Friday, December 11, 2009

The Mystery of The Cross

I realize it's Christmas time, but I've had the chance to look through Judith Couchman's new book. Part devotional, part art history, part spiritual journey, The Mystery of the Cross, Judith's book is dedicated to the symbol that's at the heart of Christianity: the cross. One of the things I appreciated about her book is that she shows how the cross itself has been a pre-Christian era symbol throughout history, yet the image has been transformed and adopted to be a symbol of the Christian faith.

In today's times, symbols don't seem to mean much anymore, the way they're tossed about and used as fashion accessories. We don't take the time to search into their meanings. "It's just a shape." But for some people, the shape of the cross resounds within them. For those who are part of the Christian faith, this book will be a journey of exploration about the cross, and what it means.

I've had the advantage (or disadvantage, depending on how you look at it) of being Catholic once upon a time. Art and symbol were always a part of the worship experience, unlike in a Protestant church. Paging through this book brought back some of this to me in a time of pleasant remembering. If you're not familiar with much of Christian history, The Mystery of the Cross takes you on a journey that will hopefully deepen your faith and encourage you.

Here's some of Judith's own words about her book:

Ancient Cross, Contemporary Life
If you haven’t considered the cross beyond weekend worship, tapping into these images and stories can broaden and deepen, renew or strengthen, your commitment to Christ. Exploring the art, uses, history, and mystery of the cross can validate its centrality to the Christian faith. Meditating on its enduring meaning can help apply its power and principles to everyday matters.

Accordingly, The Mystery of the Cross invites you to read intriguing stories about the sign of the cross, ponder their meaning, and consider how these anecdotes speak to you. The 40 short chapters can be read for art appreciation, historical information, personal meditation, spiritual formation, small-group discussion, Lenten observation, and worship insights. Whatever the use, The Mystery of the Cross can help you understand and appreciate the cross’s spiritual work in the world and its power for everyday life.

Most of all, I hope this book witnesses mystery. The apostle Paul wrote about the gospel’s mystery, revealed through Christ and his death on the cross. Irenaeus, a second-century church father, described it when he explained, “By means of a tree, we were made debtors to God. Likewise, by means of a tree [the cross], we can obtain the remission of our debt.” Beyond glorious art, ancient history, and intriguing anecdotes, the cross stands as a symbol of salvation. For reasons beyond my comprehension, the mighty God stooped to conquer evil and forgive sin. This is his eternal commitment. This is the inexpressible value and mystery of the cross.

From the Introduction to
The Mystery of the Cross by Judith Couchman
Released by Inter-Varsity Press, Novemver 2009
Available at Local at Local Bookstores and Online

You can learn more about Judith at her web site: