The Shroud’s Stillness; Joining the Orderly Lines in Turin
By Elizabeth Lev
ROME, MAY 20, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Last week I became one of the 1.5 million pilgrims (and counting!) who’ve visited the Shroud of Turin during its extraordinary display, which began April 10 and ends Sunday.
The pilgrimage was led by Steve Ray, Catholic apologist extraordinaire, and counted over 150 people. An ambitious undertaking, but then the Shroud is no ordinary object. In my one day in Turin, I saw thousands upon thousands of people taking time from work, school and even lunch (in Italy, no meager sacrifice) to meditate for a few minutes on Christ’s suffering.
The iron gray skies over Turin, the lost luggage and hair-raising trip due to the Icelandic ash cloud, couldn’t dampen the spirits of Steve’s pilgrims who, less than 24 hours after getting off the plane, got in the formidable line to pray before the Shroud. Unlike in the (much shorter) lines for the Vatican Museums or designer boutique sales, there was no cutting, hostility or impatience. People talked, prayed, sang and socialized and the time flew by. The only other time I have ever seen such order among people was in the line to view the body of Pope John Paul II after his death in 2005.
Adding to the joyous spirit of the pilgrimage were the dozens of signs lining the streets from our hotel to the Shroud exhibit warmly welcoming Benedict XVI, who had made his pilgrimage to the Shroud on May 2. The festive climate continued to the front door of the cathedral where the yellow and white floral homage to the Successor of St. Peter brightened the rainy day.
During the wait, we talked about the remarkable pilgrimage of the Shroud from Jerusalem to Turin via at least three other centers, meditated on the near-miraculous preservation of the ancient linen cloth despite fire, travel, handling and time and hashed through the results of the scientific tests, but none of these “facts” seemed to matter when standing before the Shroud.
Captivated by the faint russet imprint of the body of the flagellated, crucified, mocked and stabbed man, everyone falls silent. The contrast between the violence done to the body and the peaceful pose and the serene expression seem like a silent rebuke to “forgive those who trespass against us.”
But most striking against the “negative” imprint of the body are the “positive” crimson marks of blood on the wrists, feet, side and laced throughout the head and body. Bright against the dull colors of the Shroud, those wounds struck me as love letters, testifying to Christ’s passionate, vibrant and enduring love for man.