This is the kind of review an author dreams of. It’s by Kim, a 27-year-old geologist/anthropologist, no doubt wise beyond her years, and it’s on her very cool blog Transitus Tiber. She’s reviewing Signs and Mysteries: Revealing Ancient Christian Symbols.
Allow me to give a backstory to this review: I received this book by Mike Aquilina in the mail on Saturday. I started reading it at 9pm, and by 11am Mass today, I had finished it. And that includes time to sleep, eat, bathe, and so on.
I really had a hard time putting this book down. I’ve never read anything by Mr. Aquilina before, but I was surprisingly captivated by the book. Not surprisingly, it’s all about Christian symbols (the fish, the cross, the dolphin, etc) and how they came to be used in Christianity, and where there roots are, such as pagan and Jewish traditions. I learned an awful lot on the symbols I’m used to seeing, and I saw Mass in a different light because of it. Monsignor has a chi ro on the back of his vestments. There’s a chi ro with a crown flanked by two olive branches in the nave of our Church. I knew that the chi ro is for Our Lord of course, but they knowing the history really helped me see things differently. Interestingly enough, our Church has a TON of little Crosses that I never really opened my eyes to see.
The chapters range from short to medium in length, and I think Mr. Aquilina and the illustrator, Lea Marie Ravotti did enough justice to the symbols without overkill or Deep Overwhelming Theology. Each chapter discusses a symbol – the common ones like the cross, the fish to the more uncommon ones, like the peacock, the dolphin, the ankh. I was reading bits and pieces to Greg in the form of trivia and it’s really astonishing how little we both knew about the symbols around us.
If I had the money, I would buy multiple copies of this book and give it out to everyone I knew. It’s broad enough without being watered down, it is narrow enough without missing the point or giving Boring Details That Are Irrelevant. It would be perfect in an “Introduction to Christianity” type college course, or even a nice “welcome to the Church!” gift to converts and reverts. I highly recommend this book.