The Biggest Shroud of Turin Mystery

imageA reader writes:

The biggest mystery attending the shroud is how people lock onto an image theory that best fits their worldview. Then they swear by it as though it was proved.  Facts and myths that support their theory are all that they will look at or mention. Facts that prove them wrong are conveniently ignored.

So it was when Chris Sullivan wrote, “Jacques di Costanzo and historian Paul-Eric Blanrue proved that such an image might easily have been achieved in the middle ages by simply rubbing an iron oxide mixed with gelatine onto cloth.” Conveniently, Sullivan fails to tell us that this was only the latest bas-relief attempt. Others had not worked out. Painted and proto-photographed and dry dusted and reverse bleached and scorched images had also failed. It was because Costanzo’s and Blanrue’s attempt had also failed that Luigi Garlaschelli tried another bas-relief technique in 2010. We now await the next something else while all the proponents of everything else continue to swear by their own something, facts be damned.

Of course one doesn’t find any better theories among the many theories of those who think it is a real image of Jesus.

But I know how the image was formed. In 1356, Merlin the Wizard touched a piece of homespun wool with his magic wand. The wool magically turned into linen. I know this is so because 3 over 1 herringbone cloth had never been seen before or since. The image is of King Arthur because it looks like him. And we know it was magic because science has failed to figure it out. And there is an image of a magic wand near the right shoulder.

Miracles at the Jesus Oak

imageFrom the preface of a 2011 edition of “Miracles at the Jesus Oak: Histories of the Supernatural in Reformation Europe,” by Craig Harline (Yale University Press). The previous 2003 book was published by Random House. How to study the miracles of this very limited period of history in a very limited place, essentially the Spanish Netherlands of the 17th century and surrounding countryside, the author wondered?

I soon discovered that there were already plenty of models from which to choose, beginning with the four most venerable approaches to miracles over the centuries: (I) accept that the stories happened as told and simply recount them, for inspirational or commercial purposes, or both (2) accept the stories as told but then explain away any supposedly miraculous causes as natural or "demonic,” based on scientific or theological concepts from my own world: (3) dispute the stories as told on grounds that they are unbelievable, either in the events themselves or because all-too- fallible witnesses and scribes, deliberately and otherwise, distort things: and (4) use the stories to help establish the latest absolutely foolproof definition of miracle, good for all times and places, forever and ever, amen. There were more recent models too: I might don a white lab coat and start organizing stories by time, place, or motif, then subject them to the most excruciating sorts of statistical manipulation. Or I could use the endless physical ailments reported in the stories to assess the age’s medical understanding and problems.

The categorization of the miracles is perhaps useful as we continue to wonder how to evaluate the image of the shroud. The shroud, by-the-way, is not forgotten in this author’s attempt to understand miracles. Here is another quote from the book but it is not the miracle (if it is a miracle) of the shroud that we usually think about:

There are still events whose only explanation seems otherworldly. Nuns of a convent in New Mexico report the building of a miraculous unsupported staircase in their convent by someone they believe was Saint Joseph himself, and modern engineers struggle to explain what holds it up Books and dramas called Miraculous World, It’s a Miracle, and Expect Miracles document thousands of rationally unexplainable incidents. A Pennsylvania girl diagnosed with incurable deafness begins to hear after praying for intercession from Katharine Drexel, who soon afterward is officially declared a saint of the Catholic Church. A newborn boy in Michigan, presumed dead, comes to life after his parents hold him close for three hours, and no one can explain why. The reliquary holding the shroud of Turin is trapped in a fire in the church of Turin, Italy (under four layers of bulletproof glass), but the linen itself remains intact: “It’s a miracle” says the archbishop.

