Wednesday 8 April 2020

Praying the Crucifix - Julien Chilcott-Monk - Reflections on the Cross

Praying the Crucifix - Reflections on the Cross
Julien Chilcott-Monk
Catholic Truth Society

ISBN 9781784691615
eISBN 9781784692070
CTS Booklet D819

Over the last few years I have read over 100 volumes from the CTS. I have read books from many series. And many authors. This was the second book I have read by Julien Chilcott-Monkan. The print and eBook editions were published in 2017.

The description of this volume is:

“The crucifix is one of the most important symbols of the Christian faith, a reminder of Christ’s suffering and death on the Cross to save us, a symbol of one of the most important moments in history. Yet how many of us look at, and consider, the cross and its deeper meaning? This eBook provides reflections on the different parts of the crucifix and the body of Christ, allowing us to apply its lessons to our own lives. Each chapter ends with prayers and devotions."

And the chapters are:
Introduction and How to Use this Booklet
Chapter One: The Cross
Chapter Two: The Label
Chapter Three: The Head of Christ
Chapter Four: The Face of Christ and the First Four Senses
Chapter Five: The Shoulders of Christ
Chapter Six: The Arms of Christ
Chapter Seven: The Hands of Christ and the Fifth Sense
Chapter Eight: The Wounded Side of Christ
Chapter Nine: The Loincloth
Chapter Ten: The Knees of Christ
Chapter Eleven: The Legs of Christ
Chapter Twelve: The Feet of Christ

The forward of this book sets up for us the definitions of Contemplation and Meditation that will be used in this volume. We are told in the introduction that the author has been working his way through restoring 150 crucifixes. And that though he started using them as a diversion from music and the written word, that exercise morphed into this work. 

“This booklet is designed to assist those who would pray with the crucifix more deeply and intimately, or, perhaps, in a different or new way. Although readers may use the text as presented, they should allow themselves free rein to pursue personal thought and ideas as they read.”

We are also informed that:

“It is of great benefit first to contemplate the crucifix for as long as the reader has time to spend, and then to meditate on one particular feature of the crucifixion. Each chapter provides that feature, either of the cross or of Christ’s body, as its subject, opening with the cross itself and concluding with the feet of Christ. The text leads the reader by means of a thread of connecting thoughts and ideas, which traces a path through the Gospel narratives and naturally flows from the subject of the chapter.”

Through each of the 12 chapters we have meditations, reflections and concludes with prayers. The prayers that the chapters end with are:

Ave Maria
Glorria Patri
Fidelium animae

And each chapter begins with a photo. Some of the close up photo’s are deeply moving. And praying through the cross in this section by section way had a profound impact upon me. The book is a fascinating read, and a deeply moving experience. This is a devotion I know I will be returning to often. 

The book is also in part a study of the art and design of crucifixes. And goes into the mechanics of a crucifixion. How positions might vary, and how cooperative a person is would change the experience and body placement. For example:

“The position of the arms on the cross would largely be determined by the demeanour of the prisoner. A large drink of sour wine on arrival at Golgotha would tend to make him less resistant.

We can see Christ’s arms in many positions - some eighteenth and nineteenth century crucifixes even purporting to take and emphasise a particular theological line. Let us, however, simply glean what we can from what is before us. Traditionally, the more upward-pointing the arms, the more the artist wishes to illustrate the earnestness of our Lord’s supplication and imploration - “Father, forgive them…” (Lk 23:34). Arms outstretched to the left and right with unbent elbows, show that Jesus is indeed the Saviour of the whole world and his face the new face of God; while the arms with bent elbows assure us of his loving embrace and our own individual salvation.”

This is an excellent read for lent or to use throughout the year. After reading this volume I doubt I will look at another crucifix in the same way ever again. And excellent read.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2020 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Link to other Lent Resources.

Books by Julien Chilcott-Monk:
The Way of the Passion
Come, Lord Jesus!
In the Name of the Father
Praying the Crucifix - Reflections on the Cross
Saints of the Roman Canon
A Calendar of Catholic Devotion
Walking the Way of the Cross: Liturgies and Meditations on the Stations of the Cross for Personal and Corporate Devotion
A Basic Dictionary of Bible People
John Henry Newman and the Path to Sainthood
Flesh, Bone, Wood: Entering Into the Mysteries of the Cross
Advent Joy. Journeying Towards the Nativity

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