Monday, April 19, 2010

The Mother of All Relics

A fresco depicting the link between the Shroud of Turin and the Holy Face of Manoppello. This fresco is found on a building close by to the Church of the Sacred Heart in Pinerolo the city where the Shroud was first publicly displayed in Italy prior to its establishment in Turin

Fr. Heinrich Pfeiffer, S.J., professor of art history and iconography at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome has written an article in the most recent issue of Il Volto Santo di Manoppello the official publication of the shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello in which he gives a commentary on the place of the Shroud of Turin in relation to the Veil of Manoppello, and in the life of the Church. In not too many words this most qualified scholar is able to enlighten much that has remained hidden to even the most informed among us. But this commentary seems to me to be just a introduction to the volumes of history and science which he and other dedicated scholars are preparing to deepen our knowledge of both the Shroud of Turin and the Veil of Manoppello. May this knowledge lead to greater faith, hope and charity in all the members of the Church, and lead others to enter in. The translation, and any errors, are all mine.

"This spring, on the occasion of the pastoral visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the Diocese of Turin, there will be an extraordinary exhibition of the Shroud. This cloth, so many times shown to the public and to the mass media, has as no other object in history been declared to be a forgery and every once in a while pointedly recognized as authentic. It is an object that acts almost like a living personality which questions and challenges all authorities, whether in the scientific community or those in the Church. In comparison with the relic of Turin which contains its mysterious markings, there does not exist any other object so meticulously studied by so many representatives of diverse disciplines with innumerable hours of direct experiments, utilizing minute pieces of the linen, or parallel experiments undertaken with similar substances in analogous conditions to those existing in the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem.

It is true that the ecclesiastical and scientific authorities show themselves to be rather hesitant to call it a relic. It is true that it is precisely the theologians of the Catholic Church who have shown and continue to show great difficulty in recognizing the authenticity of this relic. They do not want to admit that this linen was the burial cloth of the tomb of Jesus. The many hours of research and the not infrequent national and international scientific congresses concentrating on the object of the Shroud, instead, have forced the Italian lexicon to admit a new term, a new concept to indicate a particular discipline, not recognized until now, a science which is concerned with a single object, or rather, with a small family of objects, which is called sindonology. The scholars of this discipline by now call themselves sindonologists. Sindonology joins together representatives of very diverse disciplines, from archaeology to theology, from mathematical statistics to biology, from history to iconography, from forensics to topographical anatomy, etc. The discipline's small family of objects is made up of the relics, supposed or authentic, which were found during the morning of Easter in the tomb of Jesus or preserved from that moment by pious men and women through the centuries down to our own times.

Let's call them to mind: the nails (one of which is in the church of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem in Rome along with the tablet containing the inscription which was fixed at the top of the cross), a great number of pieces of wood from the cross (the largest pieces being in the church of St. Peter in the Vatican and in the church of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem) the crown of thorns (in the treasury of the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris), clots of dried blood, (for example in the abbey of Weingarten in Germany), clothing steeped with bloody stains, the most famous, the veil which covered the face of Jesus to dry it and to clean it from blood (in Oviedo), the extremely fine veil which covered his face in the tomb (in Manoppello), the band which held the jaw in place (in Cahors in France), pieces of the bloody tunic (in Argenteuil in France), and, as the crown of all these objects venerated by the faithful, the Shroud of Turin.

More than a few saints have venerated the Shroud: St. Charles Borromeo, Don Bosco and the other Turinese founders, and then there are the Popes: Pius XI, Pius XII, Paul VI, John Paul II who have expressed themselves in favor of the authenticity of the cloth, but the veneration of a relic is the expression of a subjective attitude, of a private conviction in the Church which does not prejudge the authenticity, the historic truth, of the venerated object.

