The Mystery of the Cross: Bringing Ancient Christian Images to Life  -     By: Judith Couchman
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The Mystery of the Cross: Bringing Ancient Christian Images to Life

InterVarsity Press / 2009 / Paperback

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Product Description

The Apostle Paul made it clear early and often that it is the Cross that stands at the center of Christianity. Without it Christians, again according to Paul, "are the most pitiable of all people". Yet, since the Reformation Era much of the artistic and spiritual mystery that surrounded the cross have been diminished, or worse yet, lost.

In her book The Mystery of the Cross historian Judith Couchman, wants to bring Christian back to the profound mystery of the cross that was such foolishness to the Greeks, and such a stumbling block for Jesus' fellow countrymen.

Examining the significance of the Cross in Christian art and piety from the pre-church era, in the Patristic era, and during the era of Constantine, Couchman brings the mystery of the Cross to life for us through the early churches enamorization with this simple yet, infinitely profound symbol.

Anyone who is looking to deepen their understanding of the Cross and the way this central symbol has affected Christian mysticism and everyday life should read this book. It takes us back to a reverence and understanding of the cross that we have lost, and desperately need to return to. It is the center of the faith and Couchman has done a wonderful job of placing it back at that center. This is an excellent book that you will return to time and time again.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 220
Vendor: InterVarsity Press
Publication Date: 2009
Dimensions: 8.25 X 5.50 (inches)
ISBN: 0830835393
ISBN-13: 9780830835393
Availability: Usually ships in 24-48 hours.

Publisher's Description

"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.

Author Bio

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 and .

Editorial Reviews

"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!"
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"Nourishment for the mind as well as the soul . . . . Mystery indeed; this book reveals truths on multiple levels."
"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."

Product Reviews

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  1. 5 Stars Out Of 5
    December 16, 2009
    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.
  2. 5 Stars Out Of 5
    December 15, 2009
    Kathy Collard Miller
    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 TimesPart Two: The Pain and the Glory: The Cross and the Suffering SaviorPart Three: Early Signs of Faith: The Cross and the Early BelieversPart Four: The Great Conversion: The Cross and Early Religious FreedomPart Five: Daily Signs of Salvation: The Cross in Ancient Everyday LifePart Six: Ways to Worship: The Cross in Early Church LifePart Seven: Enduring Mysteries: The Cross and Its Eternal PowerI highly recommend Judith's book. I know it will be a blessing to you as it has been to me.
  3. 5 Stars Out Of 5
    December 13, 2009
    Terry Whalin
    Throughout the ages the Cross has been symbolized in many different fashions and Judith Couchman takes the reader on a remarkable journey. Until I read through this well-done book, I had no idea the various symbols used to represent the Cross. In fact, Couchman captures 40 different representations in this book which includes seven different parts: **The Cross in Pre-Christian Times**The Cross and the Suffering Savior**The Cross and the First Believers**The Cross and Early Religious Freedom**The Cross in Ancient Everyday Life**The Cross in Early Church Life**The Cross and Its Eternal PowerThis book can be used as a devotional learning experience about the Cross or you can read it straight through like any nonfiction book. I found it a bit unusual to release a book about the Cross around Christmas because typically the Church is tuned into the Cross around Easter instead of Christmas. Yet toward the end of the book on page 195, I found the Christmas connection within this book: "Christmas Day 800 marked one of the turning points to European history. Charles, King of the Franks, attended the third Nativity mass at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. He prostrated himself for prayers at the Tomb of the Apostle, in front of the congregation. when Charles rose from his petitions, Pope Leo III stepped forward and crowned him emperor of the Romans. The assemblage cried out, "Long life and victory to Charles, the most pious Augustus, the great, peace-loving emperor, crowned by God." Then everyone in attendance, including the pope, bowed to the new emperor, also known as Charlemagne." And to think that such a celebration happened on Christmas Day.Pick up a copy of THE MYSTERY OF THE CROSS. It will shake you out of your routine thinking about this ancient symbol.
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