UUs generally place little importance on stock religious icons. The flaming chalice, though, has become a well-known symbol of Unitarian Universalism. It unites our members in worship and represents the spirit of our mutual commitment to peace and justice and the seeking after truth.
The flaming chalice brings together two archtypes - a drinking vessel and a flame. Chalices have been used since ancient times in pagan sacred rites, and the one used by Jesus during the Last Supper became the Holy Grail sought by knights of Wales and England, and, of course, is commemorated still in the Christian communion. The chalice symbolizes generosity, sharing, nurturing, sustenance, and love. Some of the world's oldest scriptures mention the flame as a prominent symbol of sacrifice as well as courage, testing, illumination and truth.
The chalice and flame were united as a Unitarian symbol by Austrian artist Hans Deutsch in 1941. A refugee from WWII, Deutsch drew his inspiration from the work of the Unitarian Service Committee (USC). The USC formed to help people escape Nazi persecution. The flaming chalice design was made into a seal for papers and a badge for agents moving refugees to freedom. Today, the flaming chalice is the official symbol of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee and the Unitarian Universalist Association