Flaming Chalice and Zia
A beautiful stained glass flaming chalice, mounted in a large New Mexico Zia is a feature on the front wall of our sanctuary. In the center of the Zia is the Unitarian Universalist Flaming Chalice. A bright flame stands for an individual’s life, and for our passionate, fiery quest for knowledge and justice. The chalice stands for community. A nurturing community is the cradle of fulfilled individuals. Concepts that are holy to Unitarian Universalists are freedom and responsibility, reason and feeling, tolerance and discernment.
The Flaming Chalice
Many Unitarian Universalist churches and fellowships start their worship service on Sunday morning by lighting a flame inside a chalice. A flaming chalice is a symbol for Unitarian Universalist churches.
How the flaming chalice became our symbol is an interesting one that begins in WWII. In 1941, Austrian artist Hans Deutsch created the symbol to identify members of the Unitarian Service Committee (USC). Underground organizations knew the symbol identified their friends and allies in the in the USC.
The story of Hans Deutsch reminds us that in the beginning, the symbol of a flaming chalice stood for a life of service. It was the USC’s faith in action – people who were willing to risk all for others in a time of urgent need, that inspired Deutsch. Amazingly, he’d never seen a Unitarian or a Universalist church or heard one of their sermons.
The Zia is a Native American symbol that was first used in the Zia Pueblos in north central New Mexico. The four rays of the Zia stand for:
- The four winds (top)
- The four seasons (left)
- The four parts of each day by which we order our daily life (morning, afternoon, evening, and night) (right)
- The four stages of human life – childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age (bottom)