From the Washington Post in April of 2010. Schmalz writes and teaches in the fields of Comparative Religions and South Asian Studies. He also writes on Catholic spirituality. He is Professor of Religious Studies at College of the Holy Cross.
All of us who are Christian have images of Jesus that we hold in our imagination — and no one image can fully capture what Jesus means to each individual. But images don’t just represent in a static, straightforward way. Even the most life-like representation still leaves room for an imaginative interplay — an endless series of associations and interactions. The Shroud of Turin does have an embodied, almost tactile quality that echoes Christian beliefs in the reality of the incarnation. But the image on the Shroud, like the entire Shroud itself, is simultaneously present while remaining just out of reach. Debate about scientific proof keeps that imaginative space open. If and when science finds an explanation for the material origin of the Shroud, that still will not foreclose the imaginative associations spun out by those who gaze upon its faint outlines. It is in this dynamic of imagination that we find how and why the Shroud matters, and not just in an imaginary way. Perhaps too, as professor Upton and Father Jim were trying to tell me, if God can become flesh, then imagination itself is one place where the human and divine meet.