The Mystery of the Cross

The Mystery of the Cross

Bringing Ancient Christian Images to Life

by Judith Couchman

The Mystery of the Cross
  • Length: 227 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.25 in
  • Published: November 28, 2009
  •  Discontinued
  • ISBN: 978-0-8308-3539-3
  • Item Code: 3539

"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.

"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!"

Stephen W. Smith, author of The Lazarus Life and compiler and editor of The Transformation of a Man's Heart

"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."

Luci Shaw, author of The Crime of Living Cautiously and writer-in-residence, Regent College

"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."

Robin M. Jensen, author of Understanding Early Christian Art and professor at Vanderbilt Divinity School

"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."

Karen Mains, author of Open Heart, Open Home

"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."

Gerald L. Sittser, author of A Grace Disguised and Water from a Deep Well

"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."

Jan Johnson, author of Spiritual Disciplines Companion

"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."

Sheila Walsh, author of Beautiful Things Happen When a Woman Trusts God

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

Marshall Shelley, vice president, Christianity Today International

"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."

Juliet Benner, Conversations Art Director



Part 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

About the Author


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Judith Couchman

Judith Couchman is the author/compiler of more than forty 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.