THE HOLY SHROUD OF TURIN
The proof of the Resurrection
“ A DEAD Man covered with wounds lay for some hours in this Shroud. Nothing will explain to us how He left it, leaving on this Shroud a fine and unblemished impression of His body and the marks of His bleeding. ” (Dr. Pierre Barbet)
If there is no explanation as to “ how ”, at least a well-attested historical fact gives us the reason “ why ”. We know for certain, through the testimony of the four Evangelists and of Saint Paul, that the Body of Jesus did not suffer corruption, but that It rose from the dead on the third day, according to the Scriptures.
Positive photograph of the dorsal imprint. The silhouette presents a moving, lopsided figure, crying out the truth. First of all, we observe that, compared with the facial silhouette, everything is strictly symmetrical: the shoulder blades correspond to the pectorals, the lumbar region to the gastric region, the backs of the knees to the front of the knees, the heel to the instep.
But there is more: we have noticed on the facial silhouette that the right hand projects beyond the axis of the Body, in such a way that the right wrist is covered by the left hand; for that, it is necessary that the right forearm be less bent than the left forearm, that the right elbow comes down lower than the left elbow, and that the line of the pectorals be slightly bent in the same direction. Now, not only is this the case, but the shoulder line, invisible on the original image since the fire of Chambéry, shows the same correct inclination on the dorsal image, the right shoulder (on the left) being lower than the left shoulder. It is perfectly natural! The copyists did not always understand this and often re-established the symmetry.
Furthermore, the asymmetry of this silhouette is evident, in relationship to an axis going from the nape of the neck to the heel, making it look like the image of a lopsided cripple. The right foot has left a perfect footprint, whereas the left foot, twisted in order to make it overlap the other, seems to be smaller on account of its distance from the Sheet. A careful observation of these imprints is certainly at the origin of the old tradition which goes back to certain Fathers of the first centuries concerning the infirmity of a “ crippled and lopsided Redeemer ”, and which influenced a certain iconographic tradition representing the Saviour with the left leg shorter than the right.
Jesus was neither crippled nor deformed. The proof is that He only had to turn round and look at His enemies to put them to flight (Lk 4.28-30; Jn 18.6). Jesus was an athlete; He united an impressive strength (Jn 2.15) with an extraordinary charm (Jn 7.46). We understand this from reading the Gospels, and we have been given to see this with our own eyes on His photograph, which not only displays His frontal image but even His back...
“ And the whole Shroud confirms us in this certainty ”, Barbet writes magnificently, bringing to this luminous statement the full fruit of his study in the light of his experience as a surgeon.
“ This certitude ” has done nothing but increase since these investigations of a technological scale never before attained, which were conducted in order to “ determine, by means of non-destructive experiments, the chemical composition and the character of the image or images imprinted on the Shroud ”, by an exhaustive study of the whole surface of the Linen, under all the wavelengths of the electromagnetic energy spectrum on the one hand, and by chemical analysis on the other.
“ We have examined this object of science through the practised eyes of Dr. Pierre Mérat. We have listened with the ears of Brother Bruno, hearing the rumour of its fame from place to place, all down the centuries. We have adored and savoured it through the analyses of the biochemists of the STURP team, who have isolated its every component down to the last detail. We have touched it, felt it with our hands and with the machines of the physicists and experts who have reconstituted its every change of fortune. Finally, by putting together all these many empirical data, we have drawn up an exhaustive inventory, as it were, of all the Object’s characteristics. ”
This linen was not painted by any person, however skilled, no. But it was in contact with the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This overwhelming certitude results firstly from the presence of real blood.
This Precious Blood was tested chemically by Heller and Adler. Its flow was studied by Barbet, Bucklin, Baima, Bollone, Rodante, Lavoie and Mérat: the vertical flow on the Cross (fig. 7, 8, 10), the horizontal flow when the Body was taken down from the Cross (fig. 9), the imprint of the blood clots on the linen at the time of His burial, then the separation of the cloth from the Body on the morning of the glorious Resurrection, leaving these “ blood portraits ” with no breaks, crying out the truth, THE truth to any mind free to hear it, with a never ending abundance of proof.
The photographic negative of the dorsal imprint presenting a silhouette of Jesus, from the back, as though He were standing in front of us. The positive photograph enables the viewer to see without constantly having to invert the picture from right to left.
