By Jeff Stuerman, 25th Grand High Alpha. Originally published in the Summer 2023 issue of the Cross & Crescent
One of my favorite questions to ask groups of our fellow Brothers is, “So, what is your favorite part of Lambda Chi Alpha’s Coat of Arms? The Helmet? The Swords? The Lion with a Rose? Our Crest? Our Badge?”
That question elicits much discussion across our Global Zeta because the answer is often deeply personal. During any particular time in our life, a specific aspect of Lambda Chi Alpha’s teachings, principles, and ideals may be more relevant than others. Consequently, if you are like me, you may find that your favorite part may change periodically.
As Brothers of Lambda Chi Alpha, we are fortunate to have inherited an initiation ritual rich in meaning and instructive in the ways to lead an enriched life. These aspirational ideals and lessons are hidden in plain sight on our Coat of Arms and can serve as a daily reminder.
We have the genius of Brother John Mason to thank for that. In looking for inspiration and artistic material, he considered several different ages: Ancient Greece, Imperial Rome, Gothic Middle Ages, etc.
After considerable thought he stated that,
“we should think of ΛΧΑ as a twentieth century reflection of twelfth century chivalry – the time when Knighthood was at its height, when personal endeavor, responsibility, faith, meant so much…” He believed that, “our Zeta should have something [like] the atmosphere of a Benedictine order, something of an order of Knighthood…Our coat-of-arms is the coat-of-arms of an imaginary knight…, a Member of the ΛΧΑ order of Brotherhood.”
Historically, a coat of arms reflects the “tools of the trade” necessary for a knight to defend and fight for a cause greater than his own. A knight comes home from battle, takes off his armor which is emblazoned with the symbols of his order, hangs the armor on the wall (for ready access in case of emergency), along with his weapons, shield and cloak. Likewise, Lambda Chi Alpha’s Coat of Arms reflects our Brotherhood’s “tools of the trade”, the values and ideals we strive to carry into the world each day.
An often-overlooked element, while it looks nice, is the tattered green and gold mantle — our imaginary knight’s cloak. A mantle is sleeveless (think ready access) and worn over a knight’s armor to protect against the weather and to help thwart knife or sword strikes. Metaphorically, when a Brother joins the High Zeta of his Chapter, he adorns a “mantle” of leadership and responsibility. Cloaks, gowns, and robes have been used for centuries to designate those individuals charged with great responsibilities. As Brothers of Lambda Chi Alpha, we wear our mantles daily, and naught without labor. While our mantles become torn and tattered through the hardships and battles of life, we press on. And together, because a knight is never alone, we strive to achieve the celestial crown that sits upon our helmet. Lambda Chi Alpha’s ways are winning ways. There are many paths to ruin, but living our values is not one of them.
Across North America, our Chapters conduct ZAX Sessions were they dive deeply into our mysteries and discuss how our teachings are relevant and apply to daily life. Technology has allowed these discussions to take place across Chapters and regions simultaneously, and I’m always impressed how our Members glean a lesson from our symbols and apply it to a personal or collective challenge, goal or aspiration. Our values are timeless, and we each benefit from being reminded of them and supporting one another. Using our Initiation Ritual to frame these personal discussions reinforces the dignity and worth of each of our Collegiate Brothers, and further provides a safe space for personal growth and development.
However, these discussions need not be reserved for those of us still in college. So, call some of your fellow knights of Lambda Chi Alpha, grab a copy of our Coat of Arms and visit about life as a Brother in ZAX. Honor each other’s “tatters” – they are hard earned – and encourage one another.
Remember, our knight is a winner, and he wears the crown along with a wreath of olive leaves. That makes you a winner for living our values, too!
Brother Jeff Stuerman served as the 25th Grand High Alpha (2018-22) and was initiated into Lambda Chi Alpha through Kappa-Mu Zeta at Culver-Stockton College. He and his wife, Susie, reside in the St. Louis, Missouri area.
He’s available to lead ZAX Sessions for those wanting to learn more about our Coat of Arms.