You may have seen the inscription "ICXC NIKA" in church art or on pieces of church furniture in the chancel area. These letters are frequently found painted or engraved on church altars. But what does this mean?
The 8 letters are sort of an abbreviation (sometimes called a Christogram) that comes from Greek. The first two letters "IC" are the first and last letters of the name Jesus in Greek. "XC" are the first and last letters of the title Christ in Greek. (Christ is equivalent to the Hebrew word Messiah.) Finally, "NIKA" is a single Greek word from which the "Nike" athletic brand takes it's name. It simply means to overcome, conquer, or be victorious over. Put it all together and you get "Jesus Christ conquers," or if you prefer "Victory in (Jesus) Christ!"
What or whom does Jesus Christ conquer? On the cross Christ conquered sin. In His resurrection, we see that Christ conquered death. Through His perfect obedience to God's law and by His death and resurrection, Christ has defeated Satan. These are three enemies against which we are powerless. Without Jesus we are slaves to sin, in fear of death, and prisoners of the devil. But Jesus defeats them all and gives us the benefits of His victory. Because of what Jesus has done, it is as if we have defeated sin, death, and the devil.
Why have such symbols, like the ICXC NIKA, in the church? They serve as visual reminders. Why have Christ-focused art in the church, or crucifixes? Again, these are reminders for the faithful. Faith comes through hearing the Word of God, it's true. But things we see can reinforce God’s Word. God gave us the gift of sight. This sense can lead us away from a godly life when we look at things we should not, or when we covet things we do not have. But Godly images and symbols can remind us of heavenly things, of what Jesus has done for us, and who He is. So, when we see the ICXC NIKA, we are reminded that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, and He is victorious over all our enemies.