St. Mbaaga’s Major Seminary, Ggaba has approved a new design for the Philosophy and Theology Diploma Certificates with effect from the graduation ceremony of the 2016/2017 academic year. The main purpose of this new design is to bring out the history and identity of the seminary; as well as the mission and end of the seminary formation programme. The design of the new certificate is consistent with the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI who contrasted the two contrary hermeneutics in the interpretation of Vatican II Council. Of these two, one caused confusion, the other, silently but more and more visibly, bore and is bearing fruit. On the one hand, there is an interpretation that is called “a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture.” On the other hand, there is the “hermeneutic of reform,” of renewal in the continuity of the one subject, Church, which the Lord has given to us. This is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God.
Following this tradition of the hermeneutic of continuity, the new certificate has retained the font and calligraphy of the old certificates. Calligraphy is defined as an ancient writing technique using flat edged pens to create artistic lettering using thick and thin lines depending on the direction of the stroke. It’s a set of skills and techniques for positioning and inscribing words so they show integrity, harmony, some sort of ancestry, rhythm and creative fire.
The Logo of the seminary has been retained but placed in the centre of the certificate. This is meant to bring out the meaning and purpose of the logo which is to give a visual representation of a company or institutional brand. The same logo bears the motto of the seminary in Latin: Ego Elegi Vos. These are the words of Jesus addressed to his disciples as we read in the gospel of St. John Chapter 15:16: “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.”
On the vertical bars are the martyrs of Uganda, representing Uganda’s national religious heritage and the patronage of our seminary. But martyrdom as a strong Christian theme makes the martyrs to look dominant on the new certificate. This theme of martyrdom is a continuous one flowing from the Old Testament to the New Testament to the present day Church life. The ideal of martyrdom did not originate with the Christian church. It was inspired by the passive resistance of pious Jews during the Maccabean revolt (173—164 B.C.). Antiochus IV, the tyrannical Seleucid king, ignited the revolution by a variety of barbarous acts, including banning the Jews from religious practices such as circumcision. Stories abounded of steadfast Jews, such as Eleazar the scribe (2 Macc. 6), who chose torture and death rather than violate the Law by eating pork. Two hundred years later, the Jewish War of A.D. 70 saw thousands become martyrs for their faith rather than capitulate to Roman paganism. This noble tradition helped shape the church's theology of martyrdom. Jesus’ words burned themselves deeply into the collective psyche of the Ante-Nicene church: “If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also (Luke 6:29); do not resist an evil person (Matt. 5:39); blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness (Matt. 5:10); if they persecuted me, they will persecute you also (John 15:20).”
St. Paul and the other New Testament authors sustained and developed the theme of martyrdom further. The emphasised that followers of Christ were to suffer, not fight, for their Lord. A believer’s weapons were not composed of iron or bronze but were made of severe stuff: Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph. 6:13-17). Stephen, the first Christian martyr, died a Christ like death, praying earnestly for his tormentors. Eusebius, the church historian, called Stephen “the perfect martyr” thus he became a prototype for all martyrs to follow.
The Palm branches on the new certificates take us back to the seer of the Apocalypse who puts into the hands of the elect the palm branches as the sign of victory in heaven in Christ’s presence. “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands” (Revelation 7:9). But earlier in the Old Testament, we notice that for the ancients, the palm branches symbolized goodness, well-being, and victory. They were often depicted on coins and important buildings. King Solomon had palm branches carved into the walls and doors of the temple: “On the walls all around the temple, in both the inner and outer rooms, he carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers” (1 Kings 6:29).
Inside the certificate is the watermark of Campling House, the oldest and main physical icon of the seminary. It was built in 1931. At the foot of the martyrs bar is a cross, the sign of our salvation as St. Paul’s says: But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Gal. 6:14). And we were inspired by the reflection of Pope Francis on the cross: “When we look at the Cross where Jesus was nailed, we contemplate the sign of love, of the infinite love of God for each of us and the source of our salvation. The mercy of God, which embraces the whole world, springs from the Cross. Through the Cross of Christ the Evil One is overcome, death is defeated, life is given to us, and hope is restored. This is important: through the Cross of Christ hope is restored to us. The Cross of Jesus is our one true hope!” – Angelus Sept 14, 2014. Although this Diploma Certificate is new, it carries very old and ancient symbols and features which maintain a hermeneutic of continuity in the life, mission and end of the seminary formation programme. And it is the fourth version of the Diploma Certificate for St. Mbaaga’s Major Seminary since her foundation 41 years ago.