IHS, Processional Cross, Chrism


Someone told me that the IHS in a stained glass window at our church and which I have seen in other churches stands for ‘In His Service’. Is this correct?

IHS is a Latin Monogram from the 3rd Century and it is based on Greek letters which represent the first three letters in Jesus’ name. These monograms translated into Latin continued to be used in the middle ages. Since late Roman times, IHS became a popular way of writing Jesus’ name. Ever since it has become a universally-used insignia and appears on many Catholic religious articles.

Sometimes above the H appears a cross and underneath three nails, while the whole figure is surrounded by rays. St Ignatius of Loyola adopted the monogram in his seal and so it became the emblem of the Jesuit Order.

Processional Cross

My daughter is training to be an altar server. She asked what the cross which the altar servers carry in at the start of Mass and carry out at the end was for, but I really didn’t know. Can you give me some information that I can pass on to her please?

The cross you refer to is called a Processional Cross. A Processional Cross is used in most liturgical processions within the Catholic Church. It is a crucifix large enough for the congregation to see mounted on a long handle. It is carried at the front of the procession, with the figure of the crucified Christ facing the direction the procession is moving; this is because all Christians are followers of Christ.

And finally, a lovely story about chrism that a friend shared:

‘When we were visiting the Northumbria Community in England last year, we met a lovely couple who are from the south of England but are companions of the community and were working there for a few weeks.  The wife is a retired art teacher, a lovely colourful character, who uses storytelling to share gospel stories.  At morning prayer one day she accidentally said of Jesus as a youth: “...and the flavour of God was upon him.” I was talking to her later and said I thought that having the flavour of God on you was a wonderful thing.  I thought about this again yesterday while I was nursing my nephew who had been baptised a couple of hours earlier. The aroma of the chrism was like the flavour of God upon him.'

The holy chrism used in Brisbane Archdiocese is a blend of aromatic oils, fragrances and pure olive oil. The final product is a rich, red-coloured oil with a beautiful perfume. When used in liturgy, the church is filled with a lovely aroma and those anointed carry the flavour of God upon them for many hours.

One early church writer described the perfume of chrism as “the Easter-smell, God’s grace olfactorally incarnate!”


Elizabeth Harrington