the triumph found in surrendering

“Persevere in labors that lead to salvation.
Always be busy in spiritual actions.
In this way, no matter how often the enemy of our souls approaches,
no matter how many times he may try to come near us,
he’ll find our hearts closed and armed against him.”

St. Cyprian of Carthage


(detail from one of the paintings by Fra Angelico at the Convent of San Marco /
Florence, Itlay / Julie Cook / 2018)

“Give me all of you!!!
I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work.
I want YOU!!!
ALL OF YOU!!
I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman,
but to KILL IT! No half measures will do.
I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there;
rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit,
all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams.
Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self—
in my image.
Give me yourself and in exchange, I will give you Myself.
My will, shall become your will.
My heart, shall become your heart.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

In many paintings of the crucifixion, as well as free-standing vintage crucifixes,
there is often a skull positioned beneath the cross.


(Crucifixion with saints, Fra Angelico / Convent of San Marco / Florence, Italy /
Julie Cook / 2018)

The reason for this is symbolic…and actually quite simple.
It represents Christ’s triumph over death…and in turn, our own triumph found
in Christ Jesus.

when the sacred becomes the forgotten

Those who love desire to share with the beloved.
They want to be one with the beloved, and Sacred Scripture shows us the great
love story of God for his people which
culminated in Jesus Christ.

Pope Benedict XVI

Pray always for all the learned, the oblique, the delicate.
Let them not be quite forgotten at the throne of God when the simple
come into their kingdom.

Evelyn Waugh


(detail of the face of an antique french crucifix I bought several years ago at
an antique show / Julie Cook / 2017)

The other day when I was listening to the latest segment of Anglican Unscripted
featuring my favorite man of the cloth and rebel with a Cause, Bishop Gavin Ashenden,
I was struck by something the good bishop said—
yet it wasn’t something you would have thought would have or should have
made any sort of profound impact on me or on anyone else for that matter—
but it did.

I would bet that it wasn’t even something that the good bishop would probably
have thought anyone really even noticed he had said.

Bishop Ashenden was offering a bit of an aside about a recent trip to Normandy…
just idle chatter really with the host—
as it seems Normandy is a place where he and his wife often enjoy visiting
as it seems they have a “retreat” there in Northern France.
And it just so happens to be a place where they seem to enjoy visiting various
antique / flea markets…

The good bishop made mention that during such shopping adventures,
he’s always on the hunt for all things nautical.
A nod to his father who had severed in the Royal Navy during the war and had taken his young son on many a sailing adventures.

But it wasn’t to sailing or to all things nautical that caught my attention but rather
the single one line he offered just following his explanation of his antique quests…
and that being “and to rescue crucifixes”

Seems the good bishop also keeps an eye out for the antique and vintage crucifix.

Funny….I do too.

And I have for most of my life.

When I was maybe 11 or maybe 12, my dad took us on a “vacation” as we drove
from Atlanta to Lake Charles, Louisiana to attend the wedding of my oldest cousin.

Dad thought he’d be smart and kill two birds with a couple of stones by
turning our having to attend a wedding into a family vacation—
as well as marking his and mom’s anniversary which was to take place while
on the road.

We stopped in Mobile on the way out and toured a submarine.
We went to Vicksburg and Natchez to visit old stately plantations and now silent battlefields.
We visited with cousins and family in both Lake Charles and Monroe as I even found
a first young love in our cousin’s neighbor—a boy about my age.

On our return home, we stopped in the Big Easy to get a youthful education on
the more profane side of life…
Bourbon Street, to a preteen and her 6 year old brother, was truly an eye opening
life lesson.

While in New Orleans, we visited The Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France,
otherwise known to most folks as St Louis Cathedral.
It was in the bookstore that dad bought a small marble replica of Michelangelo’s
Pieta. He also bought something for me…a small black wood and silver crucifix.

That crucifix sat by my bedside, resting on the bedside table for the remainder
of my growing up…a symbolic and tangible link to the words
spoken in Matthew–“Lo, I am with you always, until the end of time…”
this was the hand reaching out to literally hold my hand–
especially over the years when I would find myself scared, sad or upset…
He was always there.
It even went with me to college as well as beyond.

And it seems that I’ve had an affinity for such ever since.

Now this is not a post to defend or deny the image of a crucifix,
I’ve done that.
Nor is this a post to defend or deny the Christian’s undeniable link to the image
of the cross,
I’ve done that.
Nor is this a post about the notion of the cross becoming a trendy fashion object
rather than a sacred religious symbol,
I’ve done that one as well.

But I do want to look a little further into this notion of “rescuing crucifixes.”

I’ve obviously been doing just that since as long as I can remember—
Often times in my purchasing history, these crosses have started out as new.
Yet as I grew and aged, finding myself visiting various flea markets and
antique shops, first with my mother then later with my aunt and friends,
I found myself unconsciously gravitating to antique Christian religious items.

