The Cross

One man succeeds in everything, and so loses all. Another meets with nothing but crosses and disappointments, and thereby gains more than all the world is worth. -- William Law

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. -- Jesus

Little ones, big ones, silver and gold, diamond encrusted ones, they dangle from ears, hang from necks.

A cross. A fashion icon? A symbol? A symbol of what?

Would we have a gallows or a guillotine or the electric chair as a fashion icon?

Salvador Dali Christ of St John of the Cross (1951) It was on a cross that Jesus died, a cross that became the symbol of the Christian faith.

The cross is an instrument of torture, a means of execution. Apart from traitors, was not used for citizens of the Roman Empire. Its use, was eventually banned, as deemed too barbaric.

Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ focuses on one man dying on the cross. Gibson has been accused of gratuitous use of violence, but if anything he underplays the violence of the crucifixion. What is not shown is the psychological and spiritual pain, even greater than the physical pain, which Jesus felt at the thought that he had been forsaken by God: 'My God, why hast thou forsaken me?'

The cross was not originally a symbol of Christianity, not at least for the first few centuries. Too close to the actual event, its barbarity and cruelty all too apparent. In the early days it was the symbol of a fish, which seems to have made a comeback as a car bumper sticker.

The cross has its uses, as a litany of horror films will tell us, for warding off evil spirits. Bram Stoker used the cross in his Gothic tale Dracula. There may have been earlier uses.

The cross inappropriately used has the facility to shock. As Madonna, a lapsed Catholic, knew all too well when she used a number of crosses in a promotional video. As film-maker Ken Russell, then a devout Catholic, learnt in the production of the film The Devils.

The Devils has two maybe more intertwined plots: A devout Roman Catholic Priest who is accused of being in league with the Devil, who in turn then accuses the political and religious authorities of being corrupt, a group of Nuns who are under satanic possession, or who are led to believe they are by the corrupt authorities. There is one scene, maybe four minutes duration, where the devout priest attending his devotional duties is interplayed with the possessed nuns cavorting with a cross. The entire scene had to be cut.

I am sure if I looked not too hard on the net or on DVD I would find far more explicit and graphic action with a cross, and undoubtedly involving nuns. What is it that shocks us about sexual activity involving the cross?

The cross itself has symbolism. The vertical represents a communication from humanity to heaven, the horizontal bar humanity. We cannot have one without the other.

era cross A variant of the cross, where all horizontal pieces and vertical arms are of equal length, was used by the Knights Templar. This equal-armed cross, predates the Christian cross, and its symbolism is different, a cross of peace. We see this even today, with its use by neutral Switzerland and by the Red Cross. Formed by the Priory of Sion, the real function of the Templars was to guard the Holy Grail, their official function, to guard pilgrims on their visits to the Holy Lands. The Templars became very wealthy and powerful, until a corrupt and devious Pope, had them nearly all killed. The Templars introduced the modern banking system.

This same variant of the cross, is used by Eric Levi in the Era trilogy. The music commemorates the death of the Cathars, massacred by the Catholic Church. Legend has it that the Cathars were guardians of the Holy Grail.

Cross of Nails When the Medieval Cathedral of Coventry was bombed in the Second World War, all that was left was a pile of rubble. In among the rubble, was the hand crafted nails that held the roof timbers together. A handful of these were collected up. When dropped on a table, they miraculously arranged themselves into the shape of a cross. To preserve the Cross of Nails as it become known, the nails were welded together. The Cross of Nails, became a centre piece of the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral. But the story did not end there. A Community of the Cross of Nails was formed. They work in war zones and attempt to bring peace. They are identified by the Cross of Nails they wear around their necks.

Following the success of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, crucifixion nails have become a fashion icon.

Cross of Daffodils For Easter, St Peter's had a cross of daffodils. Following a discussion of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ (David and Nick had been to see the film with a small group of friends appropriately enough on Good Friday) and Holy Communion, everyone was invited to pick up a daffodil and add it to the cross of daffodils.

At the Last Supper, Jesus warned his diciples of the cross they would have to bear if they chose to follow in his footsteps. The Cross is the centrepiece of Christianity. Without the Cross, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, there would be no Christianity.

Look at many churches from above, or a plan view, and you will see they form on the ground the shape of a cross.

Salvador Dali hypercube cross Salvador Dali has painted several variations of the Crucifixion. Anyone who thinks practitioners of modern art cannot paint, have not seen these masterpieces. The portrayal of Christ does justice to any of the Old Masters. We think of Dali as a master of symbolism. The drooping clocks. Look a little closer, the cross is a hypercube folded out into three dimensions, the nails are cubes. Dali understood that Christ was the interface between two domains and was due to ascend to another domain we cannot comprehend.

A single point, zero dimension; a line, one dimension; a square, two dimensions; a cube, three dimensions; a hypercube, the equivalent of a point, line, square or a cube in four dimensions. We can represent a cube in two dimensions by means of perspective or we can fold out each of the faces into two dimensions and get a cross. Draw a cross where each of the horizontal cross pieces is a square, the vertical top piece a square and the vertical bottom piece two adjacent squares. Cut out the cross, fold it up into three dimensions and you will have formed a cube. We can do the equivalent with a hypercube, fold out each of its 'faces' into three dimensions, to obtain its representation in three dimensions.

