of the
Order of Centurions

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Hesaias Aquilam I

The Eagle is the symbol that every Roman legion carried since it was introduced by General Consul Gaius Marius in about 100 BC. At first the Legion Eagle was silver, later gilded. It was an emblem of tremendous importance. At the same time Marius introduced the Eagle, he reorganized the army into the six-century cohort of 500-600 men. The Legion became a lighter mobile force to defeat the barbarian invaders. The legionaries, who were required to carry all their belongings on their backs, became known as "Marius' mules." He also developed the head on the pilum so it could not be re-used by the enemy and if it peirced an opponents shield it rendered it unwieldy. His reforms made him, and the Legion Eagle, very popular with the army.

When Constantine instituted the Labarum at Saxa Ruba in 312AD for the army and men's shields, the Eagle remained the symbol of the Roman legion. It was carried by a special officer of the Legion Headquarters, the Aquilifer, whose position and pay was like that of a centurion, and who was responsible for not only the Legion's Eagle, but the purse of the Legion in his dual role of paymaster. The Aquilifer was probably directly under the authority of the Praefectus Castrorum, who was third in command of the Legion.

The Aquilifer and the Legion Eagle were protected at all costs from capture by the enemy. However, captures did occur. For instance in 9AD three legions were completely destroyed deep in the German Teutoburg Forest. Some years later the Romans managed to recover all of their lost eagles. The Legion Eagle was like the Regimental Colors carried by today's modern forces, and we can trace our heritage in this regard to the legions of Rome. Indeed, the Eagle is a symbol of the United States and of several other nations. During the American Civil War every Union Regiment carried two flags in the Colors, the US National Flag, and a Regimental Flag usually bearing the national emblem, the Eagle

The Eagle Lectern is common in churches. The Eagle has been used as a symbol in Christianity since ancient times. The eagle was associated with one of the four beasts cited in scripture that were with God [Ezekiel i. 1-14, x. 1-22, Rev. iv. 7]. Christians associated the beasts with the four evangelists, and specifically the Eagle with John the Evangelists, whose Gospel begins with the Word of God and theologically is considered "lofty and soaring". Only the Gospel was read from the Eagle lectern by the Deacon as a sign of special significance, and it is placed on the "Gospel side" of the sanctuary or chancel. Tradition has it that the Eagle was chosen to represent the Church taking the Gospel forth boldly into the world. The eagle is a symbol of the resurrection or ascension of Christ, as it soars upward. The eagle is a symbol of baptized Christians as they rise with Christ. As the Dove was a symbol of the Holy Ghost, the Eagle was a symbol of Christ. The Eagle was used by early Christians as a sign of baptism, from the scripture, Thy youth shall be renewed like the eagle's (Psalm 102:5). Irenaeus of Lyon associated the Eagle with St. Mark, while Augustine of Hippo and Jerome associated it with St. John

Musing: In the week following the 1st Sunday after Trinity, MMVII, I began thinking of a mascot for the Order. I do believe it came from seeing the Marines at “8th and I” bring out their bulldog mascot at the closing of the Evening Parade the Friday before. In considering a suitable mascot, I remembered that an eagle was a mark of every legion, and considered an eagle fitting for Christ’s Legion. Afterward, by happenstance, or providence, I received an email from the Chapel of the Centurion, requesting that I make a change to the Chapel website, which our Order maintains. While reviewing the website, I came upon the photograph of the Chapel’s solid-brass eagle which serves as its lectern. He is truly an old friend with whom I served several years as I read the lessons from the Great Bible. The eagle is an ancient symbol of God's word. It seemed to me that this was an answer to my quest. On the Third Sunday after Trinity and the Feast of the Nativity of John Baptist, I made a special visit to my old friend at Fort Monroe, and have registered him in our Order under the name "Hesaias Aquilam." A fitting name, for he has borne the word of God for the faithful of the Chapel of the Centurion for many years. Isaiah means "Jehovah's Help" from its Hebrew roots. Aquilae means "eagle" in Latin, and Aquilam is a Latin name (probably a cognomen). One may recall from the book of Isaiah these appropriate passages, “Then came the word of the LORD to Isaiah…” [Isaiah 38:4] and But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. [40:3]

The Feast of the Nativity of St. John Baptist is a fitting date on the Church calendar to recognize the Aquilae as the bearer of God's word, for the Prophet Isaiah in speaking of the coming of John, said in the appointed reading, The grass witherist, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever". What a wonderful symbol of the infinite strength and everlasting nature of God's Holy Word.

A search of the Bible shows there are six references to “Aquilam” in the New Testament letters of Paul and Luke's Acts of the Apostles. All these references are to a Roman Jew, Aquila of Pontus, who was married to Pricilla. Paul joined with Aquila and Pricilla in Corinth as a partner in the tent-making trade [Acts 18:2], and soon deep and enduring friendship as Christians help-mates in the Church [Romans 16:3]. Paul traveled with Aquila and Pricilla [Acts 18:18]. In Ephesus they took Apollos under their wing and instructed him in the Scriptures [Acts 18:26]. Aquila and Pricilla established a Church in their home, and Paul stayed there and sent greetings back to the Church in Corinth [1 Cor 16:19]. When the banishment of Jews ended in Rome, Aquila and Pricilla returned there, as Paul specifically sends greetings to them in his letter [Rom 16:3]. Paul also saluted them in his letter to Timothy [1 Timothy 4:19]



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Copyright. Reviewed 6:04 PM 1/21/2014