval.
In written and spoken formulation, heraldry makes use of an ancient form of French. In what is called a blason, the escutcheon (coat-of-arms) is precisely verbalized using as few words as possible. The blason for the Eparchy of Newton coat-of-arms reads: 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. This blazon allows the heraldic artist and reader to visualize the arms of the eparchy as being: “A blue shield with a golden sun upon which are written the Greek letters for Jesus Christ and under which is a silver crescent moon flanked by the Greek letters for ‘Mother of God,’ while the upper third of the shield is formed of thirteen vertical white and red stripes.”
Heraldry makes use of tinctures (colors), metals, furs, and objects. In the blason for the eparchy’s escutcheon we find two colors and two metals. “Azure” is Old French for blue and “Gules” refers to the color red. Two metals are also found. “Argent” is French for silver and is used interchangeably for the color white, while “d’or” refers to gold and is used interchangeably for yellow.
Contrary to popular belief, a coat-of-arms uniquely belongs to an individual or legally recognized entity or institution and not to a family. In fact, in the United Kingdom, Canada, Belgium, Spain, Italy and other European nations as well, the misuse of a coat-of-arms by someone other than the proper individual bearer is illegal and can be the cause of a lawsuit and while heraldic law is not operative in the United States, coat-of-arms are often registered under federal copyright laws and their misuse is subject to copyright infringement.
Our eparchial coat-of-arms were first registered and granted at the establishment of the Melkite Greek-Catholic Exarchate for the United States in 1966. They remained unchanged in 1976, during the Bicentennial year of our nation’s independence, when the exarchate became the Melkite Greek-Catholic Eparchy of Newton. These same arms have been borne continuously by the Melkite Church in the United States except for a year or two in the late 1980’s when a variation of the same arms was used, but with the placement of the sun and moon at the top of the shield and stripes below. However, the arms reverted to its original granted form after a short period of time and has remained the same since.
The field of a blue shield and thirteen alternating white and red stripes recalls the coat of arms of the United States and the original thirteen colonies. The Eparchy of Newton is headquartered in one of those thirteen colonies and close to the very birthplace of the American Revolution. The resplendent Sun is symbolic of the Christ who is lauded in the ancient vespers hymn “Phos Hilaron” – “O Joyful Light of the Father’s glory.” The sun is further charged with the Greek monogram for Jesus Christ – IC XC. Significantly, for an eparchy with its cathedral dedicated to the Annunciation, a crescent moon in the base is symbolic of the Holy Theotokos (Rev. 12:1) while the letters MR OU are the Greek monograms for the Mother of God.
A heraldic crown surmounts the shield of a Melkite eparchy. Although somewhat reminiscent of the episcopal mitre, the heraldic crown above Melkite patriarchal and eparchial arms is actually more akin to a royal crown and is symbolic of both dignity and jurisdiction. Additionally, the eparchial arms may also be backed with a paterissa – the pastoral staff used by a bishop.