An Encounter With The Shroud
by Brent Kostyniuk
Both Lungs is about East and West, the belief and spiritual heritage we share as Catholics, and the elements of our respective traditions which are different. It is about unity in diversity. Now during Lent, or the Great Fast as it known in the East, an opportunity has come to encounter a part of our mutual heritage which is held in deep regard throughout the Christian world – the Shroud of Turin.
On Monday March 3 (the beginning of the Great Fast for many Eastern Catholics) the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton celebrated with the solemn exposition of an officially authorized replica of the Shroud of Turin. The ceremony took place at St. Josephat’s Cathedral in Edmonton. The Shroud replica was carried into the Cathedral at the head of a procession which included clergy, religious sisters, and faithful. It was placed on a specially constructed display table. It will remain at the Cathedral until the middle of August. Throughout this period, the Shroud replica will be available for veneration. As well, presentations on the history and significance of the Shroud replica will be given on selected occasions. More information about viewing hours is available at www.edmontoneparchy.com. In late summer, the Shroud replica will travel to southern Alberta where it will once again be placed on display. Eventually, the Shroud replica will become a permanent fixture at the Cathedral.
Although there are thousands of photographic reproductions of the Shroud of Turin in existence throughout the world, the copy now held by the Edmonton Eparchy is distinct. It is one of only about a dozen which have been authorized by the Archdiocese of Turin, the custodians of the Shroud. This cloth copy was made using the best photographic definition possible. Indeed, the very fibers of the original are visible with perfect clarity. In virtually all respects, viewing the Eparchy’s replica is as if one was actually viewing the Shroud of Turin. There is, however, one very significant difference. There are no restrictions on viewing the replica, so it is possible to examine it closely and at length.
Along with the Shroud, four near full-size banners have been produced; one each of front and back natural images and front and back negative images. In 1898, Secondo Pia, an Italian photographer took the first picture of the Shroud. In doing so, he discovered that it is actually a negative image. Thus when a photographic negative of the Shroud is viewed, the features appear as a positive image.
Encountering the Shroud of Turin replica is a deeply moving spiritual experience. Like all such personal experiences, description is difficult. Still, to see the face, the hands crossed together, the dreadful wounds inflicted by the Roman masters of torture with their flagrum, the elliptical wound on the right side, the marks of swelling before the right eye and the swollen or broken nose, the flow of blood from the wrists and feet, the marks of thorn wounds on the forehead, the wounded shoulder scraped raw from carrying the cross, the knees heavily damaged as if from repeated falls, the very image of a strong body destroyed, the haunting image of what must have been a handsome face, even the hair tied in a ponytail at the back – these all come together to bring a certain reality, a nearness, to the events at Golgotha that makes them so much more personal, no matter how strong a person’s faith might be.
It was like staring down into an open casket.
Icon Not Made With Human Hands
In the year 544, the city of Edessa was under attack by the Persian army. A cloth bearing the face of Christ was rediscovered following an appearance of the Mother of God to the Bishop of Edessa. The cloth was brought out and with its miraculous protection, the city was saved. For the first time, the image was referred to as acheiropoietos or not made by human hands. Several years later, the cloth was described as a tetradiplon meaning folded in four, thus creating eight layers. If the Shroud had, indeed, been folded in this manner, only the face would be visible. By 560, following the rediscovery of the Edessa image, icons of Christ show a dramatic change. No longer is he portrayed as a beardless Roman, but rather with the features which have become standard in the 15 centuries since. Was the Edessa image the Shroud of Turin?