Posts Tagged ‘cross’

Cross at St Nicolas

January 17, 2012
cross St Nicolas

cross St Nicolas

I was passing by St Nicolas in Guildford. As I always do, I checked the noticeboard as they often have something interesting on, though sadly too often they neglect to mention on their noticeboard.

Christian meditation. I had missed it. But at least it meant I might find the church open.

As I walked in, the sun just caught the cross suspended above the altar.

Any other time, and the sun would not have caught the cross. On reflection I realised nor would it any other time of the year as the sun would be too high in the sky.

It had been cloudy all morning or hazy sun, unlike the previous days with clear blue sky. The sun came out to illuminate the figures on the cross whilst I was in the church. When I left the church, the sun vanished behind the clouds.

I had a brief word with Father Andrew who thanked me for the DVD of a talk I gave him of Canon Andrew White.

Canon Andrew White at Guildford Baptist Church

I lit several candles: for Canon Andrew White, Lina and Fulla, Paulo Coelho for writing Aleph, my mad friend Sian and my friend Lilly.

Hopefully next week I will make the meditation. I may be wrong but I think 1230 until 1315 Tuesday lunchtimes.

Crucifixion or Corpus Hypercubus

April 22, 2011
Crucifixion - Salvador Dali

Crucifixion - Salvador Dali

The Nazarene was not weak! He was strong and is strong! But the people refuse to heed the true meaning of strength … He lived as a leader: He was crucified as a crusader; He died with a heroism that frightened His killers and tormentors. Jesus was not a bird with broken wings; He was a raging tempest who broke all crooked wings. — Kahlil Gibran

Christ crucified on a hypercube, using cubes as nails. Gala, Dalí’s wife, is the figure in the bottom left, who stands looking up to the crucified Jesus. The scene is depicted in front of the bay of Port Lligat

What Salvador Dali has cleverly done is shown Christ crossing into another dimension, crossing the transition zone.

When I first saw this painting it took my breath away. But first a little background which will aid understanding.

Picture a point, then a line of length unit one, then a square of side unit length one, then a cube of similar side length. What we have drawn when we draw a cube is the equivalentof a line in three dimensions. Now, if you can, picture or at least imagine the equivalent of cube in four dimensions, this is a hypercube.

Now unfold outwards the sides of a cube. What we get is cross formed of adjacent squares, a cube represented in two dimensions. We can do the same with a hypercube, fold it out into three dimensions, but istead of adjacent squares in the form of a cross, what we get is adjacent cubes in the form of a three dimensional cross.

That is what I saw and that is what took my breath away, Christ was nailed not with nails but with cubes to a hypercube. Effectively what Dali was saying was Christ was being taken to another dimension, He was crossing the transitiion zone, but Dali was saying this using the mathemetical symbols in the painting.

It was some time in the 1970s. I was doing the first year of Arts at University. I gave a talk on what I saw. Everyone was astounded, they had not seen this before. But then why should they, they would need to not only understand the mathematics but also be able to imagine a hypercube.

Crossing the transition zone works both ways. Dali pictures Jesus crossing into another dimenension, but we also have God the infinite being represented by a frail human being.

As Paul so eloquently put it in Colossians 1:15: He is the image of the invisible God.

‘I thirst’ the last cry on the cross, the frailty of a human being, the eternity of God.

St Augustine understood only too well this crossing of the transition zone:

He becomes what we are, in order that we might become what he is.

Or to quote the Athanasian Creed:

Although he is both divine and human
He is not two beings but one Christ.
One, not by turning God into flesh
But by taking humanity into God.

Anyone who says Dali had no understanding of mathemetics not only does not know what they are talking about, but they themselves have no understanding either. It is like those fools who look for conflict between different religions or religions and science.

We can see this symbolism in his other paintings.

If we assume nothing appears by chance, and with Dali that is a reasonable assumption, then what of the chessboard? What does it mean? Anyone who has read The Eight (and if not please do) will realise this is a very good question.

