Friday, December 11, 2009

The Mystery of the Cross

The Mystery of the Cross - Bringing Ancient Christian Images to Life by Judith Couchman (Intervarsity Press)

 "Christianity is a religion founded on the mystery of the cross of Christ." - Leo the Great

"At the center of Christianity sits the cross of Christ.  From the beginning, Christ's followers celebrated the cross as a symbol of their faith.  It was honored in church worship, carved
into rough tombstones, pressed onto loaves of bread and set out as a sign of sanctuary.  The
cross represented what Christians believed, who they hoped for and how they approached life."

Judith Couchman is the author or compiler of more than forty books.  She is also teaches art history for the University of Colorado.   In her newest book, Judith explores the mystery of the cross through 40 short chapters that depict the imagery of the cross from early Christianity.  Judith draws from the knowledge she gained through extensive research.

As a protestant, Judith had never heard of many of fascinating things she discovered as she researched this book.  I imagine that it was much like a pilgrimage for her as she unearthed bits of history in the representation of the cross.  In The Mystery of the Cross, she shares these interesting facts and helps the reader focus on the significance of the cross and the Savior's sacrifice.  That was true for me.  From the first chapter I embarked on my own pilgrimage of the cross as I learned about early pre-Christian signs of the cross such as the Standing Stones of Callanish, the only megaliths on the British Isles to configure into a cross.   I learned how the Christian apologist Clement of Alexandria emphasized worshiping God instead of representing him through art, as he exhorted early Christians not to worship idols.  Yet, he understood it was natural for Christians to see the cross in symbols such as an anchor.  And the cross would endure through the ages as a reminder to Christians of their faith in Christ Jesus.

The Mystery of the Cross takes this vast topic and serves it to us in an easy to read and enjoyable format.  The readings are fascinating and can be read for art appreciation, historical information, personal meditation, spiritual formation, or worship insights.  Illustrations and photographs are sprinkled throughout the book to further enhance the feast that the author lays before us.   I highly recommend this book to anyone - student, historian, seeker, believer, theologian.  The cross transcends all of us.  And we become richer for learning more about The Mystery of the Cross.

I know my husband, who loves studying the early church, is going to enjoy sharing this book with me.   Perhaps someone on your Christmas list would enjoy this inspiring book as well.

The Mystery of the Cross is available through my affiliate link or you can purchase it at local bookstores, online booksellers, at InterVarsity Press.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the cross.  As art, in writing, in your life.


  1. Carla, I was excited to see that you were part of this blog tour. Thanks so much for your thoughts on the book. I will have to check it out! Have a great weekend:)

  2. This does look like an interesting book. Thanks for the suggestion!

  3. That sounds like an interesting book, Carla.

    I've always seen the cross as a focal point for prayer, and as a tangible reminder of God's love when I need comfort. Wearing a cross necklace is extremely reassuring when I'm dealing with a crisis.


  4. I love learning of ancient biblical times. The book sounds fascinating. Thanks for the review. Have a great one!

  5. It really is a great book. Thanks for reading the review.

    Carol, the cross truly is a tangible sign of God's love. Sometimes I think we see them so many places we don't always notice them. But if we would just pause and reflect, it could really help us. Not because of the actual cross, but for what it represents. Like the cross you wear as a necklace. If your like me, it is a very sweet thing to have close to your heart, within fingers reach.

  6. I enjoyed your review. Martin Luther reflected on the cross daily in order to remain close to Jesus and follow Him. I've noticed too that when sermons focus on the cross, the altar is filled with hungry souls that respond.

  7. What a unique way to explore the history of the Christian faith. Great topic for a book and as a coffee table book it would be a great conversation starter.

    I love the image of the empty cross...because it's a testament to the resurrection which brings me hope. But it is also a reminder of the price Jesus paid for my eternal life and that gives me pause and hopefully time to contemplate my part in His plan.

    And I have a particular fondness for the Celtic cross, since I'm Irish even though there is some chatter about the Celtic cross originating in pagan times. It's still a perfect blend of my earthly heritage and my heavenly one. Besides, Christ's gift is for everyone -- believer or non.

  8. Saleslady371, interesting tidbit about Martin Luther and a great observation about the alter.

    Kav, I have to agree with you about the book being a great conversation starter. And, yes, the cross is a wonderful reminder of the resurrection. I like the symbolism you have of the Celtic cross. Most likely that cross took on a new meaning for the converts at the time.


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