A Divine Coincidence?

Image of the Divine Mercy of Jesus

Last weekend we had our Divine Mercy Feast Day, the culmination of the Easter Octave.  Normally, this would have been followed with a parish meal in the hall, with often some 200 people gathering together!  The graces given by our Lord on this day are certainly something to celebrate together and we hope that next year will be more normal.

What do we see in the sacred image of The Divine Mercy which is in our church next to the saint’s first class relic?  It was commissioned by our Lord, who appeared in a vision to Saint Faustina on February 22, 1931.  What she witnessed she described in her spiritual journal in these words: “In the evening, when I was in my cell, I saw the Lord Jesus clothed in a white robe. One hand was raised in the gesture of blessing, the other was touching the garment at the breast. From beneath the garment, slightly drawn aside at the breast there were emanating two large rays, one red the other pale…” In Christ’s own words, “The two rays denote blood and water. The pale ray stands for the water, which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the blood which is the life of souls” (§299). These represent the basic sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist which operate in believers the fruit of the paschal mysteries.

We know that Sister Faustina was never pleased with the image. But one day, after the artist had already repainted the face of Christ for at least the tenth time, she came to the studio and announced that Jesus had told her to leave the image in the state it was in. The reason for the strenuous effort that was required to depict the Lord’s face in this particular image would remain locked in mystery for two generations.  For it was only recently [1996] that a larger image, printed from the 1931 photographic plates of the Shroud of Turin, was placed by chance on top of a comparably-sized poster of the Divine Mercy image painted in Vilnius in 1934 with the result that, when the superimposed images were unexpectedly backlit, they revealed a startling coincidence.

The Shroud of Turin is an ancient linen cloth that bears the image of a crucified man who has been tortured by scourging and puncture wounds to the head and body.  When the same-sized images are laid one on top of the other, it was found that on both images there is the same distance between the pupils; the nose is of practically the same length; the form of the lips is identical; the moustache and the beard are of the same cut; the hair falls at the sides in the same way. All these points allow for a practically perfect correspondence between the two faces.

It does not appear that the Vilnius artist had a copy of the photo of the Shroud of Turin taken in 1931, the same year Saint Faustina was granted her vision and the mission associated with it.  His need continually to alter the countenance on the painting because of the visionary’s disapproval of his attempts would attest to that.  Indeed the Shroud is in fact a photographic negative which was unheard of when the image was somehow “scorched” onto the shroud cloth.  How, then, could an image, completed in 1934 after repeated alterations to the face, have features that matched so well those of “the man of the shroud of Turin,” found on a burial cloth now known to be at least two thousand years old?    (The carbon dating, once suggesting it was a medieval fake, is now widely thought of as suspect and meaningless as it was only done on a medieval repair patch).  No one has a good idea how front and back images of a crucified man came to be on the cloth. Yes, it is possible to create images that look similar.  But no one has created images that match the chemistry, peculiar superficiality and profoundly mysterious three-dimensional information content of the images on the Shroud.

The Divine Mercy image shows the Lord’s right hand raised in a gesture of blessing and absolution – priestly ministries. The eyes of the Lord in the painting and the composite image gaze downwards upon us as from the cross, compassionately – “Father, forgive them…” Jesus offers us the life-giving and light-bearing rays of his mercy. They emerge from his wounded side and from his opened heart – so prominently evident on the shroud – to replace, to transform our hearts of stone, to be at one with God and receive the promised fruits of His passion and the glory of His resurrection – the complete remission of sins and punishment due.

(Based with permission on an analysis by Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC with additions)

The Turin Shroud is the single most studied artefact in human history.  We will look at it more in next week’s newsletter – but if you can’t wait, you can superimpose the images yourself and learn more of the science at https://discovermercy.github.io/