Christian Origin of the Union Jack on the Australian Flag.


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I have been doing some research for a Sermon Series that I am preaching at Nowra City Church, Theology in Pop Culture. This week’s sermon is looking at Theology in the Australian way of life. So I was studying the Australian flag and in particular the Union Jack. I love our flag and I was amazed to find out what the Union Jack represents. First of all, ‘jack’ means a flag flown at the jack staff on the bow of a ship. The ‘union’ concerns the combination of the standards of the three patron saints of the United Kingdom, that of St. Andrew, patron saint of Scotland, St. Patrick, of Ireland, and St. George, of England.

Here is some information about those three Saints taken from Wikipedia.

Patron Saint of England St George

It is likely that Saint George was born to a Greek Christian noble family in Lydda in Palestine, during the late third century between about 275 AD and 285 AD. He died in the Greek city of Nicomedia in Asia Minor. His father, Gerontios, was a Greek from Cappadocia, an officer in the Roman army; and his mother, Polychronia, was a Greek native of Lydda. They were both Christians from noble families of the Anici, so their child was raised with Christian beliefs. They decided to call him Georgios (Greek), meaning “worker of the land” (i.e., farmer). At the age of fourteen, George lost his father; a few years later, George’s mother, Polychronia, died.

Then George decided to go to Nicomedia and present himself to Emperor Diocletian to apply for a career as a soldier. Diocletian welcomed him with open arms, as he had known his father, Gerontius — one of his finest soldiers. By his late 20s, George was promoted to the rank of Tribunus and stationed as an imperial guard of the Emperor at Nicomedia.

On 24 February AD 303, Diocletian (influenced by Galerius) issued an edict that every Christian soldier in the army should be arrested and every other soldier should offer a sacrifice to the Roman gods of the time. However, George objected, and with the courage of his faith approached the Emperor and ruler. Diocletian was upset, not wanting to lose his best tribune and the son of his best official, Gerontius. But George loudly renounced the Emperor’s edict, and in front of his fellow soldiers and tribunes he claimed himself to be a Christian and declared his worship of Jesus Christ. Diocletian attempted to convert George, even offering gifts of land, money and slaves if he made a sacrifice to the Roman gods; he made many offers, but George never accepted.

Recognizing the futility of his efforts and insisting on upholding his edict, Diocletian was left with no choice but to have George executed for his refusal. Before the execution George gave his wealth to the poor and prepared himself. After various torture sessions, including laceration on a wheel of swords in which he was resuscitated three times, George was executed by decapitation before Nicomedia’s city wall, on 23 April 303. A witness of his suffering convinced Empress Alexandra and Athanasius, a pagan priest, to become Christians as well, and so they joined George in martyrdom. His body was returned to Lydda for burial, where Christians soon came to honour him as a martyr.

Patron Saint of Scotland – Andrew – A disciple of Jesus Christ

As Scotland slowly became a nation it needed a national symbol to rally round and motivate the country. Saint Andrew was an inspired choice and the early Picts and Scots modelled themselves on Saint Andrew and on one of his strong supporters, the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, whose statue you can see today in York, where the he visited his father, a Roman General then trying to force the Picts to go back north.

Although a pagan who worshipped the Roman sun god Sol, Constantine later became a Christian and went on to make Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.

It all began near Rome in 312 AD when, on the night of a make-or-break battle against a rival emperor, he saw the symbol X P (Greek for the first two letters of ‘Christ’) in the dazzling light of the setting sun and then had a dream in which he was promised victory. Constantine ordered his troops to hold the Christian cross at the front of the army, and won.

In a similar way, around 500 years later, King Angus of the Picts, facing a larger army of Saxons at Athelstaneford in what is now East Lothian in Scotland, was overwhelmed by a blinding light the night before the battle and, during the night, had a dream. The message he was given was that he would see a Cross in the sky and would conquer his enemies in its name.

The following morning King Angus looked into the rising sun and saw the Saltire Cross in its blinding light. This filled him and his men with great confidence and they were victorious. From that time Saint Andrew and his Saltire Cross were adopted as the national symbols for an emerging Scotland.

The Saltire Cross became the heraldic arms that every Scot is entitled to fly and wear. However, its colour was not white at first but silver (Argent), as in heraldry white stands for silver.

The first time the colour of the Saltire is mentioned is in the Acts of Parliament of King Robert II in July 1385 where every Scottish soldier was ordered to wear a white Saltire. If the uniform was white, then the Saltire was to be stitched onto a black background.

Both William Wallace and King Robert the Bruce appealed to Saint Andrew to guide them in times of national emergency. The Saltire was flown on Scottish ships and used as the logo of Scottish banks, on Scottish coins and seals and displayed at the funerals of Scottish kings and queens – that of King James VI for example and of his mother, Mary Queen of Scots. At the Union of the Crowns in 1603, London was treated to the spectacle of Saint Andrew and Saint George on horseback, shaking hands in friendship. When King George IV visited Edinburgh in 1822 he was presented with a Saltire Cross made of pearls on velvet, within a circle of gold.

