19.05.2015 - 20.05.2015 70 °F
I'm not sure when I realized that we had somehow become spiritual pilgrims. Perhaps it was on the flight to Turin, Italy with tickets in-hand to go see the Shroud of Turin which will be on temporary display. This comes just a few days after seeing the Holy Grail (Jesus' drinking cup from the Last Supper) in Valencia, Spain. That comes just several weeks after seeing Stonehenge and a few months prior to Chichen Itza.
What binds all these experiences was that none of them were planned visits. They were all places that we happened upon while on the way to somewhere else. We had no intention of going to see Chichen Itza or even Mexico for that matter but circumstances made it so. Stonehenge happened because we were in Bath Spa, England on the way to maybe see Liverpool. We didn't even know the Holy Grail was in Valencia until we got there. And Turin happened only because we didn't get the cruise we wanted out of Barcelona but could get the one we want leaving Venice. The best, cheapest and fastest way to get towards Venice was to fly into Turin first!
Turin rarely exhibits the Shroud. So we thought, "We are here. Let's go see it." The tickets are free via online and we walked about 20 minutes to the exhibit. Hardly any waiting even though there were many tour groups and families in line. Visitors are clumped into large groups and ushered through a long path until you are before the Shroud itself for only 15 minutes.
By happenstance we were the last two people in one group so we were able to stay and see the Shroud an extra 15 minutes. Because we were so slow to leave, the ushers thought us the beginning of the following group! Thus in our case, the famous biblical phrase rang true:
"Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first
who will be last." So the last shall be first, and the first last:
for many be called, but few chosen." Matthew 8:11,12
I am not particularly religious myself. However here I was, silently looking at the Shroud while REAL pilgrims around me whispered prayers. I could hear the gentle sound of someone fondling rosary beads behind me. Its distinct, smooth rattle is easily noticeable to someone like me who was raised Catholic for a good part of childhood. These were all people, mostly older, very passionate about their beliefs and practiced so somewhat quietly.The loudest noise came from the exhibition staff who went 'Catholic' on anyone who broke the 'no flash photography' rule. Those of you who were raised catholic know what I mean by "going Catholic" on somebody. Mostly I can't quite
understand why somebody needs to take a photo of something that is already all over the Internet.
I'm still not sure what the meaning (for me) is of all these visits to places (or things) that so many people find so important and even personally revelatory. I considered in fortunate and fun for the most part. Extremely educational to say the least.
I will say this about the Shroud; Clearly somebody had suffered greatly and it was somehow captured on this cloth. The debate continues on whether it really is Jesus' imprint or some medieval forgery. Even if it is from the middle ages, I don't think medieval people thought, "Oh, let's make a forgery or a prop to fool people!" No, I could imagine medieval people thinking, "Let's actually get a real person and do to him exactly as the bible wrote happened to Jesus!". I mean, after all, they were MEDIEVAL (in every sense of the word) so actually using a real person and giving him real pain and making him bleed real blood made normal, contemporary sense to them. After all, were they going to get sued for this?
It very much appears that a man had suffered incredible pain and suffering that is exact to the biblical crucifixion. In my mind, it doesn't really matter if it is Jesus or not. What's important is that this kind of pain and suffering still happens in the world today and that I am fortunate that I haven't had that happen to me. It's also important to try and always remember that there is some great suffering out there and that I should better understand the world in the hopes of mitigating and not contributing to that kind of suffering. In a way, the Shroud is a snapshot of human existence pushed to the edge by....human existence.