Barrie Schwortz to speak in Kokomo, Indiana in December on the Shroud of Turin

imageSt. Patrick Catholic Church in Kokomo, Indiana, is hosting an “Autoposy of the Shroud of Turin lecture.” From their website:

Join us December 10th at 2 pm in the parish hall when Barrie Schwortz, recognized expert and  official photographer for the Shroud of Turn Research Project will offer a lecture on Jesus’ Death by Crucifixion

Source: Autoposy of the Shroud of Turin lecture December 10th « St. Patrick Catholic Church – Kokomo, Indiana

Getting on Antiques Roadshow

imageIf you have ever been curious about how people get selected to appear on Antiques Roadshow, Behind the Scenes: How people get on Antiques Roadshow at NewsWorks will tell you:

[A]dmittance is by means of a lottery. Winners get timed tickets good for one hour. When they enter the showroom their items get a preliminary look and they are directed to one of the groups of appraisers. “There are 60-80 appraisers at every event,” said Cresswell, and they are grouped according to subject matter – books, furniture, paintings and the like. . . .

Out of each show’s thousands of attendees, only 60 to 70 people are chosen to be filmed for the show. Three TV shows are put together out of the day’s clips in every city. . . .

Cresswell [one of the appraisers] had an odd experience once in Minneapolis where, he said, “Eight people came up to my table with a picture of the Shroud of Turin. There must have been a really great salesman there about 50 years ago.”


Drowning in ignorance about the Shroud of Turin

imageDid Chris Sullivan actually write, “the argument still rages as die hard believers drowning in their own ignorance refuse to accept the facts?” Talk about refusing to accept the facts.

As the Great Plague swept across Europe in the 14th Century the medieval world wallowed in a sea of religious hysteria and while some took to self flagellation the infinitely more clued up took to faking religious body parts such as the brain of St Peter, the foreskin of St. Gregory and the milk of the Virgin Mary. The most persistent of all these fakes has been the famed Shroud of Turin. Supposedly the burial shroud of Jesus, it was acquired, possibly from Constantinople, by the French knight, Geoffroy de Charny, who built a church to house it in 1355 only for it  to be  judged to be a fake by Pope Clement VII in 1390. Of course many a saintly dick and digit were regarded with suspicion but the validity of the shroud was reassessed when in 1898 Italian amateur photographer Secondo Pia discovered that the photographic negatives of the cloth exposed the image of a face that was otherwise invisible without such technology.  Ipso facto a cult was born.  In 1982 a group calling itself the Shroud of Turin Research Project declared it to be genuine, however in 1988 carbon dating placed the cloth to the mid 14th Century. More recently in 2005, Doctor Jacques di Costanzo and historian Paul-Eric Blanrue proved that such an image might easily have been achieved in the middle ages by simply rubbing an iron oxide mixed with gelatine onto cloth and yet the argument still rages as die hard believers drowning in their own ignorance refuse to accept the facts.

I have never met anyone who worships the Shroud of Turin

imageWhile warning about worldview bias this blogger (jlgragg) seems to displays it in PEOPLES, PLACES, AND PATTERNS: LIFTING THE VEIL OFF THE PATRIARCHAL PERIOD:

In addition, everyone has a worldview—everyone. We are all bias toward whatever viewpoint we hold and have to constantly fight against it if we truly want to follow where the evidence leads. . . .

Furthermore, another reason I think we don’t have more evidence, or that God hasn’t given us more, is that we would probably worship it! Just look at what we have done with the Shroud of Turin. Some folks within Christendom actually worship this piece of cloth that possibly was used to wrap Jesus up after the crucifixion. As valuable as I believe it is, and interesting, we should never prop up a material item…we should always worship the real thing.

Happy Thanksgiving Berkeley Nincompoops

imageLeah Garchik writes in the San Francisco Chronicle:

"Berkeley city officials adopted a resolution this week honoring the Native American leader Geronimo, but decided against asking President Obama to apologize for using his name in the May mission to kill Osama bin Laden. Instead, the city council asked the President to retroactively change the code name of the operation from ‘Operation Geronimo’ to ‘Operation bin Laden’ and pledge not to use Native American names in future military actions."

And now, on to the comments, which are pretty much the stuffing that overshadows the turkey:

The leadoff writer thought this an embarrassment for Berkeley; another wrote, "How do you think people would feel if we were using Anglo helicopters to launch Shroud of Turin missiles for Operation John the Baptist? Or perhaps an even better analogy would be: How would people feel if the German starting naming military operations for famous Jews?" (A few comments down, of course, someone wrote, "As an on-line discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches.")

