The Church and the forces of chaos

imageghThe Egyptian obelisk that stands in Piazza San Pietro was originally located in Alexandria and was brought to Rome in 37 AD Emperor Caligula, who put it in the circus of Nero. When the circus fell into disuse and the area was turned into a necropolis, the obelisk remained in it's place, even when the old St. Peter's Basilica was built. Sixtus V had it transferred in Piazza San Pietro the 26th September 1586 - by putting a cross on the top and marking its marble base with inscriptions.

What is particularly interesting, is that it is in the east, overlooking the city of Rome, which would be a very old formula of exorcism, divided into three elements:

Mysteries of the Resurrection

ascesiJesus was buried at the foot of a rocky niche, carved within a cave rock of Golgotha. His body was more than likely laid in a horizontal position. If we try to understand the position of the linen cloths in the tomb from what the evangelist John tells us (cf. 20.7), we could imagine the following scene.

The linen cloth - a piece that enveloped the entire body of Jesus - was lying on the bedrock and not "on the ground" as some translations say. The linen cloth was "limp" so you can see on the surface of a protrusion height of the head: the shroud that wrapped Jesus' head and what was below the linen cloth. The shroud had been "rolled up" around the face of Jesus, acting as a mild sweat cloth around his "chin", ie as a tool to tighten the jaws.

The Muslim Jesus (First part)

coranoAround the year 1600, the Indian emperor Akbar built a splendid ceremonial gate at Fatehpur Sikri, and on it he inscribed words attributed to Jesus, son of Mary: “The world is a bridge: pass over it, but do not build your house upon it.”

It’s an evocative saying, one of many attributed to Jesus in the Islamic tradition. But is there any chance that such words might have any authenticity, any connection with the historical Jesus? Actually, the chances are greater than you might think, and like a good professor, I am going to illustrate that with a short quiz.

The Koran includes a good deal of material about Jesus. More relevant for present purposes are the many stories and saying gathered by Muslim sages over the following centuries, which have been collected by modern scholar Tarif Khalidi in his book The Muslim Jesus: Sayings and Stories in Islamic Literature. Khalidi argues that together, these constitute a whole Muslim Gospel.

Often, the Muslim Jesus closely recalls the language and thought of early Christian scripture, with only the slightest modifications from the familiar gospels. This is particularly true in the oldest layer of sayings and stories, from the 9th century. Jesus points to the birds of the sky and how God cares for them; he urges his followers to lay up treasures for themselves in heaven; they should not cast pearls before swine. In perhaps 30 cases, the resemblances to the Synoptic gospels are overwhelming. Also, very few of these “Muslim Jesus” sayings include any distinctively Islamic ideas.

The Muslim Jesus (Second part)

bibbia4This degree of similarity is amazing given the chronology. All the Christian examples date from the second or third centuries, none of the Muslim examples is recorded before the ninth century. Yet they breathe exactly the same atmosphere.

It’s actually not too hard to see how such early sayings would have been preserved and transmitted, and the clue might be in the world-denying quality of many sayings -- the world is a bridge! Such words would have been treasured by Eastern Christian monks and hermits, in lands like Syria and Mesopotamia. We also know that from earliest times, some Christian monks and clergy accepted Islam. The Koran reports how their eyes filled with tears, as they prayed, “We do believe; make us one, then, with all who bear witness to the truth!”

The Greatest Love: the 2015 Ostension of the Holy Shroud

shroud"L’amore più grande”, “The greatest love” is the theme of the 2015 Ostension of the Holy Shroud. The Archbishop of Turin and Custodian of the Holy Shroud, Mgr. Cesare Nosiglia has announced this on Twitter (@sindone2015). The phrase echoes Jesus’ words in John’s Gospel: “No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.”

The diocese of Turin said the title reflects “the style and themes that will characterise the pilgrimage to the Shroud from 19 April to 25 June 2015: awareness of our neighbours and the chance to give and receive friendship.” “The Ostension will certainly offer great opportunities for encounter with the Pope and other present celebration of the bicentenary of Don Bosco's birth,” the archbishop said.

“The greatest love is that which God feels towards humans,” Nosiglia stated. “It is the same love felt by Jesus Christ, the Son of God who became man and accepted death on the cross for the salvation of everyone, throughout history. The image of the Shroud bears the signs of this suffering and death on the Cross. The tortured face and body of the suffering servant are a sign of that love which does not end with death, even in the silence of this burial shroud.