My gathering has not been relegated only to crosses but there are small figurines
of the saints, Orthodox Icons, very old ‘finger’ bibles or the Book of Common Prayer
and even very old rosaries….

With the largest rescue being about a 3 foot tall, badly damaged,
very old, antique French plaster crucifix.
A crucifix that I would imagine to have once been a part of a local parish
church somewhere in France.

I’ve written about this cross before…and it is an interesting post about the
cross and its known history…a tale that, now having finished The Book Thieves,
makes me even more keenly aware of European religious items and books that have
been long lost, destroyed and or misplaced…all the victims of two world wars.

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/the-relic-the-mystery-and-theres-just-something-about-those-eyes/

But it wasn’t until I heard Bishop Ashenden actually verbalize the notion of
‘rescuing crucifixes’ that the thought dawned on me—

Why are we having to rescue them?

Why have they come up so randomly and obviously missing in the first place?

These items that someone once held dear and precious–
items instrumental to ones spiritual life and growth that are now simply sitting
forgotten on some dusty old random shelf of some shop or tucked away in some
booth at some sort of flea market…has me actually more sad then vexed.

And so I wonder, when was it exactly, when did we allow the sacred to become the
forgotten…

And in so doing…are we allowing our very faith to fade….

“Then they will know that I am the LORD their God because I made them go
into exile among the nations, and then gathered them again to their own land;
and I will leave none of them there any longer.

Ezekiel 39:28

The Relic, the Mystery and there’s just something about those eyes

What needs my Shakespeare for his honoured bones,
The labor of an age in pilèd stones,
Or that his hallowed relics should be hid
Under a star-y-pointing pyramid?
Dear son of memory, great heir of fame,
What need’st thou such weak witness of thy name?”

― John Milton

DSCN5585

“Any relic of the dead is precious, if they were valued living.”
Emily Bronte

“Like Roman Catholics, they (Eastern Orthodox) believe that the grace of God present in the saints’ bodies during life remains active in their relics when they have died, and that God uses these relics as a channel of divine power and an instrument of healing.”
Timothy Ware (Metropolitan Kallistos Ware) (1993-04-29)

“Orthodox Christians respect and venerate the relics of the Saints (bodily remains) because the body along with the soul is redeemed and sanctified; one day it will rise from the grave to be with God forever.”
Anthony M.Coniaris (2010-12-29)

In yesterday’s post I had shared a little bit about my love and
fascination with history—
as it is all basically a lengthy story–and who doesn’t like a good story?
I also shared the tale of a chair and a love I have with and for antiques—
namely those things I’ve “inherited” along this life’s journey of mine–all from grandmothers and mother.

I left you with a bit of tantalizing intrigue asking you to stay tuned
as there was a quasi Part 2 to the story—

This is a story about a visit to the big monthly Antiques extravaganza known
as Scott’s Antique Market held at the old convention center located south of
the city near Atlanta’s massive airpot.
The show comes to town the second weekend of each month.
Two enormous “convention” centers are packed to the brim with every sort
of antique and dealer imaginable.
Even the outside areas are packed with a more flea market sort of vibe,
but equally interesting.

You want to find a matching plate to the set of dishes your
grandmother gave you years ago?
It’s here.

Looking for the perfect English corner cabinet for the living room?
It’s here.

Looking for the perfect old new rug for the family room?
It’s here.

You need a piece of silver or silverware?
It’s here.

Wanting to find a special gift for that impossible person to buy for?
It’s here—whatever it is, it’s here!

Old toys, jewelry, furniture–big and small, gadgets, cookware, figurines,
pottery, glassware, silver, trinkets and treasure–
it’s a fun way to spend a day hunting and rummaging.
And usually for the right price, it, whatever it is,
is going home with you.

As June’s show fell just after our big wedding event down in Savannah,
my aunt, who was staying with us throughout the big hoopla, wanted to take in Scott’s before she had to return back home to south Florida.

I also had two dear friends who wanted to tag along with us on this little antique adventure. Rummaging for treasure is always more fun with more eyes to take
it all in–
so off we all went looking for nothing in particular,
but thinking that we may stumble upon some little treasure we just couldn’t
live without.
Little did I know. . .

This show is a huge draw for the curious, the shopper and the dealer.
Buses come from all over the South.
There was a bus for the Junior League of Birmingham,
a group down from Nashville, folks from North Carolina,
Mississippi, etc—a regular “picker’s” paradise to be sure.

Once we found a parking spot, we made our way into the cavernous market.
We wandered up and down the aisles poking and prodding through the various booths,
tables and stalls when suddenly, out of no where,
a rather large and very worn crucifix catches me off guard.
I make a bee line for a closer inspection.

I stand.
I stare.
I marvel.

Remember, I am an art teacher who loves her art history and who possesses
a strong penchant for Byzantine, Renaissance and Baroque time periods—
early Christian art.
The cross and figure of Christ had seen much better days, which was making me even
more curious as to its story–
yet there was just something in that face which held me in my place.