“ So then Pilate took Jesus and had Him scourged. ” (Jn 19.1) We are present at the scene: not the cold execution of a judicial order, but an unleashing of demons. Satan is there spitting out his hatred. No artist could have imagined the reality as revealed to us by the Holy Shroud: the ignominy of this torture, the marks of which are spread all over the Body, but especially on the back “ all torn and bruised by the lashes of the whip which extend all over, leaving marks as big as marjoram leaves ”, as the Poor Clares of Chambéry say, down to the calves of the legs. To suffer this, Jesus was entirely stripped of His clothing, a fact the Evangelists, through modesty, failed to emphasise. As for the artists, they never dared imagine such a thing.
The whole Body was thoroughly lacerated; not a spot was spared in fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “ From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and bleeding wounds, not dressed or bandaged or soothed with oil. ” (Is 1.6) The wounds all have the same shape: that of a little three centimetre dumbbell. Two circles represent the lead pellets; they seem to be joined by a rod; it is the trace left by the thong, the extremities of which are threaded like pearls. They are spread all over the Body in pairs of parallel wounds. The whip, or flagrum, must, therefore, have been two thonged. On the back, they are spread out like a fan, the centre of which is the torturer’s hand. They are horizontal in the small of the back; they slope upwards towards the shoulder blades and downwards towards the calves of the legs. On the back of the right calf the blows are struck straight downwards. On the other hand some blows slid over the back of the left calf, sometimes drawing blood.
But this back also speaks of resurrection, its imprint suggesting it is unsupported, floating in air, in a state of “ weightlessness ”. “ Obviously, the spectacle of the Resurrection was seen by no one. The holy women and the Apostles will come to the sepulchre only at daybreak, after the event. But we have truly been given to see the event happen beneath our eyes. It is sufficient to observe the dorsal surface: it is absolutely inexplicable, because this Body does not rest with its whole weight on this sheet, although It is in the process of impregnating it with Its blood and the marks of Its wounds, and at the same time darkening it with the image of its mass. ”
Georges de Nantes
For example, the ultraviolet photographs taken by Vernon Miller and Samuel Pellicori, where the blood loses its colour, reveal on the outer edge of the wrist blood clots (figure 20), a clear fluorescent aureole. It is an indication, verified by biochemical tests, of the presence of serum, separated by gravitation, when the Body was still suspended on the Cross.
Firstly the blood, then the body. The enzymatic test carried out on the surface samples taken from the Shroud in October 1978, demonstrated the absence, beneath the blood, of the straw-yellow colour of the body image. The blood, therefore, firstly impregnated the fibrils, sheltering them from the process generating the body image.
The layout of the blood stains corresponds, moreover, to the way a cloth naturally drapes itself over a human body.
It was only later, after the imprint of the blood clots, that the Shroud was held flat or taut, at the moment when the bodily imprint was being formed. This stretching of the linen shows itself in the several centimetre gap between the actual location of the bloodstains which appear in the image of the hair, and the locations of the cheeks whence they come.
The explanation of the bloodstains is easy. Or, at least as Barbet writes: “ they are the only marks whose formation it is possible to imagine for certain and almost completely. This ‘almost’, as a Christian will have guessed, evokes the circumstances of the Resurrection, which is a mystery ”. He explains:
After death, all the cells of the body “ continue to live, each one on its own, those of the skin like the others, and they die individually after different lengths of time. If the higher-grade and the nervous cells are the most fragile, yet the others last for some time; total death only sets in with putrefaction. “ This is what Saint Peter proclaimed in his very first preaching on Pentecost Day: this body did not suffer corruption (Ac. 2.31); it remained united to the divinity, in expectation of the resurrection. This theological truth is not without biological support.
On this subject, Barbet is absolutely brilliant. Resolutely setting aside Vignon’s hypotheses, he resorts to the simpler notions of his everyday experience. Let us imagine that “ all the wounds, all the abrasions with which the body was covered, continued to ooze a more or less infected lymph, as when it was still alive, but in liquid form ”.
Thereafter, it is easy to imagine that the Body of Jesus, draped in its Shroud and enclosed in its tomb, “ was bathed in a watery atmosphere, which made all the clots on the skin and in the various wounds damp once more ”. They thus formed “ a more or less soft sort of paste ” capable of impregnating the cloth on contact with it and of stamping it with “ these clean-edged tracings, reproducing the shape of the blood clots ”.
Vignon thus shed light on a fact we ourselves have experienced with Dr. Mérat: after making an imprint of a blood clot on a cloth and then removing the cloth, only a part of the clot remains fixed on the cloth: “ Its shape is very inexact and it easily cracks when the cloth is handled ”. The copies of the blood clots on the Shroud, however, are perfectly whole and intact, reproducing the familiar image of a normal blood clot. That is what remains inexplicable.
