Why are the five stars on our national flag named the Southern Cross rather than kite or diamond?
It was Italian explorer Andrea Corsali who first coined 'this cross' as 'so fair and beautiful' in 1515 while on a Portuguese voyage to the Indian Ocean.
But why evoke the crucifixion and therefore Christ when observing configurations of constellations?
This question led me to ponder the significance of the five stars, especially the faintest fifth star Epsilon Crucis, at the 'heart' of the cross, which our Indigenous Wardaman astronomers named Ginan. This is the same star that is excluded from the New Zealand flag.
The Southern Cross 'asterism' has legendary meaning in Indigenous Australian cultures, representing a stingray, an emu's head and a possum.
In colonial Australian cultures, it has been adopted on the national flag, in the Eureka Stockade, as a 'badge of honour' tattoo and as a symbol of resistance.
When viewed as the 'crux' (cross in Latin), these lights that pierce our night sky do indeed bear more than a resemblance to the lacerations that pierced the crucified Jesus. A nail for each hand, a nail driven into his feet, a crown of thorns on his head, and a lance through his side.
Chapter 19 in the Gospel of John states that the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on crosses on the Sabbath, so the soldiers broke the legs of the crucified ones to hasten their deaths. 'But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead … the soldiers pierced his side with a spear.'
Suddenly, the fifth star, and the word cross, shed a different light. The five stars match the five scars.
The enigma deepens when we consider that the estimated age of this constellation is between 10 million and 20 million years. It is the smallest of the 88 known constellations, but perhaps the greatest in significance.
It now spells a searing reminder of the 'big bang' of love, long before the crucifixion was prophesied, long after we felt the ripples of this 'supernova'. It heralds the new era (Anno Domini) that established our calendar years.
Due to the movement of the Earth's axis, the Southern Cross has been invisible to the northern hemisphere since about 400 AD. Together with the two Pointers, it now navigates us to the South Celestial Pole.
But together with the four gospels, it navigates us to the celestial sacrifice of the 'lamb of God'.
Can we shrug off the scar-stars of the Southern Cross as a cosmic coincidence?
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