"Aren’t there potholes to fix?" asks a correspondent, while another, after some discussion, writes, "I think I’d rather ‘stand for racism’ than endorse any more of this Terminal Nincompoopery."

The Belt of Mary

imageThis is an interesting posting from Greg Kandra, a Roman Catholic deacon serving in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York on his blog, The Deacon’s Bench. It is entitled Thousands of Russians line up to see “Holy Belt of the Virgin”:

The Holy Belt of Virgin, one of the most venerated relics of the Orthodox Christian world, has arrived in the Russian capital after a tour of the country which began Oct. 24 from St. Petersburg. Over 50 thousand faithful went to the at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in the first two days of exposure (19 to 20 November), where it is on display until Nov. 27. Thelucjey ones waited six hours before entering. Others expected to wait 18 hours beneath the first hints of autumn snowfall in Moscow. . . .

And then he adds this important note:

UPDATE: A reader notes something worth remembering:

The Orthodox do not revere Mary’s Assumption into Heaven as such, rather they refer to it as the Dormition, the falling asleep of the Virgin. At her death, Jesus received her soul and takes it into heaven. In Orthodox iconography, Jesus is at the BVM’s deathbed, receiving her soul that is in the form of a child. The apostles come from the ends of the earth to mourn her falling asleep. Orthodox do believe that Mary’s soul and body have already experienced the Resurrection. One of the points of contention between the Orthodox and the Catholics are the different nuances regarding Mary’s end on earth. As you know, this did not become Catholic dogma until 1950.

But it gets very interesting as discussion brings in the Shroud of Turin. There is this comment from someone who identifies himself as a Canadian Roman Catholic:

While I do believe in veneration or the Relics of the Saints, and know they are necessary for consecration of the altar (in the altar stone), I cannot believe in this one. There are no known relics with absolute certainty from either St. Joseph, Mary, or Jesus for that matter, and even the Shroud of Turin thanks to Carbon dating . . .

And this reply from a Deacon Steve:

The Shroud of Turin hasn’t been definatively disproven. The sample taken for the carbon testing was from an area that was known to have been damaged and repaired. The scientist who was in charge of the testing and originally felt it was fake is now calling for more testing since it has been shown that the area sampled was repaired, which would throw off the testing. He was very adamant that the Shroud was fake based on the test results, and is now fighting against time to be allowed to retest it, as he is dying of cancer. I would love to see the Shroud get retested but in the end it doesn’t really matter. I do believe it is authentic. But in the end it doesn’t matter as it is a private matter, not part of the deposit of faith required for salvation.

And this from Ad Orientem:

Whether the Shroud is the actual burial cloth of Christ is immaterial. If it is then it is a holy relic of of Our Lord and Savior. If it is not then it is a holy icon in tradition off the “Acheiropoieta” or icons not made by human hands. In either case it is thing of great sanctity.

International Conference on The Shroud of Turin in Valencia Next April

Gabriel writes: “You two can try to present your very “creative” theories at the next International Conference on The Shroud of Turin in Valencia (Spain), April 28-30 2012

And Yannick Clément replies: “Thanks Gabriel for this information ! It’s the first time I heard about this conference…”

Well now we know and hopefully we will find out more:


Poor Leonardo must be turning over in his grave

Forget science: The latest from conspiracy theorists Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince as they get ready to issue the third edition of their book:


Of course, if this is proof, then it is proof, as well, that Leonardo Da Vinci is portrayed in the 6th century Christ Pantocrator icon at St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai. He must have developed a time machine to travel back many centuries.

Christian Post Dusting Off Old Shroud of Turin Dating News

imageDid Sara Kim writing in Christian Post need some column inches or a paycheck? She has just dusted off a story widely reported on May 24, 2010 with no new content whatsoever. I reported on it in this blog that very day in a posting entitled, New dating technique might help with the Shroud of Turin. There were some choice comments then. Here are some tidbits from them:

Wrote Stephen Jones:

I cannot imagine that the Roman Catholic church would ever allow the entire Shroud to be placed in a chamber of gas which is then electrically charged up to a plasma state.   

