The Rev Trisha Elliott (pictured) has an interesting piece in the UC Observer (unofficial journal of the United Church of Canada) entitled The many faces of Jesus:
Barrie Schwortz’s photographs of the Shroud of Turin, a roughly four-metre-long burial cloth said to have retained the imprints of Jesus’ features, have been exhibited the world over. Schwortz was a photographer on the team of scientists that examined the shroud in 1978. Since then, he has gathered and disseminated the science of the shroud, which, after spending 17 years as a skeptic, he now believes is authentic. It’s an unlikely obsession for a Jewish man raised in an Orthodox home. “We had two sets of silverware, Friday candles and morning prayers — like Fiddler on the Roof. So why is a good Jewish boy like me doing this? Well, it means a lot to people. When it was on exhibit in New Zealand and the Philippines, we had to get pillows out because people fell down before it, the tears streaming down their faces. The image really touches people.”
Schwortz thinks doubt drives the quest to discover the physicality of Jesus. “People’s faith can be weakened from time to time. Perhaps in the cloth, there is a little reminder for the Thomases of the world.”
I guess uncovering Jesus’ grainy image on a piece of cloth is reassuring. But that doesn’t explain why we invest time creating images, nor does it explain how they work. Maybe their power lies partly in our frame of mind.
There is this question:
. . . Do images of Jesus offer reassurance and neurological stimulation? Do they fulfil a theological quest? Are they a natural result of an incarnational theology or a desire to have a personal relationship with the Divine? Are they less a window into Jesus than a reflection of ourselves? Can they be deeply racist and prophetically socially subversive? Yes. But the hows and whys are complicated. Of this though, I’m certain: when we gaze on an image of Jesus, there is so much more going on than meets the eye.