Q. Can you tell me what the two-headed snake cane the Greek Bishop is walking with represents? What does it mean?
A. The item to which you referred is properly called a bishop's Pastoral Staff or Crosier (in Greek, paterissa), and is a symbol of the bishop's authority and jurisdiction. It is actually not topped with a double-headed snake, but rather two snakes intertwined. This symbolism comes from the bronze serpent that God commanded Moses to construct in the Old Testament:
8And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. 9And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived. (Numbers 21:8-9).
The snakes represent the enemies of the Church, and the Cross symbolizes the authority that Christ has given to the bishop to guard his flock. As such, it is a powerful reminder of his role as the chief guardian of the faith in the local Church.
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Keynote Presentation on the Sunday of Orthodoxy: February 16/March 1, 2015 by His Grace, Bishop Klemes of Gardikion, Secretary of the Holy Synod
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Registration is now open for the 2017 St Xenia Camp. Please visit the St Xenia Camp website for more information and registration.
The Family Youth Conference will be held Friday, October 20 - Sunday, October 22 at The Dormition of the Theotokos Orthodox Church in Concord, NH.