Someone named Theologian added:

Be scared. Be very scared. Remember that the Archdiocese of Turin authorized the damage-called-a-restoration in 2002. We need an international scientific commission more than ever.

Maria da Glória of the Centro Portugues de Sindonologia wrote:

The late Dr. Alan Adler published at least two papers on Shroud conservation and oxidation was considered a big threat to mantain the contrast between image and non image areas. . . . I sincerely hope church authorities listen to a scientific commission opinion before irreversible damage occurs.

So here is the story from the Christian Post:

The controversial Shroud of Turin, the existence of which was first recorded in France in 1357, is believed by many to have wrapped the body of Jesus Christ after his death in Jerusalem, while many critics have insisted it is a shroud that was used to wrap the body of a man who died in the Middle Ages.

Regardless, last year, at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco, a new method of dating the shroud was presented that would “stand to revolutionize radiocarbon dating.”

It’s called “non-destructive carbon dating.”

Conventional carbon dating estimates an artifact’s age based on the rate of decay of carbon-14, a carbon that exists in all living things. Scientists take a small sample from the object, treat it with a strong acid and a strong base, and then burn it in a glass chamber to produce carbon dioxide. They then compare the levels of carbon-14 in the object to the levels expected to have been in the atmosphere during a particular period of history.

In non-destructive carbon dating, the steps of sampling, acid-base washing and burning are eliminated. Instead, the object is placed in a special chamber with plasma, which is electrically charged gas. The gas gently oxidizes the object’s surface without damaging it and produces carbon dioxide.

In the late 1980s, carbon dating studies were carried out on the shroud of Turin by three different labs and suggested that it had been made between 1260 and 1390, much after the Jesus’ time. According to National Geographic, another study in 2005 asserted that the shroud is actually 1,300 to 3,000 years old. Additionally, other scientists, such as Ray Rogers, who helped lead the Shroud of Turin Research Project in the ‘80s, have hypothesized that the piece of the shroud tested in the ‘80s was a patch of fabric that had been repaired in the 16th century and that the rest of the shroud was much older.

According to Discovery News, Professor Emeritus at Texas A&M University College Station, Marvin Rowe, said that with the shroud of Turin, “We would roll the cloth into as tight a package as we can make it” and then carry out the non-destructive carbon dating.

So far, Rowe and his team have used non-destructive carbon dating to analyze the ages of around 20 different objects, including leather, rabbit hair, charcoal, wood and a bone with mummified flesh attached. He says the results match those of traditional carbon dating techniques.

However, the team admits that it will most likely take a significant amount of information to convince art conservators, museum directors and possibly the Vatican that the new dating method causes no damage.

Read old news here: Shroud of Turin Date Could Be Confirmed by New Carbon Dating Method, Christian News

On the Beliefs of Group Captain Cheshire

A reader writes:

I was delighted to read your blog about the BBC report on the Turin Shroud. I have just completed reading the “Biography of Group Captain Cheshire” by Andrew Boyle –“No Passing Glory”.

imageIn this book on page 370 , Andrew Boyle makes a comment about the beliefs of Mr Cheshire, which I really like.


“By and large the Englishman doesn’t respond well to an argument from reason alone. He responds much better to something that moves his will, and that is precisely what the Holy Shroud does. It excites the intellect by providing direct evidence of the Death and Passion of our Lord and circumstantial evidence of his Resurrection.”

There are pious and learned men who accept it for what it purports to be. There are others, equally pious and learned, who do not. It is essentially an open question.

From Wikipedia:

Group Captain Geoffrey Leonard Cheshire, Baron Cheshire, VC, OM, DSO and Two Bars,DFC (7 September 1917 – 31 July 1992) was a highly decorated British RAF pilot during the Second World War.

Among the honours he received as a bomber pilot is the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. After the war, he became a charity worker, setting up the Leonard Cheshire Disability as well as other philanthropic organisations. . . .

