The PC(USA) Cross
In 1983, following the reunification of the "southern" Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (PCUS) and the "northern" United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A (UPCUSA), a committee was appointed to design a new seal and symbol for the newly reunified denomination. The cross you see here is the result of their labor. It combines many traditional Christian symbols, reflecting the long history of our faith and our Reformed tradition. Included symbols are:
Presbyterians are a people of the book. "Sola Scriptura"--Latin for "scripture only"--was one of the great rallying cries of the Reformation. The churches of the Calvinist or Reformed family of Protestantism have made scripture the supreme authority for Christian faith and life. The Bible was featured prominently in the seals of both the PCUS and UPCUSA.
The Chalice, or Cup
Visible in two sections of the seal, the cup, a symbol of the Lord's Supper, one of the two sacraments recognized by the Church. The cup symbolizes the covenant sealed in the blood of Christ. The Lord's Supper allows us to both remember the death and resurrection of our Lord and to be made one with Christ and one another.
The Celtic Cross
The symbols included in our seal all come together to form a cross, the universal symbol of the Christian faith. The half circle in the central section represents the Celtic cross to remind us of our Scottish heritage.
The Descending Dove
The top of our seal is a descending dove, a symbol of the presence of God as the Holy Spirit and peace, new life and purity. The use of the dove as a symbol of peace and new life comes from the story of Noah and the flood, where Noah sent a dove forth to find out if the waters had subsided. The use of the dove as a symbol for the Holy Spirit comes from the story of Jesus' baptism, where a dove descended, and a voice was heard from the heaven, saying, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17).
The flames, or fire, at the base of the seal draw on many biblical images of fire and light. The two most prominent stories being the story of the burning bush from the Old Testament and the story of the tongues of fire that descended at Pentecost.
The Baptismal Font
Also representing the chalice used in the Lord's Supper, the central portion of the cross represents a baptismal font. Presbyterians do not believe full immersion is necessary for receiving this sacrament, and the font, used for sprinkling, features prominently in Presbyterian houses of worship. Baptism represents the cleansing of sin, a new birth in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, union with Christ, and initiation into the fellowship of the church--the body of Christ.
The ICHTHYS or Fish
The fish, or ichthys, was the earliest symbol of Christian self-identification. It was probably used because of Jesus' call to fishermen to be disciples. Probably by later coincidence, the Greek word for fish, ICHTHYS, was seen as an acronym for "Jesus, Son of God, Savior." This was because the first letters of each of the Greek words--Iesous Christos, Theou Huios, Soter--spelled ichthys.
The Bible of the Presbyterian seal rests upon a pulpit or lectern, symbolizing the importance of the sermon in the Presbyterian church. Before the Reformation, worship services centered around the celebration of the Mass, a sacramental act where the people observed the priest, partook of the bread only, and listened to words in Latin that few understood. The Reformers restored sermons based on scripture and spoken in the language of the people to the worship service.
The implied triangle in the seal is the traditional symbol of the Trinity, its three points and sides symbolizing the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.