The world needs your singing, for the language of beauty moves hearts and contributes to the encounter with God.
Message from Msgr Thompson for Easter
To the Presidents, to the Almoners and to the Young Choristers of the various Pueri Cantores Federations
Our faith rejoices in Christ dead and risen again
I recently attended a screening of Mel Gibson‘s "The Passion of the Christ". It was, for me, an overwhelming experience. Not so much because of the rawness of the images, which some may have found shocking, but because of the general context of the film, where we see a Jesus who fully assumes his mission as our Saviour, in the midst of atrocities that could squeeze tears from a stone. I appreciated enormously the ingenious flash-backs that sometimes created conjunctions of true originality, while offering us an intelligent overview of the basic evangelical doctrine. It was genuinely exciting!
There are those who decry what they believe to be exaggeration in the scenes of suffering. But I would like to draw your attention to that unique relic, the Shroud of Turin, with which I have been acquainting my Young Choristers for over 20 years now, and that bears traces of over 600 lacerations over the whole body of the man in the shroud.
Anyone involved in the ministry of the liturgy, and that includes the chorister, has an interest in meditating on such matters in order to better understand that it was the Son of God, transmuted into ‚a man of suffering‘ (Isaiah 53:3) who redeemed us and that "by his stripes we were healed" (Isaiah 53:5). The chorister‘s voice will be even more sincere and moving when, for example, singing Victoria‘s sublime "O vos omnes".
But Jesus had to rise from among the dead in order that his mission be completed. He had predicted this resurrection several times (Mat. 12:40 ; 16:21. John 2:19-21 ; 10:17 ; 16:16-23). And the proof is there, substantiated by many witnesses, witnesses so convincing, that it has been said that there is more historical proof of the resurrection of Jesus Christ than of Napoleon‘s defeat at Waterloo.
The events have been confirmed both by credible historians such as Flavius Josephus (37-100 AD), Ignatius of Antioch (50-107? AD) and Justin Martyr (100-165 AD), but the evangelists themselves offer incontrovertible facts on the subject.
To stay with this linkage with the shroud, let us remember John‘s very touching narration of his entry into the Holy Sepulchre and of seeing ‚the wrappings lying on the ground‘, proof that the glorious body of Christ had traversed the shroud: "He saw and believed." (John 20:7-9)
Additionally, there were a great number of eye-witnesses who saw Jesus in flesh and blood, alive, following his resurrection. These included Mary Magdalene, the disciples at Emmaus, some disciples without Thomas, then again with Thomas, the latter displaying an incredulity that had quite the opposite impact, making the facts even more credible! Saint Paul even mentions that "he was seen by five hundred brothers at once" (Cor. 15: 6).
What is more, it is essential to say that many of these witnesses were put to death because they confessed as to what they had seen. How can we disbelieve such a profound truth? Who would agree to die for a lie?
When we raise our voices in honour of the resurrection of Christ, they should have the same timbre as those of the first witnesses, completely overwhelmed by what they had seen or heard!
And to conclude, I would like to come back to the Shroud of Turin, that silent witness whose imprint will always remain a mystery, a mystery that science seems unable to resolve, incapable of determining the origins of this photographic negative whose subtle range of shades creates a three dimensional image. Jean-Paul II, who went to Turin in 1998 to pay reverence to the Shroud, remarked that it "defied understanding".
And supposing that, against all odds, modern science were able to confirm the reality of this fundamental basis of our belief, wouldn‘t that be wonderful?
Speaking to this, a US laser ray specialist, one Gerry Goldblack, has come out with a very daring hypothesis to explain how the image was formed. Substantially, he says: "What we have here is a snapshot of the Resurrection that proves the reality of faith in an everlasting life available to all human beings... Most scientists today believe that the image on the Shroud was formed by a surge of radiant energy and that it is some kind of light form, though we cannot identify its exact nature. But today, we have access to a laser ray whose impulses of luminous energy are shorter than anything ever generated by human beings1 . My first impression, and nothing has changed that, is that we are dealing with a snapshot of the Resurrection that took no longer than 1/1000000000 second, and during this space of time, Christ‘s body was literally transformed, as it says in the Bible, leaving an image on the cloth of the Shroud." 2
Thus, an incredulous world found itself with the image of the man of the Shroud, a face on which is portrayed all the suffering of the world, a face disfigured but yet in which the believer can already see another face, that of the resurrected Christ.
Never forget that the liturgy we sing is centred on our faith in a Jesus who bears the sins of the world in order to deliver that world from those very sins, in a Jesus who stands as the first to be resurrected, who walks ahead of us in glory, offering us a glimpse of the Beauty that is our ultimate and final goal. The ministry of holy chant thus becomes a sublime mission.
1 If such energy is very intense, then it must be of extremely short duration, otherwise the cloth would catch fire and be consumed.
2 Extract from a TV program on the Shroud of Turin, Radio-Canada, May 20, 1979