The Cross in Ancient Everyday Life
As we’ve shared through this journey of Judith Couchman’s The Mystery of the Cross, of wearing the cross upon our neck, or praying with our hands raised… I look forward to continuing on to share where else we’ll find signs of Salvation!
The opening quote sums up this section very well:
[In early Christianity], crosses decorated many daily objects: They were carved or painted on the facades of private and public buildings, erected in fields and on roadsides, and stamped on eating utensils. This sign was especially common on oil lamps, perhaps as a symbolic means of banishing the darkness. … In addition, it serves as an official mark of reliability and honesty, appearing on weights and, of course, on most Byzantine Imperial coins. The cross was believed to be an effective form of defense against Satan and the forces of evil and was therefore made in to jewelry, which was worn by the living as amulets.
THE CRADLE OF CHRISTIANITY EXHIBIT
THE ISRAEL MUSEUM, JERUSALEM
Early Christians placed the cross on things used & seen within everyday life… they continually wanted to be reminded what it represented and looked for it everywhere around them. As the opening quote shared the cross was placed in many places:
- Oil Lamp – to light their way, to light shadow filled dark rooms
- Door knocker, Walls, fields – to protect their homes, and buildings
- Weights for trading – to show fairness and honesty
- Scales of Justice – to show each case is measured by the strength of a case’s support or opposition
- Coins – as symbols of security
As you look around today, what does the Cross represent for you? Coachman shares that she is “comforted by praying with a cross in my hands. For me, it represents God’s sacrifice for his people, his power to rescue us and his admonition to fear not. At the same time, I understand if we gaze upon a cross symbol or hold a cross replica when we pray, it’s only a symbol. It’s Christ who holds the power. It’s the Lord who said, ‘It is I; don’t be afraid’ (Jn 6:20).”
For me, the cross represents sacrifice… a feeling of awe and reverence; I can never know the pain He felt for dieing for my sins. At the same time of feeling affliction, sorrow, and disgust (by what others can do to someone), I too feel love, peace, and grace. I cry out wanting to know Him more. Are we walking the Scriptures – sharing His light? The Scripture’s tell us over & over to let our light shine:
Proverbs 13:9; Luke 15:8; Matthew 25:1-13; Matthew 5:14-15; Matthew 4:16
And still there are many others… go searching! I dare you!
Consider too, how does the cross appear to those outside the faith? Coachman challenges for our consideration of can those outside the faith trust the cross? “Think of a Nazi-era Jew, a Rwanda refugee, an alternative lifestyle American? Does the cross represent safety, quality, loving care, reliability? Does it draw or repel? Punish or heal?
I shudder to think of what those without faith may think of the cross and can only pray that I am not reducing the cross with any signs I may have, and even with my own behavior… praying I may shine for Him as He wills for me to.
Thanks for continuing on this journey with us!
symbols for a particular faith, are usually uncomfortable to anyone outside of that faith, i would suspect.
i grew up in a faith that believed the cross was an idol (and also an incorrect depiction of the instrument of Jesus' death, as they believe he died on a “stake”). As I grow in my faith, such black and white thinking boggles my mind. Yet, my background does create a sensitivity to the beliefs of others.
Thanks for this. Very interesting.