It is not something I have thought about before and the simple answer is I do not know. I can only speculate. God as the Grand Chess Master. What then of the figure looking up? We know she is Gala, Dalí’s wife, but what or who does she represent? Is she Mary? If yes, then which Mary, Mary the Mother of Christ or Mary Magdalene? If this is a game of chess, is she the Queen?

More on the life and and works of Dali at

Fundacio Gala-Salvador Dali

Crucifixion hangs in Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The Cross
Salvador Dali: painting the fourth dimension
‘I Thirst’
Holy Week
The First Easter Week Musing
Quema de Palmitos
Ash Wednesday
The Cross
Passover supper
Maundy Thursday
The Celebration of the Lord’s Passion

‘I Thirst’

April 20, 2011

I Thirst

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst’. A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. — John 19:28-30

‘I Thirst’, according to the Gospel of John (John 19:28), these were the last words Jesus cried out on the cross before he died.

It was during his time as parish priest at St Wilfred’s in Chichester during the late 1980s, early 1990s, that the church acquired a new cross. It was from reflecting on the cross and a sermon Stephen Cottrell gave the following Good Friday there grew a series of meditations on the cross.

Lent is a period of reflection, of spiritual renewal. This is often forgotten when we hear people telling us what they have given up for Lent. Are they really renewed because they have given up chocolate for a few weeks? No doubt to then pig on a chocolate Easter Egg.

Lent is supposed to be a time when we review our spiritual life, think about what what it means to be a follower of Christ, reset the compass of our discipleship, and prepare ourselves to celebrate the Easter festival. But often we just give up biscuits.

It is a monastic tradition lectio divinato (divine reading) to read a passage from scripture out loud, then in the silence that follows to speak out a word or phrase, then mediate upon what has been read.

It is in that tradition that Stephen Cottrell asks that you read and meditate upon ‘I Thirst’, appropriately subtitled The Cross – The Great Triumph of Love.

N T Wright, The Challenge of Jesus:

The cross is the surest, truest and deepest window on the very heart and character of the living and loving God; the more we learn about the cross, in all its historical and theological dimensions, the more we discover about the one in whose image we are made, and hence about our own vocation to be the cross-bearing people, the people in whose lives and services the living God is known.

Essential reading for Easter.

Passover supper
Holy Week
Suffering
The First Easter Week Musing
Quema de Palmitos
Ash Wednesday
The Cross

The Cross

June 10, 2010
Christ of Saint John of the Cross - Salvador Dali

Christ of Saint John of the Cross - Salvador Dali

Crucifixion or Corpus Hypercubus - Salvador Dali

Crucifixion or Corpus Hypercubus - Salvador Dali

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

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

A somewhat bizarre act, we kneel and pray before the tortured and bloody body of a Martyr on the cross. We drink of His blood, partake of His body.

Metaphorically we are sharing and acknowledging the pain, becoming as one with the Martyr.

We see the cross as a symbol of Christianity, but it was not always so.

For the first couple of hundred years or so after the death of Jesus, the cross was seen for what it was. An instrument of torture and execution. Rome did not use it for its citizens apart from traitors. Its use was eventually banned as deemed too barbaric.

The revered leader of a small Jewish sect was executed on the cross. His immediate followers suffered similar fates.

The events and dates we celebrate would not have been recognized by these early Christians, a rag-tag motley crew of men and women who followed a Jewish Magi. These events and dates we celebrate were earlier Pagan festivities, adopted to suit Rome. It is easier to give a new name to existing festivities, than to invent new ones. The roots have been forgotten, the festivities taken at face value.

