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.
A Synodal Gathering of the Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians of Greece at the Port Authority of Piræus
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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