MY LORD AND MY GOD


La Sacra Sindone

Conclusion

As Orthodox Christians, do we need the relic of the Lord’s Shroud? As far as the fullness of the Faith, “given once and for all to the saints,” is concerned, we do not. The image on the Shroud adds nothing doctrinal to what has already been revealed; neither does it take anything away. Had it not survived Apostolic times, as some think, our faith in Christ and His Church, the Ark of Salvation, would be the same. Nor do we seek after signs and wonders to confirm our faith in Christ. On the other hand, the Shroud provides a visual document of something that the Evangelists describe in only a few terse words: “They crucified Him,”

In the image on the Shroud there unfolds before our very eyes the story, the process of indescribable suffering, those physiological processes which took place in the human Body of Christ. This is all precisely documented on the Shroud, attesting to our Lord’s humanity and at the same time revealing His divine power, for He arose as God, rising in such a way as to leav eall the evidence imprinted upon the Shroud and miraculously undisturbed,., containing a providential meaning which is not being revealed.”

The late Archimandrite Constantine (Zaitsev), an eminent Church writer who wrote these words, was so impressed by the powerful testimony of the Turin Shroud that he urged the widespread dissemination of this “discovery,” which he said “lies with the conscience of each faithful Christian soul who becomes acquainted with it.” [53] What precisely is the value of the testimony offered by the Shroud?

All in all it is a startling medical documentary of what was described so briefly in the Gospels. Dr. John Heller biophysicist

The Russian bishop-saint, Tikhon of Zadonsk (1724-1783)–as so many spiritual directors–was alarmed at the cold-hearted insensitivity of people, at the callousness, indifference, and wordliness of the average soul, joined to complete love of self. In our own day, most pastors would add to this list the soul-killing sin of self-righteousness and “zeal not according to knowledge,” which stems from the Luciferian sin of pride.

As a spiritual remedy, the Saint urged people to “keep in your house a picture of the passion of Christ, look at it often and with reverence …. the whole deepest content of the Gospel is portrayed in the passion of Christ and incites us to imitation.”[54] To imitation of what?

St. Tikhon observed that “God descends to the humble as waters flow down from the hills into the valleys.” And it was this awesome humility of the Lord on the Cross that St. Tikhon wished his spiritual children to imitate. But how to find humility? In union with all Orthodox Fathers, St. Tikhon taught that each individual must seek to know himself as he really is, without self-deception. Seeing thus his own wickedness, he must then consider “the suffering of Christ, the magnitude of whose love and suffering surpasses our understanding.”[55] Christ’s example of humble obedience “even unto death” inspired this Saint to instruct his spiritual children to “remember often, especially during the night, the suffering of Christ. It will kindle in you love for the Sufferer; this love will preserve you from sin. Meditate upon His Passion …. The suffering Christ is like a saving bock from which we learn…repentance, faith, devotion to God, love of our neighbor, humility, meekness, patience, detachment from worldly vanities …” [56]

What is it, then, to follow Christ? To do good and to suffer for the sake of the will of God… to endure all, looking upon Christ Who suffered  St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

St. Tikhon was not here introducing some novelty into Orthodox piety or theology, It must be made perfectly clear that he was not suggesting the use of imagination–a common element in Western spirituality–in order to create dangerous emotions that lead to “prelest” or spiritual deception. St. Tikhon understood that the Son of God suffered not just a death such as might come to any man, but a terrifying emptying of His divinity joined to an unimaginable physical, mental, and spiritual agony that we cannot comprehend.  But we can, even with sinful eyes, gaze upon it, as those who put the Lord to death stood by and watched and some, like the blessed Centurion, even confessed Christ. The image on the Shroud vividly tells us, in ways that words often cannot, what unutterable suffering was endured for our sake, and the high price with which cur souls were ransomed from eternal death.

My Lord and My God!

Together with this universal significance which applies to all Christians at all times, the Shroud may also be said to be uniquely relevant to our 20th century, in which science has had such a powerful voice. Some believe that this image was encoded on the fibers of the cloth like a time capsule intended specifically for our materialistic age, when only the tools of modern science could begin to decode or unlock its secrets, when belief in God would be so weak or non-existent that even faith in science would testify to “the things of God.”

There is a poster, plastered on walls in the Soviet Union, which shows a smiling astronaut flying through space. The caption reads: “There is no God,” For individuals raised under the forced domination of ‘scientific-atheism,” the inability of scientists to disprove the Shroud does not go unnoticed. And there is reason to believe that the scientific evidence in favor of the Shroud’s authenticity has been instrumental in opening doors to faith behind the Iron Curtain. (A report on the Shroud, written by a scientist in the Soviet Union, is said to be circulating there in Samizdat.)

We, too, in the free world, have been greatly influenced by the scientific-materialist outlook. And it seems that now, at a time which many believe to be the 11th hour, the suffering yet serene face looking at us from the Shroud confronts us with the REALITY of Jesus Christ. Can it be that in this age of diminishing faith, when even believers are crying out “Lord, help Thou my unbelief,” the Lord in His mercy has condescended to reveal Himself to men in a special way, that seeing they might believe and exclaim with Thomas: “My Lord and my God!”

 Click here to read all this wonderful 1985 essay by fr. Alexis (now Ambrose) Young
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