Archive for the ‘church history’ Category

Christian Faith As A divine gift

December 3, 2013

The introduction of the Motu Proprio data “Porta Fidei” of Pope Benedict XVI is a good starting point to fully understand this topic. “The door of faith is always open for us, ushering us into a life of communion with God and offering entry into his church.’

What then is Faith?

Faith starts with the willingness to recognize and question the core mysteries at the heart of existence: why we exist at all and how to make meaning out of our existence. Over the ages Philosophers have sough to discover the essence of human existence. Schools of thought like Satre’s Existentialism which posited that existence and actuality come first and essence is derived afterwards. Kierkegaard posited that man’s essence came from man. Before them Plato and Aristotle had come up with philosophies of Human existence. St Augustine gives the perfect thesis when he proclaimed; “you are great, O lord, and greatly to be praised… you have made us for your self and our heart is restless until it rests in you. From this it can be deducted that the ultimate essence of man can be found only in relation to Divinity.

 Faith, the Catholic Encyclopedia notes, is the virtue “by which the intellect is perfected by a supernatural light,” allowing the intellect to assent “firmly to the supernatural truths of Revelation.” Faith is, as Saint Paul says in the Letter to the Hebrews, “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). It is, in other words, a form of knowledge that extends beyond the natural limits of our intellect, to help us grasp the truths of divine revelation, truths that we cannot arrive at purely by the aid of natural reason. In Lumen Genitum, the Fathers of the Second Vatican council posit that “by faith Man commits his entire life to God, making the full submission of his intellect and will who reveals… and willingly assenting to the revelation given by him. According to the CCC compendium “Faith is the Theological virtue by which we believe in God and all that he has revealed to us and that the Church proposes for our belief because God is truth it self.

What is a Theological virtue?

Unlike the cardinal virtues, which can be practiced by anyone, the theological virtues are gifts of God through grace. Like all other virtues, the theological virtues are habits; the practice of the virtues strengthens them. Because they aim at a supernatural end, however—that is, they have God as “their immediate and proper object” (in the words of the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913)—the theological virtues must be supernaturally infused into the soul. Thus faith is not something that one can simply begin to practice, but something beyond our nature. The Theological virtues are the pledge of the presence and action of the holy spirit in the faculties of the human being.

What does God reveal to man?

Over history God has revealed himself first of all to Adam and eve, Noah and in a special way to Abraham our father in faith. However the full and definitive stage of God’s revelation is accomplished in Jesus, the word made flesh. The deposit of faith which Christ has left behind through his Apostles comprises of the Dogmatic tradition and sacred scripture. The both are so closely united that one of them cannot stand without the other. It must be noted however that Christian Faith is not a “religion of the book”, but of the word of God – not a written and mute word, but incarnate and living. The bible doesn’t contain the whole of Jesus’ teaching or Christianity (mk 4:33, lk 24; 15-16. Jn 16:12, 20:30)

Sins against faith

 The first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it. There are various ways of sinning against faith:

Voluntary doubt about the faith disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief. Involuntary doubt refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity. If deliberately cultivated doubt can lead to spiritual blindness.

 Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. “Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”

 Indifferentism – This is the belief that one religion is as good as another. In other words, the Catholic faith is equal to the Anglican, ECWA or Pentecostal faith. This rejects the truth that the Catholic Church is the Mother Church.


How to preserve the gift from God; Faith.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in Porta Fidei proclaims that the year of faith is an opportunity for the whole church to reappropriate the exact knowledge of faith so as to reinvigorate it, purify it, confirm it and confess it so as to live it.

1.     Faith come by perception: reading catholic literature especially Papal documents Roms 3:8

2.     Study the lives of the saints

3.     Avoid listening to charlatans.

4.     Prayers and sincere reception of the sacraments.

Namse Udosen

Bibliography and further reading

·        Catechism of the Catholic Church: The compendium

·        Porta Fidei: Apostolic exhortation by Pope Benedixt XVI

·        Lumen Fidei: Papal Encyclical of Pope Francis





January 26, 2010

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According to a most ancient tradition the shroud is Jesus’ burial sheet. The one purchased from Joseph of Arimathea, which Jesus’ body was wrapped before burial and later found in the empty tomb.

The shroud is about 4.36 meters by 1.10 meters in dimension. It is woven in a three- to – one herringbone twill, composed of flax fibrils. It’s most distinctive characteristic is the faint, yellowish image of the front and back view of a man with his hands folded across his groin.

One of the great mysteries of the shroud is that science is at a loss to explain how the image came to be there. It was not painted, nor was it drawn. It lacks any form of colour pigments but has stains of AB type blood on it. Image analysis by scientists reveals that the image unexpectedly has the property of decoding into a 3 – dimensional image of a man when darker parts of the image are interpreted to be those features of the man that were closest to the shroud, and the lighter areas of the image those features that were farthest. This is not a property that occurs in photography and researchers could not replicate the effect when they attempted to transfer similar images using techniques of block print, engraving, a hot statue and bas- relief.

The shroud first became known around 1357 when it was exhibited in a small wooden church in the sleepy village, Lirey about a hundred miles southeast from Paris. Jeanne de Vergy, the widow of Geoffery de Charny,a French fighter exhibited the garment in order to raise funds to improve her economic welfare. This was however brief because the local Bishop then, Henri Poitiers order the exhibitions to stop.

