Pages

Monday, May 03, 2010

The Pope Visits the Shroud of Turin

Yesterday (2nd May 2010) Pope Benedict XVI was in Turin at the Shroud of Turin Exposition. Here he is saying Mass in Piazza San Carlo with approimately 25000 people in attendance.

The reporter is Jerome Corsi reporting for World Net Daily



In the video below, a Capuchin friar, Gianfranco Berbenni, an expert who has studied the Shroud for more than 30 years describes his connection to the precious relic this way:

"It is a physical and historical encounter, a connection with a person who seems to be from 2000 years ago but who in reality is still alive today."



Another type of discussion of The Shroud of Turin is in Sandro Magister`s Passion of Christ, Passion of Man where he discusses the exhibition of the Shroud of Turin, underway in Turin on the body and face of Jesus in art

The exhibit is in the royal palace of Venaria, a little to the north of Turin, and is entitled: "Jesus. The body, the face in art."

The 180 works on exhibit include masterpieces by artists like Donatello, Mantegna, Bellini, Giorgione, Correggio, Veronese, Tintoretto. There is also the marvelous wooden crucifix carved by Michelangelo for the Florentine basilica of Santo Spirito.

The guide to viewing the exibition is, written by the curator of the exhibit, Monsignor Timothy Verdon, an American art historian and priest of the archdiocese of Florence,

Here is the Introduction to the Guide written by Monsignor Verdon:

"JESUS. THE BODY, THE FACE IN ART

by Timothy Verdon


In Turin, where the large cloth known as the Shroud has been kept for centuries, it is natural to reflect on the body and face of Jesus. The Shroud highlights the conviction that Jesus really lived and died, but also invites the viewer to believe that he rose. It is held to be, in effect, the sign of his passage to new life, the sheet left behind at the moment of his resurrection.

The possibility of the existence of such a relic is especially significant for art, because it confirms the visibility and therefore the representability of the man who called himself Son of the invisible God of Israel.

Saint John Damascene wrote in the eighth century, evoking the biblical ban on any depiction of the divinity: "Of old, God the incorporeal and uncircumscribed was never depicted. Now, however, when God is seen clothed in flesh, and conversing with men, I make an image of the God whom I see," meaning the man Jesus. Writing in the context of the prohibition of images by the Byzantine emperor, the iconoclast Leo III, this author – born a Christian in Damascus when it was under Muslim control – saw a connection between the theological dogma of the incarnation and the ecclesiastical use of images, above all those depicting Jesus himself.

The exhibit demonstrates the continuity of these ideas in the medieval and modern eras. It draws attention to the man Jesus, whose body and face are believed to be traced on the venerable cloth, suggesting how painters and sculptors of various periods visualized him.

Christianity has always depicted the body in the light of its own idea of the human being. Unlike the pagan myths, which presented the gods with all the defects of men, Judeo-Christian biblical culture maintains that man should aspire to the perfection of God, and above all to that of his mercy. "Be merciful as your Father is merciful," Jesus said (Luke 6:36), and this mercy characteristic of the human being had a singular bodily component.

Already in the Old Testament, many of the words of the incorporeal God show that he is sensitive to the trembling of the poor man's flesh. In the same spirit, Jesus describes how, at the last judgment, the Son of Man will reward those who have physically cared for their neighbor: "I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me" (Matthew 25:35-36).

For those who believe in him, Jesus, the Son of God, has become that poor man whose mantle must be returned before nightfall: hungry, thirsty, excluded, homeless, naked.

The bishop Saint Macarius, a fourth-century Greek theologian, says: "The farmer, when he prepares to work the land, chooses the most suitable tools, and also puts on the clothing most appropriate for that kind of work. So also Christ, king of heaven and the true farmer, took a human body, and, bearing the cross as an instrument of labor, plowed the arid and uncultivated soul, cleared away the thorns and brambles of wicked spirits, winnowed the darnel of evil and threw into the fire all the straw of sins. He worked it in this way with the wood of the cross, and planted in it the delightful garden of the Spirit. It produces every sort of sweet and exquisite fruit for God, who is its owner."

So then, the image of God contemplated in the suffering body of Jesus implies this dynamic of purification and growth. It also implies a process in which the human subject discovers and comprehends himself, as suggested by one father of the Church, Peter Chrysologus, when he imagines the crucified Jesus inviting believers to see the moral meaning of their lives in his sacrificed body.

"See in me your body, your members, your heart, your blood, Jesus tells us. O immense dignity of the Christian priesthood! Man has become victim and priest for himself. He does not seek outside of himself for what he must sacrifice to God, but bears with himself and in himself that which he sacrifices. O man, be sacrifice and priest, make your heart an altar, and so with firm trust present your body as a victim to God. God seeks faith, not death. He is thirsty for your prayer, not for your blood. He is appeased by obedience, not by death."

These citations are helpful for understanding the conception of corporeality and personality developed over the centuries through images of Jesus: the idea of the body as the place of a dignity inherent in the human being – of a "priestly" capacity to offer oneself – and of the face as a mirror of conscious freedom.

The works on display, in fact, put the spectator in the conditions of those women and men described in the New Testament, for whom the body and face of Jesus were places of surprising, even scandalous, discovery.