“ It is quite certain that this risen and glorious Body could just as easily pass through the Shroud as it could through ‘the closed doors’ of the Cenacle. This final difficulty allows us to touch with our finger, humanly speaking, something that is materially impossible. Science can only fall silent here, for this is not its domain. But the scientist himself can at least glimpse here a palpable proof of the Resurrection. ”
So what are we to say of the bodily imprints? The more we observe of their unquestionable properties, the less we can give a rational account of these extraordinary effects, and in the first place of the correlation of the intensity of the frontal image with the distances separating the surface of the cloth from the body it enveloped. This correlation is expressed in a simple mathematical relationship: the intensities of the image are inversely proportional to the Body-cloth distance.
How is this to be understood? Especially as the distant action of the body on the cloth did not prevent the image from being of a “ high definition ”, that is to say, perfectly clear, which supposes that each given point of the image on the Shroud corresponded with a point on the body. But if this point is projected over a distance, by diffusion or radiation, it becomes blurred. For natural sources of radiation radiate in all directions.
Artificial creation, the work of the human eye, brain or hand is even more excluded by this other characteristic of the image, which is that it is purely superficial, confined to the tips of the threads; each tiny thread is individually coloured with no added cementation or pigmentation. The colour is simply the result of a chemical transformation of the linen cellulose molecule. It makes an image with a clarity that was undreamt of before the invention of photography, and which leaves far behind it every attempt at artistic imitation or laboratory reconstruction.
SOMEONE, however, was the artist of this incomparable work. To call it acheiropoietic, “ not made by human hand ”, is perhaps not absolutely correct, for the artist is none other than Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself: “ It is HE, Jesus Christ, who conceived and willed this image of Himself, and who made it, with the controlled energy of His own Body brought to the highest degree of glory through His Resurrection. ” (Georges de Nantes)
The risen Christ dies no more. One agonising question remains to be answered “ on the threshold of the third millennium ”: How could He allow Himself to be condemned to death again on October 13, 1988? To enter into this mystery, we shall again have to learn from “ the greatest saint of modern times ”. One day, when her father was away travelling, little Thérèse Martin had a prophetic vision: she saw her beloved Father, her “ King of France and of Navarre ”, cross the garden, stooped and his head covered with a kind of apron, which veiled his face. It was not until fourteen years later, while reminiscing on these events with Sister Marie du Sacré Coeur that they understood its meaning: “ It was indeed Papa whom I saw walking forward, bent with age... It was really him, wearing over his venerable face and on his white head the sign of his glorious trial... Like the Adorable Face of Jesus which was veiled during His Passion, so the face of His faithful servant also had to be veiled during the days of his suffering, in order to be able to shine in the heavenly Homeland with his Lord, the eternal Word!
“ It is from the heart of glory that he obtained for us this sweet consolation of understanding that ten years before our great trial the Good God had already shown us what was to come, as a father lets his children glimpse the glorious future he is preparing for them and is pleased to contemplate in advance the priceless riches which are to be their lot... ”
A hundred years later, “ from the heart of glory ” where she is with her beloved Papa, Thérèse in her turn obtained for us a great light, in the course of the retreat preached by our Father on “ Sainte Thérèse nouvelle ”:
Who is this veiled man, whose living image she saw?
It is Oedipus, the great “ supplicant ” of Antiquity. It is not the joyous and prestigious “ King of France and Navarre ”, it is the sorrowful, tragic king of Thebes, his eyes put out, his face ravaged, covered with blood for the redemption of his people.
It is King David humiliated and fleeing Jerusalem before the revolt of his son Absalom, allowing himself to be insulted by his own subjects who had joined the rebellion.
These two beautiful figures, the one pagan and the other Jewish, are figuratives of Jesus Christ humiliated, suffering death and passion, and imprinting the beautiful features of His outraged and bleeding Face on the Holy Shroud.
Having reached this point, our Father has no hesitation in taking it further, in the light of Thérèse’s message, to our times of apostasy: this veiled man, whose living image she saw in the person of her beloved father, is God the Father, our dearest Heavenly Father; it is our King singularly humiliated by the great apostasy into which the world is sinking and which seems to be vanquishing the saints themselves. The Face of God is outraged.
But it belongs to the children of Mary of the Immaculate Heart to “ console ” Him.
Brother Bruno BONNET-EYMARD