Here is the Saltire

Patron Saint of Ireland

Saint Patrick was a 5th-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. Known as the “Apostle of Ireland”, he is the primary patron saint of Ireland along with Saints Brigit and Columba.

The dates of Patrick’s life cannot be fixed with certainty but, on a widespread interpretation, he was active as a missionary in Ireland during the second half of the fifth century. He is generally credited with being the first bishop of Armagh, Primate of Ireland.

When he was about 16, he was captured from his home in Great Britain by Irish Pirates, and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family. After becoming a cleric, he returned to northern and western Ireland. In later life, he served as an ordained bishop, but little is known about the places where he worked. By the seventh century, he had already come to be revered as the patron saint of Ireland.

Saint Patrick’s Day is observed on 17 March, the date of his death.It is celebrated inside and outside Ireland as a religious and cultural holiday. In the dioceses of Ireland, it is both a solemnity and a holy day of obligation; it is also a celebration of Ireland itself.

So putting these three together forms the union jack. Now I know this is all related to the UK but I love that three Christian are represented on the Aussie Flag. Makes me love our flag even more.

 

I love the fact that the basis for the Union Jack on our flag comes from three men of God. Makes me love our Flag even more.

When I drove around Australia in December 2013, in 12 days, I took a whole stack of flag photos….Here are a few of my favourites.

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If you are interested in some Pics of my 12 day trip around Australia Click Here

 



Categories: Australian, Theology

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8 replies

  1. And people want to change our flag and remove the Christian heritage …

    p.s. the link to the stats is in error (remove the trailing ” )

  2. No wonder there is such an attack on our flag…Great men have fought and died for our country under this flag..Thank you Pastor Peter for all that you share. I love reading your words..

  3. Great Stuff PETE

  4. And which one started teaching the people the “MISSIONARY POSITION” ???
    AND WHY ???

  5. I cannot support this flag with the union Jack. Not so much for knowing now that it dose, or did have some Christian inheritance in its colours, but when the first Anglo Saxons came to this land, they didn’t represent Christ in any good way, (even right up into the late 1960’s) to the First nations Indigenous people. The first Anglo Saxon/European colonials that invaded this land, look upon this countries human inhabitant’s as non existent (“Terra-nullius”; Roman language meaning, land belonging to no one) and wanted to keep it that way. The first Anglo Saxon/European colonialist invaders, began a long history of mass murder, to first nations people, men, women and children, while flying that Union Jack across the whole of this land and through to the Torres Strait Islands with bloodied hands The last word of mouth mascara of first nations people, (word of mouth) from both black and white people was in N.S.W near Kempsy way,in 1959?.

    You say you are proud of the union Jack because it holds some Christian value, well sadly friend the Christian value in that Union Jack, has long being lost, well before your ancestors invaded this land and with any well to do Christian meaning for what it once stood for. I am a born again spirit led Christian and Love The Lord deeply and I am also of Indigenous hesitance that I have allot respect for also. I am not trying to be racist here, but trying to point out the fact, I and most of my Christian first nations, Indigenous brothers and sisters, will not support this current flag for the absent history (not yet printed in Australian History books) that it represents and that which has caused much suffering and pain, upon my first nations people and for the invasion for no other reason, but to conquer and force man made religion (Not the True Love of The Way, or the Christianity, as Jesus Christ represents yesterday, today and forever) Anglo Saxon civilized way to other nations considered savage around the world, then and even this present day.

    I have forgiven the past and forgiving right up to this present day, but can only give praise To The Lord for His forgiveness He has given to me, from His Heart to my heart and to this day,Christ is still working in me a greater forgiveness.

    shalom
    Brother

    • David,

      I’m glad to hear you’re “a born again spirit led Christian” [which means I’ll see you in heaven] and that you have “forgiven the past and forgiving right up to this present day”. A lack of forgiveness can be very damaging to a person.

      I find it interesting the how we relate to the past is influenced by what we’re told of the past. One side of my ancestors settled in central NSW in the 1800s from Ireland (possibly because of the great famine which some blame on the British) and the other settled from Germany (via NZ) in the 1920s and even though I’ve learned that neither of those countries has a good historical relationship with England I’ve no problem with Britain, the British, or the Union Jack because (as far as I can tell) no one ever said I should have.

      But all said and done David, your existence (and mine) and Christianity in Australia are a direct result of British settlement. Without it we wouldn’t exist (which would be a loss to the world) but because of it we’ve ahead of us an eternity in heaven, something to look forward to.

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  1. Christian Origin of the Union Jack on the Australian Flag. – Great Invisible Me

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