Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Shroud, the Veil, Jerusalem at the Start

In Paul Badde's essential book: The True Icon: from the Shroud of Turin to the Veil of Manoppello, each chapter has a unique importance in responding to various questions regarding the burial cloths of Jesus. For me the most important is entitled "The 'Missing Link' of Easter Night". Three years ago much of this chapter was published in Il Volto Santo the official publication of the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello in an article with the title "St. Peter as Secondo Pia". I translated this article and published it on my blog in seven installments. At this time close to Holy Week I would like to refer to this article with the hope that it might be an enticement to read Paul Badde's whole book. I especially encourage experts on the Shroud, who have dedicated their lives to this holy relic, to read what Paul Badde has to say about the Veil and Shroud in Jerusalem at the start, and then to read his entire book. No one to my knowledge has given a better description of the tomb of Jesus and the burial cloths which were found by Peter and John.

Here is the conclusion of Paul Badde's article which can be found on this blog in entirety in seven installments, the first dated January 28, 2010 and the last March 15, 2010.

"Perhaps it truly was John, the first who 'saw and believed', who previously had left to Peter the privilege of entering before him. John alone had been present at the burial to know that the 'sudarium had been placed on the face of Jesus'. Only an eyewitness of the burial would have been able to know such a detail. Perhaps he had observed how the Magdalen had placed the delicate veil of sea silk (marine byssus) on the Face of Jesus as a last tribute. Peter wasn't there. He wouldn't have known any of this. In any event, John would have immediately shown the veil to Peter in the opposite case. Because 'they hadn't in fact yet understood the Scriptures, that he would rise from the dead', continues John, using the plural. In any case, it had been a questions of mere seconds. But as for the rest of the account? Couldn't it be that all this could have happened differently? No, according to good sense, for whoever takes seriously the cloths and the texts of the Gospel and who has become familiar with the space of the sepulcher; and who still has enough fingers to add one plus one plus one plus one plus one equals five. Putting together all the components -- the eyewitness testimony of John, the space, the hour, the light and the cloths -- taking all these things together, adding as the first or the sixth component the Jewish reserve regarding the ritual impurity of tombs! --then the facts could not reasonably have gone any differently.

The conclusion is that Peter in the sepulcher must have lived an experience similar to that of Secondo Pia at Turin in 1898 when he withdrew the first photographic plates of the Shroud under the red light of the darkroom. Except that Peter's was an experience much more dramatic.

It is indispensable that there should have been a visible sign in the Sepulcher of the incedible event of the night of Easter, and this sign could not be the missing body of Jesus. That which Peter - or John - picked up from its 'special' position in the tomb, and held against the light, was the first testimony of that great event which was happening there. The little sudarium completes and explains the large sudarium. Together they are inserted in the Gospel as a puzzle is completed down to its every last piece.

fresco in Pinerolo, Italy site of the first public display of the Holy Shroud in Italy

As has been noted, on the Shroud, that is the large sudarium, one couldn't see anything at first in the narrow and dark chamber, where it was impossible for it to be unfolded. This brings us to the next step. Because not only can we but we must see how Peter and John hurriedly gathered up all these linens to bring them into the light. They had to bring them to a safe place. From that dark tomb nothing must be lost. Nothing should remain. Who knows what things the other cloths might be hiding? But all these are considerations which came forth later. Immediately they understood this: in that chamber death had lost its power. The deceased was no longer dead; those cloths were no longer impure.

The breaching of the presence of Christ into history began with a complete metamorphosis. If the Christ, already beginning with the dawn, had not shown his Face on the Sudarium, they would have left everything there. They were devout Jews. Burial cloths are not to be removed from empty tombs. According to the tradition of the Misnah, judaism is full of rigorous norms that declare the extreme impurity of all that is linked to the dead and their tombs, even after some time has passed. The Shroud, which just a little while later would have shown to the Church of Jerusalem the Passion of Christ in the Scriptures of an image, would not have been saved without the little sudarium on which the risen Christ had already shown his face. Mary Magdalen had left everything and had run to tell the Apostles. So would Peter and John also have done. They would have let everything stay there if the little fabric of light had not struck them. Then they would have simply gone outside in a hurry. But as I've said, the little Veil was there. The photo-image of the Sudarium forms the 'missing link' of the Paschal Vigil, in which is inserted the compelling logic which explains the unfolding of all the actions and the re-actions of those few moments.

