Vol. 2 No. 5 - Feast of St. Nicholas 2007
Raise the Flag
"In the name of our God we will set up our banners" - Psalm 20:5 (19:5)
Someone once said that Canadian nationalism is all about flags and tunes. What is certainly true is the Canadian love for flags. The unfolding of this nation is a veritable vexillogical paradise, which has held very much to the inheritance of its past, and the testimony of the wonders of God to be found in its landscape.
The use of flags in the contemporary sense has been deeply influenced by Christian culture: in no fewer than half of the flags around the world can one find explicit or implicit witness to Christ and His saints. In the class of flags that bear the cross, one also discovers a beautiful dual witness to Christ in His saints: the Orthodox concept that Christ's grace is made manifest in the lives of holy people, who stand as witnesses inside time to our God Who entered into human history for our salvation. Flags of Orthodox nations such as Greece and Georgia bear the cross attributed to their respective patrons. The diverse nations of Scandinavia bear the horizontal cross attributed to Saint Ansgar, the enlightener of their lands.
By virtue of our nation's early history, Canada's flags abound with the hallmark crosses of at least two saints: Saints George and Andrew, whose red/white and white/blue crosses respectively grace no fewer than seven provincial and territorial flags. Even the maple leaf flag, adopted to replace the Red Ensign which bore the cross of St. George, bears witness to its Christian roots. Each red field reflects the oceans that frame our nation, "from sea to sea" (Psalm 72:8), as the Canadian national motto describes it. The maple leaf, drawn from the nation's landscape, reflects the fruit of the Tree of the Cross: the crimson of Christ's blood, and the victory of our salvation. Even the colours of the flag - thought by many to simply be a convenient match for Prime Minister Pearson's Liberal party colours - draw on a Christian root: the red and white of the cross of St. George, Canada's patron.
Canada follows in a glorious tradition of raising national banners to honour Christ and His saints, albeit often unknowingly. Yet the Church here, often mired in nostalgia for far away homelands, has been slow to follow in the tradition of raising a distinct flag to a local patron saint. In the same spirit that inspired the Orthodox of Muscovy, the Greek armed forces, the Orthodox Celts and countless other faithful to construct a banner for their local Church, perhaps the time has come for an Orthodox flag for Canada: Saint Herman's Cross.
The first glorified saint of North America, Saint Herman was both an evangelist and an ascetic, bearing the weight of a heavy iron cross throughout his life in the snow-covered North American north. Thus, the bold, black cross on a white field provides for us the Cross of Saint Herman. Such a cross is significant for Canadians in particular, since it is the centre piece for the flag of Vinland, the banner used to rally those who love the memory of the first Viking settlement in North America, somewhere along the coast of Canada, likely in Newfoundland. How fitting to remember those first few Orthodox faithful among the Vikings who visited our land, centuries before Canada was known as a country.
Those in the Church who are serious about the continuity of Orthodox witness to the people of our home and native land would be well served by such an emblem, which follows in the tradition of our national symbols, as well as the Orthodox inheritance of those who have settled here, both in recent and past centuries. May the Lord bless such an initiative, and stir our hierarch to take up such a banner on the field of spiritual battle in which we live.
Father Geoffrey Korz, (Feast of St. Nicholas, 2007)
© All Saints of North America Orthodox Church
Orthodox Church in America, 2007.