Francis welcomed as a message addressed to him personally by Innocent III who said: "Mercy will be given to those who will bring the Tau, sign of a penitent and regenerated life in Christ". Francis wanted to mark himself and his brothers with the Tau, that will become the sign of the Order, spirituality of the cross and of salvation.
The symbol of salvation
The mystical meaning of this symbol
Of its shape the Tau has been for centuries the symbolic support of the theology of the cross. The Jews had gradually developed an exegesis for each letter of the alphabet. In the third century by Origen several Talmudists were consulted about the interpretation of Tau in Ezekiel (9:4). According to some, the Tau, it meant the end, conclusion, completion of the entire revealed word. For others, the first letter of the word Torah, meant the sum of those laws that led to salvation.
The Tau pious Jews who wore on his forehead, a sign of their allegiance to the law and a sign of their belonging to God Only later, due to the death of Jesus, this word has been interpreted in relation to suffering.
Greek in the alphabet, the letter Tau was the sign that showed the number 300. Whenever you come across in the Bible this number is synonymous with salvation or victory. An example: God said to Noah, "Make thee an ark of gopher wood. Here's how you make it: the ark shall be three hundred cubits in length." (Genesis 6:14-15). Origen explains how the ark is the raft saving prefigures the cross of redemption, since 300 is equal to TAU.
"When Abram heard that his brother was imprisoned, he organized his men skilled in arms, in number three hundred and eighteen." Scripture transcribes this number 318 letters IHT. Ie first and then IH = 18 T = 300. It is therefore the beginning of the name Jesus, the Tau comes after it announced the arrival of grace through the cross. In the first two letters, then we have an allusion to Jesus in the last allusion to the cross.
End told him, 'Go through the city, walk through Jerusalem and marks on the front men who groan and cry for all the atrocities that are committed in its midst. "And with my ears heard that he told the others: "Pass behind him, for the city, and hit! Your eye can not forgive and have mercy. Kill the old, young, virgin, women and children, up to the slaughter, only do not touch anyone who carries the cross on the forehead. (Ezekiel 9:4-5).
Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, with the seal of the living God. And cried with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea:" Do not harm either the earth or the sea or the trees, till we have the seal of our God on the foreheads of his servants. "Then I heard the number of those who were sealed with the seal, one hundred and forty-four thousand." (Rev 7,2-4).
Seal imprinted on the front of the servants, is evidently an allusion to Ezekiel the Tau imprinted on the front of the penitents.
Tau is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and has the shape of a cross, the cross as it appeared before it was displayed the inscription of Pilate.
The Tau this letter occupies an important place in the life of St. Francis and behavior as it not only uses it frequently, but shows a real affection for that sign, if not a devotion.
Frather Thomason Da Celano, in his Treatise of Miracles, written in 1252, writes: "Among the many letters the Tau was the most familiar, with whom he signed the cards and decorate the walls of cells." And later: "With this seal Francis signed his letters, whenever out of necessity or spirit of charity, he sent some of his writings." That Francis has adopted the Tau that is also the very form of this letter, the handwriting is that of the Tau cross, Jesus was crucified.
Adopt the Tau as a personal seal - then you say "sign manual" - and offer it, so to speak, as the crest on the nascent order of Friars Minor, highlights well the importance that Francis claims.
Among Celano's statement about the inscription on the walls by Francesco's letter tau is confirmed by archeology. In fact, during the restoration of the chapel of St. Mary Magdalene at Fonte Colombo, was discovered in the window, a Tau painted red, then covered with white lime in the XV cent.
If St. Francis has chosen and adopted the symbol of Tau, the cause must be sought in his love for the cross. And if it has spread, it is because he wanted to preach salvation through the cross. "Come over to the middle of town, surrounded Jerusalem, marking a Tau on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry for all the abominations that are fulfilled" (Ezekiel 9:4).
Francis felt that this invitation, an invitation to a general mobilization on a crusade of conversion and penance. Francis wanted to score so himself and his brothers with the Tau, who will become the sign of the calling order, but also a symbol of penance and was the favorite theme of his preaching to urge everyone to conversion. Francis is well aware that the Tau is also the sign for the winners so after having preached the lead even in his flesh through the stigmata.
Francis, while the stigma, he felt called to become a "bearer of the seal of the living God", ie not just present in his own person the signs of redemption, but also to claim personal property as part of the angel.
Brother Pacifico, a companion of Francis, had a vision (this before he became provincial minister in France). "He saw a big forehead Francis Tau whose colors the face of the saint gave a wonderful beauty." On this view, the Celano says: The Tau that sparkled from the front of Francis was "beautiful and multicolored circles as the peacock's feathers."
Francis in the symbol of the Tau had seen a sign and symbol effective salvation for all who agree to be marked.
God makes fruitful with the new children, the signs from his Tau, which takes place in secret and in silence so that Satan and his followers can not harm him.