Monday, December 21, 2015

Late Sunday evening religion: The veil of Veronica.

This is the kind of story, with all its convolutions, revisions, duplications, and just plain doubts, which causes me to reconsider the wisdom of having converted to Catholicism in my twenties, those many years ago.

Age may not automatically bring wisdom, but it does afford us the luxury of a certain amount of introspection. I look back at that younger me, and sometimes I ask myself, "What the hell were you thinking?" And sometimes, I have to be honest with myself, and admit that I simply wasn't thinking a whole lot at a particular moment in time when I ought to have been thinking very seriously.

In my own defence here, I should add that during my conversion studies lasting three months or so, I don't recall any mention of a "veil of Veronica". Good thing. It might have provoked some serious thinking.

In a program on the tube this Sunday evening, I'm soaking up details of this cloth said to depict the actual face of Christ, and which has an elaborate and carefully manipulated history, including its place in St. Peter's in Rome, and its veneration by our Pope. And as I'm watching all this, I'm asking myself "Why would anyone venerate a piece of cloth in a frame, rather than the real Christ?" And my next thought was, "Is Christ guilty of the sin of vanity, in that he wishes his portrait to be admired by a select few of the faithful's hierarchy as a reminder of the proper 'chain of command' here?" My answer being, "Of course not! Christ reportedly said 'If you love me, keep my commandments!' - he didn't say 'Keep my picture by your bedside' - he meant 'if you truly respect and love me and believe in me, then you will follow my teachings.' And those teachings did not encourage vanity.

That is the kind of problem an old man like me has with his religious beliefs and their underlying background records of preservation, or modification, or simply revisions of what we are told is 'history'. And at times, that 'cloth' seems to be quite frankly a fabrication. It should not matter in the least to any of us what a son of God may actually look like, because if we're getting all hung up on that, then we've already missed the point of this whole exercise of connecting to our God, and fulfilling our proper places in his universe.

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