An image to hold onto until eternity.

imageThere is an interesting guest posting by Jan Vallone in the Image Journal blog of the Evangelical Channel at Patheos. She begins . . .

If you asked me about the Shroud of Turin, I could speak for hours. Before I saw it in Italy one Easter, I read several books on it. So I could tell you . . .

. . . and she does. It is well written. Jan goes through the history some of which I dispute. She goes through the science and I scream no-no-no here and there as when she writes, “Forensic scientists . . . . charge the radiologists with sampling a Poor Clare patch.”

But she call the historsy and the science straw. I like where she goes with it even if I disagree with the flash of light and the ponytail and the chrysanthemums and the backlighting:

Because there’s something that leaves me speechless, something I didn’t read in books, something that didn’t strike me till I stood in the dark cathedral among a praying crowd and stared at the backlit Shroud suspended on a wall before me, so close I could have touched its fibers, the imprint, the blood.

That something is this: Jesus was a man, a man no bigger than my son, one man among the billions who have lived or ever will. And one spring evening long ago, he pulled his hair into a ponytail to prepare bread and wine for his disciples, as my son pulls on a favorite t-shirt to set out beer and nachos for his friends.

As if it were an ordinary evening.

But it wasn’t an ordinary evening; it was the last one of his life.

And when his mother saw his broken corpse, one she hoped to never see—as I hope to never see my son’s—she tossed a few chrysanthemums upon it, covered it with the Shroud, and left the tomb with her grief.

Then, when all was quiet, a flash of light, a flutter of fabric. An image to hold onto until eternity.

Well, it does look backlit in the photograph.

3 thoughts on “An image to hold onto until eternity.”

  1. I haven’t read Jan’s book yet, but what I gather from Dan’s comments it is another of the many books that make “Jesus” seem ordinary, like a common hippie-guy having a common Seder with his friends… ponytail and all and then transferring this common energy onto an uncommon Shroud. I don’t buy it. If anything the man on the Shroud had a magnificent energy form which imparted long-lasting information. The type of information that goes beyond the common beer-drinking crowd of today; the type of information that makes us wonder did he walk on water, did he heal the sick, and raise the dead, did he rise to new and everlasting life? Wonder of Wonders… with the possibility of bringing us all to say one day: I and the Father are One!

    1. I just discovered this comment and am moved to respond. If you visit the Shroud or study good photos of the rear image–both of which I have done–you can clearly see that Jesus’ hair–and I do believe the Shroud is that of Jesus–is pulled back into a ponytail. This is one of the details that enabled me to viscerally understand that Jesus was indeed fully human and that both he and those who loved him–like his mother Mary–suffered great human pain when he was crucified. The Passion became less abstract to me because I too am both human and a mother. But the fact that Jesus was human does not make him ordinary. Doctrine teaches that he was both fully human and fully divine. I do not doubt the resurrection or Jesus’ divine nature. The Shroud moved me to tears and seeing it remains one of the most precious, revelatory moments of my life. What I mean by “straw” is that while the science and history of the Shroud are fascinating, the science and history of the relic, in the end, really aren’t that important. If the Shroud were to be definitively discredited, it would not affect my theology one bit. I borrowed the term “straw” from St. Thomas Aquinas, who said of his multi-volume theological treatise the Summa Theologica, which attempted to rationalize theology: “The end of my labors has come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me.”

      When I studied books on the Shroud, I was studying science and history. When I saw the Shroud, I was experiencing revelation, and revelation, when it comes to God, is really what counts, at least for me.

      Lastly, I am not a scientist, historian or theologian. But I did do my research on the Shroud, and “the facts” I mentioned in the essay came from legitimate sources. Many sources contradict each other, which is why the Shroud is disputed in the first place. Because of that, there really isn’t any set of facts about the Shroud that would be free from challenge. I’m sorry to have made anyone cringe (see below). I did my best. In the end the essay was more about the heart than the head.

  2. We may cringe at the (slight) misrepresentation of both her science and history. But she may have a point in calling this “straw”. We spend a lot of time on this site arguing about such “straw”, but perhaps it matters less than the personal response and indeed the poetry and spiritual awareness that the reality of the Shroud may produce in a person’s life. I think this is the emphasis that both Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis have reiterated from time to time. Despite the ‘clublu22014’ objection to her personal interpretation of it, it is still the emphasis in his own comment. We too seldom reflect on such aspects.

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