The Empty Tomb: “Why Can’t There be a Symbol of the Living Christ?”

I have a new project I’m throwing myself into concurrently with everything else going on. Since this is very much related to my unemployment and everything else going on in my life, I decided I had best start writing about it. This is the first in a short series of blogs on this project, one that means a great deal to me. It’s gonna get a little religious up in here, but for you process junkies I recommend sticking around. This is a fascinating world I’ve stepped into.

IChristLookingUpt’s not that I think the cross as a symbol is bad, it’s that it never really spoke to me.

As a Mormon, I was raised without it. No crosses on the churches, none in the home I grew up in, and if I ever saw a piece of jewelry with the cross it was usually on the person of someone well outside my usual circle.

As I got older and my circle expanded and I met my wife who was raised with the cross as the primary symbol of her faith, I came to appreciate its power as a symbol. It’s so elegantly simple and brings to mind instantly Christ’s suffering and sacrifice. Good things for any Christian remember on a daily basis.

I love what the cross represents, but I couldn’t help but wonder:

Why can’t there be a symbol of the Living Christ?

The sacrifice Christ made as Savior is important and that importantance can never be overstated. It is because of Him that forgiveness and change is actually within our reach and that’s a beautiful, world-changing thing.

But the miracle–the fulfillment of all that Christ promised–occurred on the third day after his death. The stone was rolled away, the tomb left empty. Mormons, Protestants, Catholics, and every kind of Christian in between believe in a resurrected Christ–a Living Christ who will one day come again and reveal Himself to the world. But there’s no symbol for that.

Why can’t there be a symbol of the Living Christ?

I, of course, did not grow up without symbols entirely. The Angel with the trumpet on top of Mormon Temples is instantly recognizable. The symbol for “CTR”, in all its configurations, appears frequently in Mormon culture on everything from jewelry to t-shirts to cross stitches on walls, serving those who know its meaning as a reminder to always “Choose the Right.” But neither of those symbols reflects specifically a belief in Christ.

crosscroppedIt was as I was reflecting on all of this that my graphic design training kicked in. Part of the beauty and efficacy of the cross is that not only is it a potently designed symbol, it also is representative of a real world object. It’s almost coincidental in its construction as a symbol and all the more powerful for it. You have to respect and admire the cross, on a variety of levels.

So, if there could be a symbol with similar meaning and potency (yet significant in its differences) as the cross, it would have to be equally as elegant and simple and almost coincidental in its construction. It would have to draw on an easily recognized iconography that already exists that could be readily recognized and understood.

And it was as I was thinking about all of this that I drew this:

FirstEmptyTombSketch

Next: Surprising reactions to the design and its hidden meaning.

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10 comments

  1. As a Christian, my thought is that we’re not even supposed to have a symbol of Christ, the Son of God. He, along with the Holy Spirit, is considered part of the ‘Godhead’ – all 3 being an aspect of God. And God said we should have no graven images. But then, all Christians around me wear a cross. I feel so left out 🙂 LOL

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    1. Interesting take on this. You’re definitely a bit out in the cold on this! The cross and so many other symbols are ubiquitous. No need to feel left out though. I personally feel like there’s less to worry about than you think. There is a distinct difference between a symbol and a graven image.

      A symbol is a graphical representation of an idea that can serve to remind and, in religious circles, inspire.

      On the other hand, a graven image is specifically worshipped as a god or in place of a god. Symbols and graven images are very, very different things.

      But, for a moment, let’s extend the logic that symbols are graven images and thus we are to have no symbols. This becomes problematic when we consider written language. Letters are symbols. If letters are symbols (they are) and symbols are graven images (they are not), then it would be entirely improper to inscribe the name of deity on anything or anywhere. The name of deity would only be allowable in audio form, which I know neither one of us agrees with both because we read the Bible and because you wrote the name of deity multiple times in your comment.

      Ultimately, the last thing I’m trying to do is set up any sort of idol! The Empty Tomb symbol is only mean to remind and inspire. If people look at this symbol and think of Christ and his sacrifice and the miracle of his resurrection and triumph over sin and death, that cannot in any way be a bad thing. There is a sermon in this symbol. I think that’s wonderful.

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      1. I find it interesting that you see the empty cross as not being a symbol of the living Christ. My (admittedly ill-informed, vague) understanding is that a crucifix, with a model of Christ crucified on the cross, represents Jesus’s death, whereas an empty cross is a symbol of the resurrection of Christ. I mostly see empty crosses as jewellery, although lots of crucifixes in churches and decoration.

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        1. I can certainly see how the empty cross could be seen as a symbol of Christ’s resurrection, but I think what’s unique about a symbol reminding of the empty tomb is that it is entirely unique to Christ.

          The cross was a common method of execution during Christ’s time. Lots of people died on crosses, and all of them left behind an empty cross when they were taken down off it. Only Christ left behind an empty tomb. A symbol of the empty tomb can really only refer to Christ’s resurrection, whereas an empty cross is primarily a symbol of death.

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          1. That’s a really interesting point, that I hadn’t thought of (although the fact that the cross is a symbol of death did occur to me – but not that others died the same way, which now seems blindingly obvious!). I’m interested to hear more about your thoughts in future posts!

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            1. Planning on having the next one up on Monday. How people reacted to the symbol initially was an enlightening experience for me and I think it will make for good reading.

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