Quote for Today on a Maillard Reaction as the basis for an image on the Shroud of Turin

imageThere has been quite a bit of debate about the image formation process. The method I favor is a natural amino/carbonyl reaction called a Maillard Reaction. Ray Rogers suggested it and championed it until his death in early 2005. The problem with his hypothesis, then and still, is trying to figure out how such a formation process would result in the high resolution of the image. This morning I was reminded of three short sentences he once wrote in an email:

You can argue all you want about resolution. The Maillard colors are somewhere on that cloth. Where do you think?

Something to think about.

The Real Face of Jesus on Kindle Fire is selling the History Channel’s “The Real Face of Jesus,” and indeed all History specials for $1.99. This is not a DVD but a downloadable version that you can own and watch as often as you want on any home computer and many tablets. I bought it and downloaded it to a Kindle Fire. It is the full, ninety minute Ray Downing documentary.

You can still buy the DVD, but it is seldom discounted. It is still a good selling special after one and a half years.

Note: for some reason I don’t look quite so overweight on the Kindle Fire.

From the I Didn’t Know That Dept: Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince Appeared in The Da Vinci Code

imageFrom an interview with Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince by James Clark in England’s The Morton Report:

You might not realise it but you’ve probably seen Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince before. They’re there as passengers on the double-decker bus taking Robert Langdon (played by Tom Hanks) to London’s Temple Church in the film adaptation of The Da Vinci Code, and their presence in the scene was no accident. Rather, it was an acknowledgement of that story’s debt to their research.

The interview just blows some dust off old, meaningless conspiracy theory reporting. The only thing passing for news is this:

[Q] In the light of your latest research, will you be revising your previous book on the Shroud, or do you have plans to bring out a new book?

[A] We’re hoping there will be a revised and updated edition of our Shroud book early next year.


Mention of the Shroud of Turin in Unexpected Places

imageThe editors of – that’s Penn State – write: “In these difficult times, [sports writer Joe Bastardi has made several attempts at writing his regular column for this week. He offers some of his best words of wisdom.”

And so Bastardi writes:

I was torn on what to write given the situation around the area. If I said nothing, it’s gutless; if I did, I might say something ignorant since I don’t know all the facts. Gutless and ignorant don’t look good on my resume. So to keep them off, I am keeping quiet on it, at least for now. Instead I came up with some words to live by that were going through my head Monday.

. . .

imageIt was one of those things — not quite the burst of light that I believe imprinted the image on the Shroud of Turin, but energy went in my ears and permanently put the repetitive sound of Chaka Khan into my head — the ultimate example of a song you cannot get rid of. And so I no longer fight it and, in tough times, take comfort in the fact the she loves me "in a natural way." I have no idea what that means, but I still take comfort in it. It’s either this or "Achy Breaky Heart."

He ends up with this at number 1 in his countdown of words to live by:

No. 1: A man’s reach must exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?

This is from Robert Browning, a man of Scottish-German descent, as is my wife, Jess. . . . Actually, this has long been a favorite of mine, and something that Joe Paterno gave me without knowing since I first heard it when I heard him saying how much he loved that adage.

But it’s a heck of a line. It basically is the top of the Sistine Chapel put into words — that idea of reaching toward an unknown represented by the deity. I believe it’s born within all of us: You have to reach beyond the obvious to find what is not obvious.

imageInteresting, maybe thought provoking theology in the wake of Nittany Lions writers block? Yes. I really like that: “A man’s reach must exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”

Donald DeMarco , Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, St. Jerome’s University, Waterloo, has written a thoughtful piece for The Integrated Catholic Life, On the Importance of Stretching. He neatly grasps Robert Browning’s words and links them to the Sistine Chapel ceiling:

Adam took a rather circuitous route because he was, at the outset, reluctant to stretch and meet God halfway.  We have been forewarned.  Therefore, we should know better.  We have a date with destiny and cannot meet it in a “stretch limo”, but only by dint of our own heroic stretching.

