The Crypt, pt 2

The Shroud of Turin

taken from Glenwood's Letter Two,
"The Hiroshima Effect" of his tractate
entitled: Believe

What if there were a photographic negative of Jesus of Nazareth in the beginning split-second of His instantaneously being raised from the dead? Certainly such a marvelous thing would be readily considered part and parcel of any good history book. Since photography was invented in the 1830's (the Daguerreotype) we aren't at all amazed to find photographs of Abraham Lincoln in textbooks, but a photograph of Jesus about to rise from the dead?

Such an article would be much more than a matter of devout faith. Such an article does exist, and it preceded man's invention by more than 1,800 years. It is known as Jesus' burial shroud and it is negatively impressed through the very ancient fabric. The closest modern artifacts we have to this mysterious effect are shadows permanently impressed upon the walls of Hiroshima, Japan of various objects that themselves disintegrated with the atomic blast. And thus a negative from around 37 A.D. and similar sorts of negatives from 1945 A.D.

Jesus wraped in burial shoud at foot
of the cross

I've been told all my adult life not to start here and that Christian faith ought not be tied with the shroud phenomena but as a soul preparing to meet the risen Christ I ask, "Why on earth not?" It seems a fair question.

Certainly as a history teacher I could have started with the atomic shadows at Hiroshima and concluded from their existence that their cause was the Hiroshima effect, the atomic blast! Who would dare to call me a simpleton for stating the obvious cause and effect? Only an atheist would be angered by the Shroud as far as I can tell, or perhaps somebody so bigoted against Christianity that they wouldn't believe anything I might have to say concerning the Resurrection simply because it is too Christian. Such people seem to me to be very much like those cranks who go about suing school districts for permitting a prayer at a graduation service. We must realize of such poor souls this one thing. Actually, they just hate the thought of there being a God.

But this is just the point, isn't it? It is not a matter of faith to hold what is only logical. Something caused both of these effects to be similar though only the latter one happened in the atomic age, the former in ancient times. Let us at least have the humility and the intellectual courage to recognize that there exists a photographic negative image of a crucified man that any honest medical man must say defies any explanation except that of the strictest canons of science and medicine. It is what it appears to be, and that troubles some people. It is what it appears to be and that mightily troubles Satan. At least twice, now, he's tried to burn the shroud. The second time was very recent, in this year that I'm attempting to rewrite this essay: 1997.

Many of us were alive when the Hiroshima effect occurred (or at least our parents or grandparents were). We were none of us alive when the Resurrection effect occurred. Historically we can verify that this shroud cloth was in Italy in the Middle Ages and ever since. If we confine ourselves only to history books this would still be quite a wonder: imagine, a photo negative from the Middle Ages, unheard of to say the least!

But before these early glimmers of history now recorded in our history books, the world learned much of its history from legends. A legend is not an untruth. It is a romantic vehicle that conveys important bits of history in larger than life terms. There is, for instance, the legend of Johnny Appleseed, and yes, there really was an historical figure squarely behind that legend. Again, there are many legends surrounding the life of George Washington. They are not fables nor are they fairy tales, they contain romanticized accounts of actual incidents in the great man's life.

The resurrection-effect-shroud of Jesus is traceable back to the tomb itself and forward to the Middle Ages through legends (all of which makes eminently good sense if you have any grasp of the histories of the Byzantine Empire and of the Crusades). This ought not give Christians any difficulty since nearly all of the Old Testament along with the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles are conveyed to us by way of the sacred legends of Living Tradition, as well as by the ancient kerygma (preaching of the Gospel).

Just think of the divine providence that protected this mysterious print. In the legends we find it in Jerusalem and later at Edessa, an ancient center of early Christianity. Next it is treasured up at Constantinople until the Crusades, and then possibly it was spirited off to Malta and later to France. When legend turned to history, it is at Turin in Italy.

Rescued twice now from fire (and Heaven alone knows what else) it still defies all of the ordinary explanations for it is extraordinary. Atomic blasts, of course, were, for most sane people, unimaginable prior to the twentieth century. But such a blast which left negative shadows in Japan would have physically destroyed the fabric of the shroud. Only the Resurrection power of God could have done this. That was happily the conclusion that the great Anglican New Testament scholar, Bishop Robinson, came to as he studied the shroud.