Deepak Chopra (How To Know God) discusses God being across these various domains:

Deepak Chopra also discusses the Carl Jung concept of synchronicity. It was synchronicity which gave me pause for thought to write this brief discourse on the cross.

I was in the middle of writing a series of book reviews. I had noted my thoughts on the cross, its use as a fashion icon, and asked the rhetorical question: would a gallows be similarly used? A few days later it was Good Friday, and the last programme broadcast that day on BBC Radio 4 before the midnight chimes of Big Ben and the news, was a half hour programme on the cross, and the very same point was made, the cross was for execution, would a gallows be a fashion icon? [see my review of 'I Thirst' by Stephen Cottrell]

This was not the only example of synchronicity. A week after Easter, I attended the evening service at St Peter's. I had intended to come straight home and complete this web page. The text was complete, it was merely a case of html hand-coding and adding a few images. We were all invited after the service to attend a 'showing' of a dissertation on the Representation of Christianity. I could understand a presentation of a dissertation, but I was baffled how one had a showing. It sounded interesting, and besides it was pissing down with rain, so along I went to the neighbouring Parish Centre. It turned out to be a video, a showing of a documentary, part of a dissertation. And very good it proved to be, very well produced and thought through. It was a pity only half a dozen people took the trouble to attend. Towards the end was commentary on the use of the cross, an instrument of torture, of execution, as a fashion item! One of the people interviewed turned out to be Nick, the local curate, who only the week before had been discussing his trip to the cinema to see Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, which was also discussed in the documentary! God works in mysterious ways. [see Graham Hall The Representation of Christianity {video/DVD/VCD}]

And then there was yet another example of synchronicity! Well maybe. Whilst I was writing this page, and after I had uploaded it to the net, I thought it would be a good idea to have some examples of jewellery for completeness. My page had not been there barely two weeks when I received an e-mail sent by my lovely friend Zoe giving examples of the cross as jewellery. And yet I don't recall ever mentioning the web page to her, let alone what I was thinking. But then with the lovely Zoe I am sure she can read my mind as I never have to explain anything to her, she always knows exactly what I am thinking. Communication across the transition zone? [see Deepak Chopra How to Know God]

It then got even stranger. The day after I had obtained my jewellery crosses, thanked Zoe, updated the web page, I received an e-mail from Zoe to say she had not got a clue what I was talking about, that it must be spam, that she had never sent the original e-mail and denied all knowledge of it. E-mails then went back and forth between myself and Zoe, and we both had to admit, something was happening for which we had no rational explanation. Weird! Communication across the transition zone?

Within the context of which it was discovered, even the name of the jewellery website was curious, Dreamstone.

Weird. Why did I get an e-mail, seemingly sent by Zoe, providing exactly what I had been thinking about, just what I needed, just when I needed it, and yet Zoe knew nothing about it? And the web site it referred to had not been visited by Zoe, she knew not of its existence! Communication across the transition zone? Communication by who? [see Deepak Chopra How to Know God]

But this was not all, I kept having these 'signs' as I was writing my reviews. Seemingly randomly occurring events closely related in time.

Yet another strange conicidence was a week later, after I had received or not as the case may be useful information from Zoe and updated this web page, I was reading the novel The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Within the The Da Vinci Code was a discussion of the use of the cross, an instrument of torture and execution, as a fashion icon! And that was not the only coincidence I found in The Da Vinci Code.

I updated this page to note the coincidences I had found in the The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. A few days later I went for a walk. I saw a friend walking her dog and we got chatting. She is a committed Christian, does a lot of work in the Church, and is currently helping to run an Alpha course for her church. As an away day for her Alpha course, she goes to the very church where I started my original exploration. 'Strange', she said, pointing to the cross hanging from her neck, 'how the cross, an instrument of torture, has become a fashion icon. Would we use a guillotine?' I could barely believe my ears. We had got onto the topic from Nicky Gumbel's Alpha, a book I think little of, one of a series of books I had been reading and reviewing. I told her of my amazement. 'Synchronicity', she said. Until a couple of days ago, I was the only one using synchronicity, but that weekend, I had heard it used on a radio programme to describe meaningful coincidences. Her dog, taking it all in, was showing off his summer coat, for which I am sure he was extremely grateful, as it was a very hot day. He comes from the very same place where I was reading The Da Vinci Code.

Synchronicity: meaningful coincidences of seemingly highly improbable random events.

reference

The Cross, BBC Radio 4, Good Friday, 9 April 2004

Stephen Cottrell, 'I Thirst': The Cross The Great Triumph of Love, Zondervan, 2003

Deepak Chopra, How To Know God, Rider, 2000

Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code, Corgi, 2003

Graham Hall, The Representation of Christianity, 2003-2004 {video/DVD/VCD}

William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, Macmillan, 1898


Special thanks to my lovely friend Zoe for finding the jewellery.
Books Worth Reading
(c) Keith Parkins 2004 -- June 2004 rev 2