The Mystery of the Cross: Bringing Ancient Christian Images to Life

Overview

"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.

In this thoughtful ...

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Overview

"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.

In this thoughtful book Judith Couchman takes up forty images of the cross from early Christianity. As we discover the meaning and significance of each of these uses, we learn a little more about the early church. More than that, she helps us focus on the meaning of the cross and the Savior's sacrifice.

Ideal for Lenten devotional reading and appropriate for any season of the church calendar, this book includes original illustrations of each cross image. The Mystery of the Cross will enrich your understanding of Christian tradition and draw you into Christ's presence.

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Editorial Reviews

Stephen W. Smith
"We can read most books and put them back on the shelves and go on. Judith Couchman's The Mystery of the Cross will not be one of those books. We will return time and time again to this beautiful book which is more than a book. It is a guided journey with a narrator to help us see what we could not see alone. We need Judith's voice to help us see, once and for all, the mystery. Outstanding! Beautifully written! Inspiring! Through story and art, Judith weaves a tapestry in this book that will do more than merely inform us. We will be inspired by the mystery and transformed by the message!"
Luci Shaw
"Carefully researched, The Mystery of the Cross . . . [allows] us to see this basic, simple symbol of crossed wooden beams as both analogy and actuality. The cross stands for all that Jesus did and does for the faithful--a theme emphasized in this outstanding book."
Robin M. Jensen
"Prompted by the author's own discovery of the cross in Christian art, these short devotional essays will help others to encounter and better understand the complex and fascinating history of this powerful symbol--throughout history and in their own lives."
Karen Mains
"Judith Couchman has compiled a challenging historical record of an earlier church integrating the cross, both symbolically and sacramentally, into worship, into daily living and into personal devotion. If the measure of a book is how much it impacts our thinking after the pages are closed, The Mystery of the Cross has caused me to reconsider how I can better employ representations of this iconic image every day in every way."
Gerald L. Sittser
"Judith Couchman uses various art images from the past two millennia to tell stories and teach truths about the cross, many of which were entirely new to me. But more, she not only informs but also inspires the reader. Her book is both fresh and refreshing, new and renewing."
Jan Johnson
"With our imaginations being blasted by advertising brands and erotic innuendo, we need this book's authentic images of faith. A treasure in itself, it documents how centuries of brothers and sisters in the faith have bound their thoughts to our self-giving Christ."
Sheila Walsh
"You hold a jewel in your hands. In this book, Judith explores through the ages and the arts the beauty and mystery of the cross. This will not be a one-time read but a book that I believe will enrich your devotional life for years to come."
Marshall Shelley
"Nourishment for the mind as well as the soul . . . . Mystery indeed; this book reveals truths on multiple levels."
Juliet Benner
"Judith Couchman has given us a remarkably rich tour of the history of the cross. She traces the journey of this centrally important Christian symbol from its earliest pre-Christian origins to the present in a series of short, engaging chapters. Through this the reader is drawn into the transformational power and glory of Christ's death and resurrection. The result is a book I highly recommend."
Stephen W. Smith
"We can read most books and put them back on the shelves and go on. Judith Couchman's The Mystery of the Cross will not be one of those books. We will return time and time again to this beautiful book which is more than a book. It is a guided journey with anarratorto help us see what we could not see alone. We need Judith's voice to help us see, once and for all, the mystery. Outstanding! Beautifully written! Inspiring!Through story and art, Judith weaves a tapestry in this book that will do more than merely inform us. We will be inspired by the mystery and transformed by the message!"
Karen Mains
"Judith Couchman has compiled a challenging historicalrecordof an earlier churchintegrating the cross, both symbolically and sacramentally, into worship, into daily living and into personal devotion.If the measure of abook is how much it impacts our thinking after the pages are closed, The Mystery of the Cross has caused me to reconsider how Ican better employ representations of this iconic image every day in every way."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780830835393
  • Publisher: InterVarsity Press
  • Publication date: 10/29/2009
  • Pages: 227
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Judith Couchman is the author/compiler of more than 40 faith-based books. She also teaches art history part-time for the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Her books include The Mystery of the Cross, The Shadow of His Hand and Designing a Woman's Life.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
IntroductionPart One: Ancient Echoes of Christ: The Cross in Pre-Christian Times
1 The Mystery of the Megalith
2 Egyptian Signs of Life
3 The Healing Cross
4 Ugly Roman Power Symbols Part Two: The Pain and the Glory: The Cross and the Suffering Savior
5 Shouldering the Cross
6 The Garden and Golgotha
7 Inscription Insights
8 The Man of Sorrows
9 Descent from the Cross Part Three: Early Signs of Faith: The Cross and the First Believers
10 Crucified with Christ
11 The Everywhere Cross
12 Graffiti Marks and Mocks
13 The Sign of Jonah
14 The Outstretched Hands
15 Signs of the Cross
16 The Absent Crucifixion Part Four: The Great Conversion: The Cross and Early Religious Freedom
17 The Emperor's Vision
18 Searching for the Real Thing
19 A Cross in the Desert
20 The Missionary Cross
21 Becoming More Christian Part Five: Daily Signs of Salvation: The Cross in Ancient Everyday Life
22 A Cross for the Darkness
23 Hoping for the Cross
24 Fear No Evil
25 The Trustworthy Standard
26 Coins for the Kingdom Part Six: Ways to Worship: The Cross in Early Church Life
27 Walking the Cross
28 Follow Me
29 The Cross and the Water
30 Breaking the Bread
31 Take This Cup
32 Decorating the Sacred
33 The Iconoclastic Cross Part Seven: Enduring Mysteries: The Cross and Its Eternal Power
34 Pilgrims of the Cross
35 The Ecumenical Cross
36 Desperately Seeking Sanctuary
37 Hearts Up
38 The Veiled Cross
39 The Eternal Kingdom
40 To Rise Again
Notes
About the Author
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 3 of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 15, 2009