Andrew Sullivan on What Is God?

imageWhat follows is a posting by Andrew Sullivan in his blog The Dish over at The Daily Beast. It is a response to criticisms of a previous posting, "Why an atheist converts."  It is too good to be merely summarized or represented by brief quotes, hoping then that you click over (though you should). I am almost in complete agreement with Sullivan.

What Is God?

A reader writes:

In your post this morning, "Why an atheist converts," you wrote:

But this is God. It is certainly what I understand as God. Nonbelievers need to let go of anthropocentric, grey-bearded beings in the sky for God itself, the highest consciousness of all, and the force that gives this staggering beauty, available to us all, love.

1. The fact is, the majority of believers believe in an "anthropocentric, grey-bearded being." They believe in heaven, hell, angels, demons, and all the other clap-trap that goes along with these bronze-age era beliefs. You can’t simply dismiss these trappings with a wave of the verbal hand. What you’re doing here is just inventing your own religion. "Andrew Sullivanism" if you will. You’re doing the same thing Joseph Smith did. Hell, you’re doing the same thing early Christians did when they took Judaism and made it more palatable for Jews who were perhaps a bit less orthodox-minded. You like the idea of religion, you just don’t like the choices you’ve been given. And so you invent your own.

2. Attributing complexity and beauty to a God, in whatever form you care to give it, is still simple wishful thinking. We don’t need a God to explain beauty; we have science for that. It does a better job than God ever did. And to me at least, that’s a comforting thought. And for those who would say that science is simply the implement that God chooses to implement creation, I would say please: show me your evidence. There is none, it is (again) just wishful thinking.

The idea that science can explain beauty is a non-sequitur. They belong to different categories of thought. Science can no more explain the wonder of a Van Gogh masterpiece than Van Gogh could have explained the chemical composition of the paint, or need to. As for the notion that it is heresy that God is not a grey-bearded figure in the sky, I beg to differ. It is in fact heretical to conceive of God in such an anthropocentric manner. Jesus referred to God as his Father and ours. But that is obviously a metaphor – Jesus’ human father was Joseph. In fact, Jesus really called God dad, an intimacy that, to me, reflects exactly the tone of voice that has at times entered my life to remind me I am loved and cared for.

I am not inventing a new religion, like Joseph Smith. I am explaining what I see as the truths of Christianity in language that is not encrusted with myth and irrational literalism, a Christianity that incorporates the unprecedented amount of knowledge that mankind has now acquired about the universe, history, science and indeed the flawed human origins of the Scriptures themselves. To say that God is everywhere, as orthodox Christians believe, is precisely to say he is not some grey-bearded man in the sky. God is neither male nor female. God is hidden. God cannot be grasped by our human minds. But God is the force behind everything, and good. What my reader expressed was this:

If the Universe is anything, it is proof that meaning can be found in the smallest of existence, from atoms to neutrinos and down beneath it.

But this is a religious move, a decision to attach meaning to the Universe, where science can find no meaning only fact and theory. For me, and those who are more mystically-inclined Christians, contemplation of this universe is contemplation of God, and Jesus was one human being who glimpsed this overwhelming truth – and its boundless miracle of love – more powerfully than anyone else in the West. That gave him a composure unlike any human being, a composure saturated with Godness. This is Incarnation.

Another reader:

This dodge is not worthy of you. As I understand it, you believe in a God who was incarnated as a man, who died, and who miraculously rose from the dead in order to purge mankind of its tragic flaw. That’s not really the same thing as recognizing that there’s such a thing as awe, or wonder, or love.

Not a God, God. And, yes, incarnated in the manner I describe above. My heresy – and I concede it – is in rejecting the traditional view of the atonement issue. For me, Jesus’s death was not the downpayment on our salvation. He was the way, the truth and the life. His horrifying crucifixion was not some unique necessary sacrifice. It was a commonplace punishment in his time. What singled him out was the manner of his death, his refusal to stop it, his calm in embracing it, his forgiveness even of those who nailed him there, with that astonishing sentence, "Father, forgive them. For they know not what they do."