Upon this material is the complete frontal and back view of one so obviously tortured and crucified that it would take a rather hard heart to deny the reality that is before one's own eyes. Blood flows are physiologically correct, the Crucified's side riven with traces of blood and fluid readily to be seen. No artist would ever had guessed, first of all, how to paint an anatomically perfect photographic negative, nor would any such genius artist have guessed that the nails weren't driven through the palms of the hands (as was the case in the religious art of the Middle Ages) but rather through the wrists for a body will not hang on a cross unless a certain area within the wrist is penetrated with spikes.

All of the churches of Christendom envisioned the Lord with a woven crown of thorns but according to the shroud it was much worse than that, it was a bonnet of thorns complete with very obvious scalp lacerations. Nor would any but a Jewish male of New Testament times have known that men wore a very slight pigtail: this Crucified man did. Traces of what seem to be Roman coins are detected upon the eyelids of the shroud and spores and pollen found only in Palestine are in the weave of the cloth. The body was literally covered with lash marks: and then Pilate said, "Behold the Man!"

Oh yes, I know full well there has been a chorus of "scientists" who've denied the authenticity of the obvious. And then of course that rush, rush radio carbon dating fiasco . . . unprejudiced people were appalled from all accounts. But, my dears, don't you see: Jesus was always most inconvenient to have around, and today He is more inconvenient than ever. Give it any kind of theory you like the world seems to say but don't tell us that He is Risen!

The question in the end was not one of science versus religion. It never really is in such matters. No, the question is still this: "What will you do with this man Jesus?" And there are many whom "methinks protest too much". If the only thing we knew was that this was actually a photographic negative predating photography even back in the the Middle Ages, we would surely have a first class miracle on our hands. Heavens, just think of the uproar some bold astrophysicists caused when they subscribed to the "Big Bang" theory. That, however, is small change compared to the Resurrection of the One who said He was God!

But then, He really lives! Can you tell me anything else that matters by comparison? I think not!

There is the Shroud but men's hearts are hardened to such an idea: many of these men are mitred fellows, but not the New Testament scholar that Bishop Robinson was. Only look around you and dare to think -- then you'll want to pray. We must all of us become prayerful historians. What has happened because of this Resurrection? You cannot imagine that the Church would have survived all of the horrendous persecutions of the dreary Ages had Christ not arisen and ascended and sent the Holy Spirit to guide His Bride. Surely we cannot find the martyrs to be silly fools who threw their lives away on nothing of consequence. Old St. Ignatius of Antioch longed to be ground by the lions' teeth into a fine flour for his Savior. To read the martyrs is to read some mightily disturbing stuff, especially if Christianity is just a game with a fellow or a gal. But to have the martyrs read us as we read them; that is to be confronted with the Living and Ascended Christ.

And while we are not all as Saul was upon his Damascus road, we have often met the Risen Lord. Who was it that urged your parents to have you baptized in the Name of the Most Holy Trinity? Who is it you meet every Sunday at the chancel railing? Who feeds you from His Eucharistic body and blood? We may not think upon such realities as we ought, but all the same, realities they are!

What do you suppose would cause very orthodox Jews to observe the Lord's Day on Sunday rather than the old Saturday Sabbath? What was it in the Christian kerygma (especially as it was preached in the Book of Acts) that brought with it salvation, healing, and deliverance from the powers of darkness? They preached what they knew to be true, Christ risen from the dead.

No, of course we could and would be Christians even if there weren't this marvelous shroud. With St. Augustine of Hippo, we would find our hearts to be restless until they rest in their God. There is this wondrous reality called Grace, and it comes only from the Crucified and Risen One. It has illumined centuries of Christians until this very hour. But oh how wonderful of God to leave us such an holy relic despite everything that the combined power of scornful bigots, educated fools, and heretical hirelings have tried against it. How very, very wonderful of the Lord.

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