If the ecclesiastical authority and the Turinese scholars revel in the primacy of their relic, as we have said, they don't want to declare it as such with its own proper name. And they also don't want to admit the existence of some other possible "competitor", as in the case of the veil of Manoppello. The nails, the band, even the sudarium of Oviedo are allowed for. These specimens are clearly subordinate to the Turinese relic. They don't show the image, the individual face of our Lord. The veil of Manoppello is seen with skepticism by them and the majority of Sindonologists. Instead, both relics together constitute the true divine challenge to humanity that tends toward non-faith and that needs the theological virtue which is called hope. Both objects, the veil and the Shroud, can inspire both faith and hope, and in particular the latter virtue.

The Shroud became famous and a continuing object of argument from the moment that the lawyer Secondo Pia took the first official photo in the long ago 1898. If people were able to describe with precision the character of this photo, much of the discussion would be impossible, and the lack of foundation for objections would have been demonstrated right from the start. If the true nature of this photo is described, we find ourselves facing a great mystery that is illuminated only by the reality of the transfiguration and the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

As the photographic negative taken of the Shroud showed itself and continues to show a positive photograph, the marks on the Turinese specimen that the human eye reads as the image of a man with the wounds that depict the passion of Christ must constitute a negative and be produced by a process at least analogous to that of a photograph. Physically, mechanically and optically such a process is described as a projection of a three dimensional object onto a two dimensional surface. For such an action there are always three necessary elements: 1. a source of some kind of energy which gives forth rays, 2. an object to project, 3. an element that directs the rays to make them converge in one direction. Only in this way can a perfect image of a body be created, projected onto a flat surface.

At least these three elements described above must be admitted for that body which appears as dead on the cloth and that must have been wrapped in the same Shroud. For pure logic we could also think that the image on the Turinese cloth could be a copy, the most perfect that could be conceived, of an object that corresponds to all the requirements so far described and also to many others able to be found with precise observations on the relic of Turin. If we do not admit the transfiguration of the body which was placed in the Shroud, that is the change of the matter into energy that maintains all its bodily properties, we are not able to explain and describe in a satisfactory manner the nature of the shroud's image. A new mystery is born from the fact that the face of the veil of Manoppello corresponds perfectly to the face of the Turinese relic. There do not exist two images in all the world which can be made to correspond like this if not copies of the same photographic negative or images made with the same stamp. The causing source of the images of Manoppello and of Turin must be the same person. Thus we have a fact which more than guarantees the authenticity for both relics. For there exist three images of a person that seem to be different but which perfectly correspond: the face on the Shroud, the face of Manoppello, and the superimposition of the two.

One can say that the second proceeds from the first and the third from both of them. Only in the trinitarian formula do we find the same reality: the Son proceeds from the Father and the Holy Spirit from both. Does there exist anything genuine which is more divine and more true? Thus, in my opinion, do the two relics together demonstrate their divine origin.

Regarding the Shroud and on the discussions around this extraordinary specimen there remains much more to be said. Here we do not have the space. One thing still needs to be said regarding the shroud's image for all those who think that one day there will come a more advanced scientific study which would be able to prove that it is a forgery, and that this cloth cannot testify to the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

So we add only one more observation. As the bodily impressions are found only on one side of the cloth and the energy of the rays must have come forth from within the body of the shroud, they must have come from a type of radiography, but this is not so. The image of the body is presented as if only the surface would have been the source of the rays without these also having illuminated also the internal part of the corpse. Here we are facing the greatest mystery, the greatest miracle. The only ones greater, according to the catholic faith, are the bodily resurrection of Jesus and the Assumption of the Virgin into heaven.

Not only does this touch on the principle of causality as in the case of miraculous healings, but even the principle of non-contradiction. The same energy must have the same effect in all directions on equal materials. But if the same energy has a positive effect only on one part of the same material and not on the rest, we are facing a contradiction, facing an extremely profound mystery that the human mind will never be able to illuminate, because every human thought and every construction of any instrument whatsoever cannot be brought about without the principle of non-contradiction, and this will remain so for all future times.

The reaction to the Turinese relic and to that of Manoppello will be the same: to not occupy oneself too much so as to not be forced to confront the mysteries of life, but the reaction of the members of the Church ought to be an attempt to enter into the mystery of the Christian faith by means of these two archaeological specimens. This is what we wish for with all our heart."

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