I don’t read that as an affronted "they don’t know they are executing the Godhead himself". I read it as "they are so consumed with fear and the world and violence and power that they require forgiveness and mercy, not condemnation". It is this very composure, this sadness born of indescribable empathy, this inner calm and stillness, that convinces me of Jesus’ saturation with the Godhead. He was not the human equivalent of an animal sacrifice; he was the light of the world, showing us by his example how we can be happy and at peace and in love with one another and God itself. Another:

If that is your god, why does such a god need a Church? And why does your Church say something quite different about the nature of its god? It’s not atheists who describe a god that creates the universe, and heaven and hell, and sends his son to die and descend to hell and be resurrected, to then judge all men after their deaths. That’s your Church. And its creed. And that story has nothing to do with the "this" you deify above. Atheists didn’t invent the god who parted the seas for Moses, who saved Daniel from the furnace, who commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, who incarnated himself into Jesus, who raised Lazarus from the dead, and who was himself resurrected. Do you hold it all is just metaphor? ALL? If so, what makes you more Christian than pagan? Odin coming down as a blind beggar is pretty good metaphor, also.

There’s a conflation here between the often mythical stories told in the Old Testament and the parables and journeys and Passion of the New. I believe that everything I have said is in the Gospels and in the Creed. But what "heaven" and "hell" actually are; what the resurrection truly was (was Jesus physically restored as in life? disguised in others, as at Emaeus? a phantasm? all these versions are in the Gospels and the Acts); what miracles were … these are mysteries. If you want to call that a dodge, go ahead. But if you believe, as I do, that the human mind is inherently incapable of grasping the reality of the highest consciousness except through acceptance of mystery, then it is not a dodge. Yet another:

First, when you say “this is God,” that’s fine as a personal statement of belief, but not fine for Roman Catholic like yourself. Catholics recite the Nicene Creed at each mass. There is simply no way to reconcile the words of that ancient statement of belief with your essentially pantheist/panentheist understanding of some Great Organizing Principle (God, if you prefer).

Really? Go read the Nicene Creed. Then try to understand it. You can do so with a nineteenth century literalism; or you can do so in manifold ways that have varied throughout the centuries. They are flawed human words trying to express the inexpressible; language to convey the ineffable. And I have no pantheism here. I believe in one God, in three forms. As a modern person, I also have available truths and insights that others before me did not. It is my duty as a Christian not to parrot old cliches or fear-ridden orthodoxies but to try and make it all make spiritual sense and not violate logic or what my eyes and mind and soul experience. And it is not an argument to say that most Christians don’t think this way, therefore it is wrong. Throughout the ages, Christians have challenged their own hierarchy in trying to understand mysteries that are subject to various interpretations. The argument against my position must be: what is there in these texts and these traditions that contradicts Tillich’s God as the "ground of all being"? A final reader is less harsh:

So, in asking us to get over the "anthropocentric, grey-bearded beings in the sky", you seem to postulate that we can all agree that the wonders of the cosmos, the miracles of humanity and of love, and the fundamental connection of all living things is "God". Presumably, then, this God can be accessed in any number of ways — either through the revelations/stories/belief structures of organized religion of every kind, or through a fundamental appreciation for the revelations of science in the secular mindset. You seem to further imply that regardless of how we access it, we are speaking about the same fundamental thing, a shared experience of the mystery at the center of existence.

If so, then the primary argument is not over spirituality or "whether there is a God", but between religions of various flavors and between religion in general vs. science. In other words, we are squabbling over details (the filters through which each individual uniquely chooses to access and interpret the central mystery) and missing the central point that we are all really after the same fundamental truths.

This is wonderful — I couldn’t agree more. With that said, I can’t help but comment that the "spiritual relativism" described above is basically the atheistic worldview.

No it isn’t. Because what Christians believe is that this force is caritas. That the universe loves us. That move is Jesus’. That move requires revelation in the face of all the arguments of theodicy. And that is my faith: Deus Caritas Est. And that is so heretical for a Catholic that it was the title of this Pope’s first encyclical.

* * *

Now go ahead and read it again at The Dish.