Now they have taken the two sudaria with them together with the other cloths. This could have happened only in secret, in the early hours of the morning. And they didn't take them to the authorities but to Mary and the Apostles. 'Then the disciples returned home' writes John. Perhaps this refers to the cenacle on Mt. Sion where four days earlier they had celebrated the Passover with Jesus. Perhaps it was to a grotto-refuge in the garden of Gethsemane where they had found pilgrim lodging for the feast. But 'house' ,it clearly appears, in those days represented not only a habitation but the communion of the Apostles with Mary. It was to them, above all others, that they had brought the cloths that Easter morning. These cloths became, in the heart of the early church, the most precious treasure. Were they not perhaps the first pages of the joyful announcement of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Of course! Because of this it would be necessary to hide them right away and to keep secret not only their origin but even their very existence. Since these first documents of the Gospel of the early church were written on burial cloths, the most impure material of which the Jews were able to conceive. Their preservation would require a very intimate and secret place. Under no circumstances could the news get out. If the knowledge of these cloths amidst the Apostles had gotten out to Jerusalem -- and thus linked to the serious violations of the rules of purity -- the first Christians and also their first 'house' would not have survived the scandal. But John has not completely hidden the mystery. Eight verses following the recounting of the burial cloths he writes in his Gospel that already the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples had locked the doors for fear of the Jews, Jesus entered with a greeting of peace in their midst,breathed on them and said: 'Receive the Holy Spirit' and showed them the wounds which -- in that hour-- had already been 'written' impressed, on the document of the Shroud. The 'fear of the Jews' would have easily induced the disciples to flee to Bethlehem, or to Gaza, or to Jordan, to Jericho or to the hills of Galilee, because they themselves were all jews. In all those distant places they would have all been safe. But their 'fear of the jews', which induced them, surprisingly, to lock the doors on that first Sunday evening, did not have any other reason than that of hiding and protecting the marvelous treasure which they were caring for. This was the so-called 'mystery' of early Christianity, by which, all of a sudden, that which up until then had been considered ritually impure would now be considered the purest relic. So that in this mystery was enclosed the images of light of these cloths, so closed that centuries would be required before the message that they contained would be able to go out from that secret place, and the splendid message of an image 'not made by human hands' would begin to spread everywhere in the Christian house, little by little, like a perfume of incense."

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Letter of Archbishop Bruno Forte to the European and African Bishops on Pilgrimage to the Holy Face of Manoppello

The concluding act of the Symposium of European and African Bishops held in Rome in February of this year was a pilgrimage to the Holy Face of Manoppello. Archbishop Bruno Forte of the Archdiocese of Chieti-Vasto, in whose diocese Manoppello is found, accompanied the Bishops to the Shrine and wrote the letter posted above, which he entrusted to each bishop. The following lines are my english translation of his important letter. Thanks to Antonio Bini for providing me with the copy of the Archbishop's letter and to Paul Badde for the photos of the blessed day

Archbishop Bruno Forte together with African and European Bishops After the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist at the Basilica Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello

African and European Bishops during the Holy Eucharist at the Basilica Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello

Archbishop Bruno Forte

To the European and African Bishops Pilgrims to the Basilica Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello

Dear Brothers and Friends,

I welcome you with joy to the Archdiocese entrusted to my Episcopal service and in particular to the Basilica of the Holy Face which had the honor and the gift of the visit of the Holy Father Benedict XVI on September 1, 2006.

The studies of recent years -- conducted by researchers such as Fr. Heinrich Pfeiffer, S.J., Sr. Blandina Paschalis Schlomer, Andreas Resch, Paul Badde, Saverio Gaeta -- offer various arguments to respond affirmatively and with sufficient moral certainty to two questions which are raised by the Holy Face of Manoppello: Is the Veil cared for in this place the Veronica which was venerated in the Vatican Basilica in Rome, which then went missing (from the 16th century)and was substituted by a painted copy which today is completely faded? Is this the precious relic -- the sudarium-- placed on the face of the dead Christ in the tomb which was attested to in the Gospel of John (20:6-7), and then was present in Cappadocia, in Camulia, prior to being sent to safety in Rome at the beginning of the eighth century to elude the iconoclasts?

If these two affirmative replies given by the scholars should be found to be definitively established, the Holy Face of Manoppello would have to be considered the most holy relic of Christianity, such as it was venerated in the Middle Ages (cf. for example what Dante says in Canto XXXI of Il Paradiso, or Petrarch in Sonnet XVI of Il Canzoniere). Two elements appear ever more secure: the fact that the features and shape of the Holy Face kept in the Shrine in Abruzzo are those of the canon which inspired the Eastern (and other) iconography from the very first centuries; and the perfect match which results when the image is placed over the Face of the Shroud kept in Turin.

With his visit the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI naturally has not taken in any way a position on the historical question, which is up to scholars to deepen and definitively clarify. The intense prayer of the Pope before the image, as well as his words, express what he himself has written on the memorial parchment he left at the Shrine: "May the Lord help you to know ever more His face and thus to see the Father! In communion of prayer in the common research of His Face -- Pope Benedict XVI". It is what I too wish to repeat to you, keeping in my prayer all of you, your churches and those who are entrusted to your care. Thanks for being here!

+Bruno Forte
Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto

February 12, 2012