By Fr. George Welzbacher
March 23, 2008 - Easter Sunday
"This is the day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad!" (Psalm 118). These words, incorporated into the liturgy of Easter Sunday, remind us that joy ranks high among the gifts that God lavishes on those who have surrendered their lives to Him and to His Son, Jesus Christ, crucified once and for all for our sins and risen now to everlasting glory. Those who "have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" and thus belong to Christ (Galatians 5:24), those who "live by the Spirit" and thus "walk by the Spirit" (Galatians 5:25), have come to know at first hand that wonderful newness of life whose fruit in the Holy Spirit is "Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control," (Galatians 5:22). They have come to know the true "freedom with which Christ has set us free", even as humbly they pray for the grace "to stand fast....and not again submit to a yoke of slavery," the slavery of habitual sin (Galatians 5:1). So different from the dismal state of those enslaved by mortal sin is the quiet and abiding joy that comes only from surrender to Christ, whose yoke, one discovers, is easy and whose burden, to one's surprise, is light (Matthew 11:29-30).
By way of contrast: sadness, not joy, is the companion of mortal sin-sadness, weariness of spirit, anger, isolation, and, at the end of the road, despair. Yet just short of despair, even the very sadness that is the lot of the rebel against God can be used by God to drive the rebel to seek relief. The sadness and heaviness of soul that come in the wake of mortal sin can impel the sinner, wretched in his hunger and loneliness, to abandon the pigsty and, like the Prodigal Son, to return to the Father. Such is the strategy, St. Augustine assures us, in which God makes use "even of our sins" to call us back to him. St. Paul describes the process as one who knew it well, having himself "kicked against the goad" in his resistance to Christ for far too long. He writes in II Corinthians (7:9-10): "I rejoice .... because you were grieved into repenting, for you felt a Godly grief .. for Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation...whereas worldly grief [the grief of a sinner who stubbornly refuses to surrender to God] produces death."
On this feast of Christ's victory over Satan and sin, let us pray humbly that He may confirm in us the continuing resolve to take His sweet yoke upon ourselves and thus to find joy and rest for our souls. In which resolve we have reason indeed to "rejoice and be glad". I wish you all a blessed Easter!
* * * * *During this holy season, when the liturgy has rekindled our gratitude to Christ for His sufferings on our behalf, I thought you might find an article that appeared in the National Catholic Register (issue of April 13-19, 2003) to be of special interest. I reprint it here, extensively abridged. It was written by Shafer Parker, Jr.
Shroud's Two Crowns of Thorns Show Crucifixion's Brutality.
Two researchers at Duke University Medical Center say they have perceived signs of a second object in the head area of the image of the Shroud of Turin.
Dr. Alan Whanger, professor emeritus of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., and director of the Council of Study of the Shroud of Turin (www.shroudcouncil.org), together with his wife, Mary, published their finding that high-grade enhanced photographs of the Shroud of Turin reveal the image of a band of woven straw. It Perfectly matches the size and shape of the well-known Crown of Thorns now housed in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. This circlet would have rested on the back of Jesus' head, reaching down to the upper part of the neck.
The shroud, a sheet of fine linen some 14 feet long and 3.5 feet wide, contains the life sized negative image, front and back, of a crucified man, complete with nail prints and bloodstains. Pope John Paul II himself has venerated it as the shroud that Christ was buried in. According to Whangers, the newly perceived object is actually a second crown of thorns. And although Scripture has never been interpreted as mentioning two crowns Whanger argues his discovery of a second crown is yet more proof that the man represented on the shroud is Jesus. "Two crowns would be entirely consistent with what we know about the period, " he said. "If the shroud were actually a medieval forgery based only upon Gospel accounts, as some scientists have claimed, they'd never have thought to include two separate crowns."
Whanger, who is a Methodist, suggests that when Pilate sent Jesus to be flogged, the soldiers naturally decided to mock the supposed King of the Jews as a Roman emperor, complete with purple robe (which is mentioned in the Gospels) and an encircling crown on the back of the head. It would have been the work of a moment. he says, to twist a few bands of straw together, stick a few thorns and thistles through the band and then jam it on Christ's head.
Later, the soldiers must have been inspired to mock Jesus as a Jewish high priest, which led to the construction of the larger, bonnet like crown made from the Gundelia tournefortil thorn tree, as confirmed on the shroud by Avinoam Danin, Professor of botany at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a world authority on the flora of the Near East.
The Gundelia tree possesses thorns so sharp and strong the maker would have been forced to wear leatlier gloves. The larger crown, first identified on the shroud by the Whangers several vears ago, effectively mocked the multitiered crown worn by the Jewish high priest. "The high priest's crown would have been well known to the soldiers," Whanger said, "since it was kept locked in the Antonia Fortress and only released to the high priest for his use during official festivals."
Finding a second crown on the shroud helps explain why the Crown of Thorns in Paris has no thorns. Because the thorns had merely been stuck through the straw bands to begin with, they either remained embedded in the crucified man's neck when the crown was removed, or they fell our later. It also explains why the shroud image displays about 40 puncture wounds extending from the mid-forehead to the low back of the neck. The wounds on top would have come from the bonnet like high priest's crown, while those on the neck would have come from the emperor's circlet.
Though impossible to authenticate as to date, the shroud has been venerated since at least the 14th century but possibly as early as the second century as the actual winding sheet used at Jesus' burial in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.
But it has only been in the last 30 years that modern science has been able to uncover a number of clues, including pollen spores and microscopic grains of soils unique to Jerusalem and Palestine, that increase the probability that the shroud once wrapped the Messiah's body.
But the abiding mystery is how the images of a crucified man and crucifixion-related objects became imprinted on the shroud at all.
Canadian physicist, Thaddeus Trenn, director of the science and religion program at the University of Toronto, has hypothesized that a massive infux of energy similar to a controlled nuclear event actually overcame the strong force that bound together the protons and the neutrons in the body of the man lying in the shroud.
Such an instantaneous event would have released massive amounts of X-rays, leading to a rapid, but cool, dehydration of the cellulose fibers in the fabric that resulted in a negative image of the man and, due to the enormous amounts of energy present, a coronal discharge that led to imprints of other items buried with the body.
Trenn has noted that the dematerialization theory is supported by distortions in the shroud image that indicate that it was collapsing in upon itself at the precise moment that the image was being produced. And only dematerialization explains how the body could have been lifted away from the blood that had soaked into the fabric while leaving no trace of pulled fibrils on the fabric's surface....