Take for example Christmas. 25 December? No one knows when Jesus was born. The only guide we have is from The Gospel of Luke that shepherds were out with their flocks in the fields, which indicates spring. The early Christians were not too fussed, indeed Origen warns against even celebrating ones own birthday as it was a Pagan custom. 25 December was the birthday of Mithras and of Apollo. Brumalia, the feast of Bacchus, was also on this day. If people were going to celebrate on that day, then make the most of it. Rome first celebrated Christmas Day around 336AD, Constantinople 379AD, Egypt 435AD. The churches in Palestine held out until the 6th century. The Armenian Church kept to 6 January. The Greek Orthodox Church and Russian Orthodox Church still celebrate Christmas Day on 6 January.

The cross, like much of the Judea-Christian religion, has its roots in Ancient Egypt. The two arms of the cross represented life on earth and the ascent to Heaven or the celestial realm. The Egyptian cross, as opposed to the crucifix, represents the intersection of two dimensions. It is a visual representation where Man and God are as one.

Open up and fold out the sides of a cube. We have a cross, a representation in two dimensions with a series of adjoining squares of a cube that exists in three dimensions. We can do similar with a hypercube, opening it out to be represented by adjacent and adjoining cubes in three dimensions.

Salvador Dali represents this ascent into another dimension in two of his paintings. In Christ of Saint John of the Cross, we have the cross hovering in space. With Crucifixion or Corpus Hypercubus Dali takes this a stage further. Jesus is nailed with cubes to a hypercube cross.

In the Gospel of Thomas, the most mystical of the gospels, we learn that he who understands will become immortal, ie as God. That seek and ye shall find, that the Kingdom of Heaven is not up there or down there, it is within us and all around us.

Sages and mystics and prophets and saints have no difficult in crossing the transition zone. Us mere mortals have greater difficulty.

But as Santiago learnt in The Alchemist by Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho and he himself learnt on the pilgrimage he undertook along El Camino de Santiago, the medieval route of St James, it is possible to learn how to read the signs and communicate with the Soul of the World.

Paulo Coelho discusses the historical cross in The Zahir, Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code and The Lost Symbol. Philip Yancey discusses the execution of Jesus on the cross in The Jesus I Never Knew, and Stephen Cottrel devotes all of ‘I Thirst’ to the last moments on the cross.

Crux Gemmata: A jeweled cross. Usually 13 jewels representing Jesus and his 12 Disciples.

Holding Cross: A carved wooden cross, usually from seasoned olive wood from the Holy Land, that easily fits into the palm of the hand. Used in the same way as Prayer Beads.

For my lovely friend Sian.

A cross of olive wood

February 18, 2010
A cross of olive wood

A cross of olive wood

“A holding cross is designed not so much to look right as to feel right. The cross is deliberately uneven, in order to fit between your fingers more comfortably than a ‘correctly shaped’ cross would do. Because a holding cross is not decorated or ornamental, it is a harsh reminder of the wood of the cross of Jesus.” — Angela Ashwin

An unusual shaped cross, made of highly polished olive wood. It feels smooth to the touch, fits snugly in the hand.

The cross is made from wood from an olive tree, wood that has been dried for five years.

The cross is carved in the Holy Land, at a workshop in Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem. Packed for shipment in a house in the Old City of Jerusalem. Imported into the UK by Marie Wilkinson.

Because they are hand-carved no two crosses are alike. Each cross is unique.

Anything that helps Palestinians survive the brutality of Israeli occupation is to be welcome. Anyone who doubts that brutality should read ‘The Last Taboo’ in Freedom Next Time by John Pilger or Fateful Triangle by Noam Chomsky.

A few years ago I was with friends at the Beyond TV International Film Festival in Swansea. They had helped bring in the olive harvest in occupied Palestine. When not destroying the crop, Israelis make it nigh impossible to harvest. The olive oil they brought back was delicious. Whilst not carrying a Fair Trade logo it was ethically produced. Please encourage your local deli and other outlets to stock Palestinian Olive Oil as every little helps.

I came across this holding cross, as these types of cross are known, in Triangle, a Christian bookshop cum teashop.

Also see

The Cross

Holding the Cross