The shroud has been to a lot of places spanning from Jerusalem to Edessa, in modern day Turkey to Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) from where it was taken to Athens and finally in the 14th century it arrived in France. In 1453 it became the property of the Royal house of Savoy. The Umberto of Savoy donated it to the Vatican in 1983.

In 1898, the cardinal of Turin commissioned Secondo Pia, a lawyer, to take pictures of the relic. At around midnight of May 28, that year Pia was in the dark room developing negatives, when he got the greatest shock of his life; the photographic plate on the reverse showed the image of a man and a face that could not have been observed with the naked eye. The mystery of the image associated with the holy face of Jesus started that evening.

The shroud had overturned all the laws that govern photography. It was discovered that the image on the cloth bears all the characteristics of a negative image, meaning that Pia’s photographic negative acted as the positive image. This is unique to the shroud, and remains a mystery to this day.

As usual scientists doubted the authenticity of this relic even in the face of evidence from pollen testing. In 1978, the Shroud of Turin Research Project(STRUP) composed of seven scientists studied the shroud for five days, their result was that the shroud could not be a forgery.

To have a definitive proof, carbon- 14 dating tests were carried out in 1988 in three separate and highly prestigious laboratories simultaneously: Oxford in

England, Tucson in the US and Zurich in Switzerland. The results showed that the shroud originated between 1260 and 1390 and therefore was a forgery. A big blow was dealt the Catholic Church, but that was not the end.

A Russian scientist, Dimitri Kutznetov, proved that a piece of cloth, when subjected to high temperatures, increases its’ carbon content, and would therefore test younger than it actually is. Now the shroud had indeed been in a building that had caught fire in 1532, in Savoy, France. Many sindonologists have agreed that the 1988 carbon 14 test was flawed. Also, the late Raymond Rogers, a member of STURP, was given access to left over samples from the 1988 testing, showed in a paper published in Thermochirmica Acta

that the sample used in the testing was not part of the original cloth, probably due to the fact that the cloth was repaired at a point.

Scientific testing on the shroud continues, but historians are equally at work. Alessandro Piana, a 28 year old Italian biologist sheds more light on the dark period of the shroud between 1204, when it disappeared from Constantinople to the middle of the 14th century when it resurfaced in France. The key to unfolding the mystery is a certain Frenchman Othon de la Roche, Baron of Ray- sur- Saone.

It is said that before Jesus died, Abgar V, the first century ruler of Edessa who was stricken with leprosy had requested he come and heal him. He sent a disciple Jude Thadeus, who arrived in Edessa after the death and resurrection of Christ bearing the burial garment. The emperor received healing and he and his Kingdom were thus converted to Christianity, the shroud was venerated by the converts. Abgar V’s son reverted to paganism and persecuted Edessa’s Christians. The cloth vanished but it memories remained. Nearly 500 years later, a cloth bearing the image of a man was found in a niche above Edessa’s west gate, after the reappearance, the cloth with the holy image was again venerated and its discernible influence on art began at that time

By 944 the shroud had been taken to Constantinople and was in the hands of the Byzantine Emperors. Emperor Romanus Lececapus after conquering Edessa exchanged 200 muslim prisoners for the relic because he thought it would bring protection to his city. In constantinopole the shroud became known as the MANDYLION. During the crusade of Pope Innocent III in 1198, the crusaders left their original target of the Muslims in the holy land and attacked the eastern Christians in Constantinople. After three days the city fell and was looted by the crusaders.

During the crusade Baron la Roche had been a trusted advisor to Boniface of Montferrat, the leader of the crusade. The crusaders raided palaces and churches and took things of value. The most precious objects, however, were not jewels, but the relics of Christ and his saints. Baron who was a gallant, courageous and intelligent soldier was rewarded with the shroud for his efforts and given the title “Megaskyr” meaning “lord of Athens”. He brought the relic to the new city, where he remained until 1225, after which he sailed to France with the relic. A number of antiques belonging to the baron are still kept in the tower of the castle of Ray-sur-saone.They include splinters of the true cross, a banner with an effigy  of the man of the shroud and in particular a wooden casket in which the shroud was allegedly kept during the passage from Constantinople to France. The Templar Knights were also believed to have custody of the shroud, in fact Baron la Roche is said to be a templar. The templar knights were aware of the significance of religious relics and were responsible in a way for the huge trade in these items in the 13th century. More significant was the rumour that they worshipped a mysterious bearded male head called Baphomet during their meetings. In the year 1307, the rumour was used as an excuse by King Philip of France to arrest all Templars in France on charges of heresy and idolatary. In Paris on the 14th of March 1314 AD, the last two Templars were burned at the stake on the island of Seine by King Phi;ip and his cohorts. They proclaimed their innocence of the charges to the end. One was the Grand master of  the Order, Jacques de Molay and his companion in death was the master of Normandy, Geoffrey de Charney! Did this Geoffrey de Charney manage to smuggle the shroud to his family.

These findings are of great importance, not only because they shed light on the 150 year gap, but mainly because they suggest the existence of the shroud in a historical date before the one indicated by the carbon 14 test of 1988.

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