Have you ever wondered why there’s an ox with wings tiled into the floor near our main entrance?
You may have heard that Christians have long associated the ox with St. Luke the evangelist, who wrote the third gospel in the New Testament. Similarly, St. Matthew is associated with the human, St. Mark with the lion, and St. John with the eagle, all of which we see (with wings!) in the stained glass in our choir loft. So, maybe we tiled the winged ox into the floor near our main entrance as a fitting decoration for our church, St. Luke’s. But maybe there’s more to it than that.
Before the ox was tiled into the floor, the ox was a witness, pointing to Jesus. In the 6th century BC, the prophet Ezekiel saw visions of God, but God was hidden by a large cloud, which flashed fire and glowed from something like polished metal gleaming from within. All that Ezekiel could see clearly were creatures, each with four faces: one like a human, one like a lion, one like an ox, and the last like an eagle (Ezekiel 1). Centuries later, after God took on flesh in Jesus, it become clear that the one in the midst of the cloud and creatures was Jesus (Revelation 5). Still, who Jesus was remained hidden—not by a cloud, but in swaddling clothes and crucified flesh. Clarity again came in a set of four: four books, which we call gospels. St. Matthew witnessed to God taking on flesh, St. Mark to Jesus as King, St. Luke to Jesus as priest, and St. John to the Spirit of Christ. Early Christians concluded that no one picture of Jesus was sufficient, but just as God had given a four-faceted measure of clarity to Ezekiel, four accounts of Jesus were needed. St. Luke became associated with Ezekiel’s ox, both of who at their core functioned as one witness among four witnesses to Christ.
So why did we tile the winged ox into the floor near our main entrance? Who knows the motives, but perhaps the tiled ox can function for us as a regular reminder that we at St. Luke’s are called to be like St. Luke and like the winged ox: one witness among other witnesses to Christ. May this call to witness challenge us to listen for Christ’s unique call to us in Bay View today and may our position as one witness among other witnesses keep us humble and open to see other witnesses to Christ around us.