I took a peek at the price.
“Maybe she’ll take less” I muse in a silent attempt to reassure myself.
At which point the owner ambles over. . .“it’s French you know.”
“Yes, I thought so.”
“Plus it’s a relic”
“Really?
Where?
How?”

At which point she begins to explain the part of the story that she knows.
Located at the base of the cross, or what the cross is actually mounted on,
is a small wooden and glass enclosed box which holds an ancient nail.
She gently tilts the crucifix back so I can have a better view.

“When I found this, the glass was black with age and grime,
I didn’t realize it was a box”
she continued tilting the cross back
as she continued with her story.
“It seems that the monastery which originally possessed the cross,”
a monastery she now has no idea as to its identity,
“had a nail which they actually carried to Jerusalem,” or so she tells me,
“to be blessed and to be held to the purported nails of the True Cross.”

DSCN5641

“Ah, a third degree relic” I interject.
“Yes, how do you know that?”
“A third degree relic is an item that has been brought in contact with a purported original relic in order to receive various graces.”
“Are you Catholic?”
“No”
I lightly chuckle, “I just know these kind things”

I ask what she’d take for it as my aunt and friends now stand and stare
at me as in a ‘have you lost your freaking mind’ kind of stare.
One of them even asking
“is this something you would want to look at every day…all that blood and agony?!”
“Oh yes, very much so” I murmur as if in a trance.

She then tells me her bottom line price, which she explains is way down from the
original price— but she has had it a while and as she is receiving a new shipment
of items from France, she needs to “clean house”
I tell her I need to walk around a bit in order to think about it.

We walk around about 40 more minutes.
“Don’t you like this tureen” my aunt almost implores holding up a
Mulberry ware covered bowl, as in, ‘get this china pot instead of that dilapidated old cross, it’s cheaper and is not so ‘falling apart.’
“Yes, it’s nice but I don’t need more china” this as my mind is still churning over the crucifix.

I’m now mindlessly walking around, rationalizing and ruminating in my head
about having saved up for a new purse and wallet, something of a small treat.
Thinking to myself that perhaps I should forego something as trite as a new
purse for a treasured piece of history.
Something so terribly personal and immensely moving.

I haven’t had a new purse in several years…
but who needs a new purse when I can take home this ancient crucifix…
it certainly won’t go out of style I muse.
There’s nothing wrong with my old bag.
This will be an investment in history.
Plus there’s just something about those eyes…”

This battle waging in my mind as we continue wandering about the maze of booths and dealers.

“Ya’ll can look around here, I’m going back to that booth to ask about the cross.
Swing by when you finish here”
this as I practically call out over my shoulder as
hurriedly I make my way back to find the cross.

Once I re-find the booth and the owner, I tell her I’ll take the cross.
She warily studies me for a moment.
I think she originally thought I had intentions of reselling it.
Probably wondering why someone like me, not looking to be the overtly
religious type as in no collar or wimple,
would want such a piece for personal use.

“It’s beautiful” I sincerely tell her.
I proceed explaining that despite not being Catholic, I have a profound draw to the Catholic Faith and that I am, believe it or not, a very devout believer.
The cross, the lifelike plaster image, with it’s peeling paint and overtly dusty and fragile appearance, calls to my heart.
The face, his face, his eyes draw me inward, beckoning, calling.
“I am here, I suffer, I bleed, I do this for you. . .”

She then tells me that it’s her understanding that many of the churches in France,
just prior to the Nazi’s invasion,
took items such as this cross out of the churches,
hiding them in fear of looting or even worse, desecration and destruction.
It’s her understanding that this cross was moved and never made its way back home.
She proceeds to show me how to open the box, showing me the nail which is anchored to
a crumbling and faded burgundy velvet pad by a small piece of old wire.
Ever so gently she retrieves a yellowed folded piece of very fragile paper.
It is a certificate of authenticity–written in Latin and stamped,
proclaiming the nail to be a relic of the true nail of the true cross–
dated 1883.

DSCN5639

After I get the cross home, I immediately and precariously climb up on a stool,
perched on the counter, in order to place it high on top of the book case–
a perfect place for anyone coming in the house to see it.
It’s also a perfect place keeping it safe.
But just before placing it up and away,
I retrieve the fragile piece paper from the box, one final time,
in order to make a copy so I might do a little research of my own

DSCN5629

My current school of thought is that the monks only carried the nail to Rome,
to a church named for Jerusalem, but I could be wrong.
The Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem—
Latin: Basilica Sanctae Crucis in Hierusalem.

Many more questions than answers to be sure.
I would love to somehow figure out where this cross came from–
what church or monastery.
Wouldn’t it be marvelous to be able to find its original home,
returning it to its rightful place of reverence and worship?!
My new goal and quest.

I’ll be keeping you posted to be sure—but for right now I need to go decipher a little bit of Latin. . .