Thanks for featuring The Mystery of the Cross as your online study. I appreciate your attention to my book, and enjoyed reading the entries. Even in this electronic age, an author only gains limited opportunities to reader responses. So this was a treat!
I decided to write The Mystery of the Cross for two reasons. First, as a part-time art historian, I wanted to research Christianity’s central image through the centuries, observing its visual transitions. Second, as a Christian I wanted to learn how early believers related to this sign. Did it influence their daily lives and worship? And if so, how?
As I worked on the book, I received much more than answers to these questions. Several times I thought, I don’t know if readers will get anything from this book, but it’s definitely affecting me. These rewards—and a fast-approaching deadline—sustained me through the sometimes tedious research. This included tracking down obscure books, managing conflicting opinions, and verifying minutia. However, after wading through research, the personal rewards emerged. I noticed the following:
A sacred appreciation. I’ve been a Christian since childhood and Passion Week seems as familiar to me as my own face. Consequently, through the years I’ve taken for granted the depth of Christ’s suffering. Reading details about the crucifixion process renewed my gratitude for his sacrifice and reshaped my approach to the recent Easter season.
A stirring within. Working as an author and art historian, it’s easy for Christianity and its images to become a project instead of a personal belief system. Spending months examining the core personality (Christ) and message (salvation) of the cross stirred my personal faith. I recognized my own need for spiritual renewal. I’m now pursuing spiritual transformation through a Forty Days venture. (See the Notes from Judith blog at www.judithcouchman.blogspot.com.)
An altered perspective. I look at cross images differently than before the book. I think about how early Christians revered images of the cross, focusing on the Savior who died for them. I try to do the same. I live in a culture that doesn’t need to sacrifice for its spiritual beliefs, and I want to remember and honor those who did (and still do). The cross meant everything to them. How can I increase its meaning to me?
One of my favorite biblical characters is Simon of Cyrene, who strolled into town after a day’s work and unintentionally contributed to history’s greatest story. Forced to shoulder Christ’s cross, Simon probably protested and resented the painful imposition. But carrying the cross, in close proximity to the Lord, changed him. He believed.
Encountering the cross can change us, too.