    Wonderful! Unlocks the Mystery of the Cross

    I just finished this book, The Mystery of the Cross, and I have to rave about this very compelling read! This book is excellent! What makes, The Mystery of the Cross, so great, is how through history, and across every culture, the Cross is understood, regarded and reverenced. Highly compelling, The Mystery of the Cross, contains 40 (heavily helpful footnoted) chapters, that are really 40 very compelling stories of how the mystery of the cross was unlocked to saints and sinners alike as they pursued Christ. From the very beginning of The Story to the Crusaders, to the Celts to Pilgrims, across Africa and Europe and Asia, this book, like no other I've read, uniquely examines how the Cross over time has been transformed from a bloody, dirty, vile piece of wood, into a symbol of God's Grace, represented by the gorgeous works of crucifix-art embraced by billions of people and every civilization on Earth. Judith Couchman has done an excellent job in compiling and editing these fascinating stories and insights into the mystery that is the Cross. I found myself transported across time and into the hearts of brothers and sisters long since gone, but understanding their hearts for pursuing Christ through the mystery that is the cross. If you haven't guessed by now, I highly recommend, The Mystery of the Cross, to anyone who wants to understand and revel in the mystery that is the Cross. I think this is a great gift for yourself or others this Christmas season as we consider the journey from Bethlehem to the Cross.

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  • Posted December 15, 2009

    A Joy to Learn More About the Cross

    My husband and I recently sampled a sliver of chocolate at Trader Joe's called a "Dark Chocolate Crisp." It's as thin as a Lays Potato Chip but wow! Was it powerfully chocolaty strong! We both commented that it was so rich we would easily have any chocolate itch scratched. And if you know me, you know I'm a chocoholic. Just give me the chocolate and no one will get hurt! We had to buy the package!

    That incident came to my mind as I've been reading The Mystery of the Cross: Bringing Ancient Christian Images to Life by Judith Couchman . Each short devotional is so rich it makes you feel like you've had a full meal of eating in the Lord's presence. Judith's book is a unique one. It has 40 fairly short devotionals about various aspects of the cross throughout history and especially of the cross of Christ. Although this book would be a particularly impactful one at Easter time, don't wait until then to feast from its richness.

    I don't think I would have ever thought about someone writing a book about the history of the cross or that it could be so meaningful, but Judith succeeds in bringing out rich textures about the cross. And if you're one who loves history, you'll love this book. I appreciate history but I'm not a fanatic. This book makes me want to enjoy the history of many things. She makes you realize how many threads are involved in the history of something and that's how this book makes you think about the cross. There's so much more to it than just the cross Jesus died on. She certainly covers all the aspects of what we know about that cross, but there's so much additional related information. Like the Standing Stones of Callanish in Scotland that are arranged in the configure of a cross. These standing monoliths rival the Stonehenge in England. And theres a photo of the Scotland monoliths.

    Here's the section titles which give a good overview of the book:
    Part One: Ancient Echoes of the Cross: The Cross in Pre-Christian Times
    Part Two: The Pain and the Glory: The Cross and the Suffering Savior
    Part Three: Early Signs of Faith: The Cross and the Early Believers
    Part Four: The Great Conversion: The Cross and Early Religious Freedom
    Part Five: Daily Signs of Salvation: The Cross in Ancient Everyday Life
    Part Six: Ways to Worship: The Cross in Early Church Life
    Part Seven: Enduring Mysteries: The Cross and Its Eternal Power

    I highly recommend Judith's book. I know it will be a blessing to you as it has been to me.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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