For example, when Jesus returned from the desert to his town, Nazareth, and in the synagogue read aloud the messianic verses of Isaiah, the evangelist Luke recounts that "the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him" (Luke 4:16-24). To the words of Isaiah, In fact, Jesus added other words, unexpected and for those present certainly incomprehensible: "Today," he said, "this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing."

They eyes of those present were fixed on him, on his body and his face, because his statement "today this scripture passage is fulfilled" made them associate the ancient promises of a future era of blessing with this young man seated among them: with him as a physical presence, with his body, with the expression on his face. "Isn't this the son of Joseph?" they ask immediately, incapable of seeing in Jesus more than what they thought they knew, so that he comments: "No prophet is accepted in his own native place."

A similar occasion, but much more dramatic, is narrated in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John.

Two days after his miraculous multiplication of bread and fish to feed an immense crowd, Jesus explains that the true bread offered by the Father to humanity – the bread come down from heaven – was he himself. So again his hearers ask each other: "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, 'I have come down from heaven'?"

But he insists: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."

And again: "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him."

The evangelist John describes his listeners' negative reaction to these words, and how "as a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him," and it's not hard to understand them, because Jesus was demanding that they see his body as food, and so also his face: "For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day."

Many of the works on display are inspired by these statements, in part because they were originally made for altars, where the body and the face of Jesus depicted by the artist were seen in proximity to the bread and wine of the Eucharist, the body and blood of the Lord.

The exhibit is therefore an invitation to rediscover the unique intensity with which the believers of other times – the financial patrons and the original viewers of the works displayed – looked at a body and a face believed to be "true food" and "true drink"; a body and a face that, once internalized, would transform them with the gift of "eternal life." This experience, which is perhaps fully accessible only to faith, can also be imagined by those who do not believe; or rather, it must be imagined, because it constitutes the normal context of comprehension of such works of art, an indispensable component of their message.

Also indispensable is the moral tension that must have influenced the original interpretation of many of the works displayed in the exhibit. In images connected to the Eucharist, in fact, as in the celebration of the Mass itself, the believer seeks something else beyond what he, and every image associated with the ceremony presents itself as "epiphany" and "apocalypse," as manifestation and revelation of a future transformation.

Art in the place of worship, in fact, illuminates the expectation of Christians, and in the figures and events that it illustrates the sacred images present themselves as mirrors of the Image in which the faithful hope to be transformed, Jesus Christ.

The exhibit covers the period corresponding to the end of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Baroque, in which the body and face of the human person again became the primary vehicles of meaning in Western art. These figurative elements, perfected by the Greeks five centuries before Christ, were at first rejected by the nascent Christian culture, which instead of pagan naturalism preferred a less ambiguous language, with the body presented as a sign and with the face transfigured by faith.

This rejection of physicality and of personality, which also reflected the severe Christian judgment of the amorality and individualism of the pagan world, was among the causes of the loss of interest in the body and the face as subjects of art between the fifth and eleventh centuries.

It was the new spirituality centered on man – the spirituality of Franciscan stamp of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries – that led to the rediscovery of how well suited Greco-Roman art was to describing the body and the emotions. Thanks to this new dialog with ancient pagan civilization, European Christianity also developed a different relationship with history, in which values held to be conducive to faith in Jesus would be considered components of a single revelation entrusted to the human being regardless of their cultural and religious origin.

A central component of this single revelation is humanity itself, recognizable in the eloquent beauty and in the vulnerability of the body, in the pain and joy written on the face; to demonstrate its legitimacy is the conviction that the Son of God himself became man.

The seven progressive stages of the exhibit suggest these ideas: the body and the person; God takes a body; the man Jesus; a body given for love; the risen body; the mystical body; the sacramental body. The arrangement is intended to suggest the initial context of use of almost all of the works, the Catholic liturgical setting, placing the paintings, the sculptures, the ornaments and sacred vestments in spaces reminiscent of churches.

The form of the rooms, the lighting and the musical background that accompany the visit have been chosen as a function of this objective, but with an aim that is more scientific than religious: that of rehabilitating as an historical reality the theological and emotional message intended by the artists and patrons of the works.

Some of the paintings have even been placed above altars, to evoke the visual relationship between image and ceremony: there is a different impact, in fact, from a Deposition or Pietà seen in a museum and that same work above a Eucharistic table; in the second case, the perception of the body of Christ depicted is influenced by the faith that that same body is really present, although invisible, in the consecrated bread and wine.

The many works on exhibit also suggest something of the iconographic density typical of Catholic churches in the past. This profusion of images conferred a visionary character on these places, where depictions of Christ, of Mary, and of the saints gave color and human interest to the figures and events spoken of in the Scriptures and tradition, offering such a total immersion that the believer felt himself surrounded by the figures and a participant in the events, a member of the one communion of saints and part of the one history of salvation.

Nonetheless, the subject of the esthetic experience, as of the cultural experience, remains man. It is to him and his corporeality that the colors and forms speak. Art that shows Christ – together with true "mirrors of his Gospel" like the Shroud – invite a contemplation of Christ who takes form in us, hope of glory, beauty of eternal life. And in seeing, knowing, and loving him, we will finally understand even the corporeal meaning of our lives, of our flesh, of the affections, of the memories, and of the blood, his and ours, of every human person who has been betrayed, sacrificed, killed. The little blood of the Shroud will then reveal itself as a Red Sea through which Christ leads us to the promised land."