Review of The Face of God

imageMaybe I should try to read it. Posted by Paolo A. Belzoni in Gloria Romanorum (available in hardcover and for Kindle):

Having viewed the image in color from a variety of angles, another strange thing happened. Though the image still appears to me to have been drawn by a human hand, it no longer appears ugly. To paraphrase an astute observation on the Holy Face website, the image seems to contain within itself all the attributes of the mysteries of the Rosary. It is sorrowful, joyful, glorious and luminous all at the same time.

As I said, I am still not sold on the theory that this image is the original Veronica that was displayed in Old St. Peter’s Basilica for hundreds of years. But at the very least, it is a very old and mysterious relic. The fact that it appears on byssus, or mussel-silk–an immensely costly material that will not hold a pigment and is nearly impossible to stain–adds to the mystery.

In short, this is an engrossing read. If you enjoyed books like Ian Wilson’s The Blood and the Shroud, you will most assuredly find The Face of God to be equally intriguing.

So, what’s going on here, indeed? Crossbeam vs Yoke

imageFather George David Byers, a Catholic Priest-Hermit in North Carolina writes:

O Lord, who has said – “My crossbeam is easy and my burden light” – grant that I may be so enabled to carry it as to follow after your grace. Amen.

This, of course, is from Matthew 11, 30. ζυγός, correctly translated as iugum, which is correctly translated as crossbeam.

Imagine that, gentlemen! A crossbeam, an instrument of torture and death, carried in torture to one’s death, is here called easy, a burden that is light. If we take  a look at the Shroud of Turin, one might get the idea that such a crossbeam was heavy enough to mash our Lord’s face right into the pavement. So, what’s going on here?

Not yoke? Crossbeam? Can this be right? I can imagine a crossbeam between two oxen, but the crossbeam – the patibulumof the cross? I’ve looked at several translations. No footnotes that I have found suggest it. I’m awaiting word from experts and hope to be able to comment soon. In the meantime, anyone?

So Shroudies, who do people say the Son of Man is?

imageInteresting, short narrative: Scripture for Today: Matthew 16:13-20 ~ who do people say the Son of Man is?

There are so many pictures of Jesus. And it’s interesting the old, old Christian art (before the 5th century) the Vatican holds of Jesus is a man who looks very much like the Shroud of Turin. Rather a long face, long nose. Reports of Jesus’ burial cloth and a facial shroud appear all over history, but not in any concrete fashion until about 1200 A.D.

RIP Derek Barrowcliff

imageFrom the Telegraph:

He was back in the limelight later in the 1970s, when his research on the propensity for corpses to bleed was quoted in the controversy over the authenticity of the so-called Shroud of Turin. Barrowcliff gave an expert opinion in the case of Hans Naber, a German black marketeer and convicted fraudster, who claimed to have had a vision in 1947 in which Jesus told him He had survived the Crucifixion to rise again from the tomb.

Naber claimed too much blood was present on the shroud for it to have swathed a dead body. Corpses do not bleed, he asserted – or at least the large quantity of blood on the shroud did not correspond to the blood emissions from a typical corpse. In his eyes, the shroud proved that Christ had only been wounded.

But Barrowcliff had shown that bodies do indeed bleed after death for a time, and demonstrated that cuts on the back of the head of a corpse (comparable to the wounds made by the Crown of Thorns) "would bleed freely, continuously".

“So-called?” Are there no editors at the so-called Telegraph?

Full obituary: Derek Barrowcliff – Telegraph

Tis the Season of Anti-Christmas Billboards

imageThe Huffington Post and CNN are reporting American Atheists Holiday ‘Myth’ Billboards To Go Up In New Jersey, Ohio, Florida (VIDEO):

American Atheists are planning to put up more holiday "Myth" billboards this year.

Last year, the atheist organization’s "Myth" campaign featured billboards with phrases such as: "You Know It’s A Myth. This Season, Celebrate Reason," the Christian Post reports.

But this year, the group’s planning to erect signs featuring images of Santa, Jesus, Poseidon and the devil next to the message: "37 Million Americans know MYTHS when they see them."

What so motivates Dave Silverman and American Atheists? Frankly, I’d think it was silly if it wasn’t such a moneymaker for them.