Today a group of us from church went to the Vatican Splendors Exhibition at the History Museum. The exhibit is making only three stops in America and, \”don\’t ya know it\”, St. Paul landed the honor.
What you see above is called the Mandylion of Edessa. In majestic Catholic fashion a shroud cloth is encased in a rather ostentatious frame.
Here is the scoop:
\”According to Eusebius (325 A.D. church bishop), King Abgar of Edessa was afflicted of an illness, and hearing of the miracles of Jesus as a healer he sent a letter to Him, asking if He would come to his aid. Jesus responded that He could not come, but would send a disciple in His place, which He does [sent after His death]. Thaddeus comes in Jesus\’ place and heals him; according to variants of this story King Abgar is left with the cloth image of Jesus…
The mandylion would surface again around 525 when Edessa was flooded by the Daisan River. Workmen repairing one of the city\’s gates discovered a niche with the cloth inside; the mandylion was declared to be Acheiropoietos (Greek: Αχειροποίητος), \”not made by hands\”, meaning that it was a miraculous image created supernaturally and not by man. The mandylion stayed in Edessa as a means of protection for the city from harm until taken to Constantinople in 944, where it was received with great fanfare by Emperor Romanus I. There it stayed until disappearing in the sack of the city during the Fourth Crusade in 1204.\” (http://www.conservapedia.com/Mandylion)
According to Eusebius this is the correspondence between King Abgar and Jesus:
\”Abgar, suffering from an incurable disease, invited Jesus to come to Edessa to heal him.
\’In my thoughts I have arrived at two possible conclusions, that either you are God and have come down from heaven to achieve these things or you do these things because you are the Son of God…I have heard that the Jews murmur against you and wish to do you harm. My city is quite small, but it is honorable, and there is a place in it for both of us.\’
Jesus supposedly sent a letter in reply:
\’Blessed are you with your faith in me, although you have not seen me. Indeed, it has been written of me that those who saw me would not believe in me, so that those who have not seen me would have faith and life. With regard to what you have written, that I should come to you, it is necessary for me to accomplish here that for which I was sent and, after it has been done, to return to Him who sent me. But when I have been taken up, I will send one of my disciples to you, to cure your illness and to give life to you and yours.\’\” – Eusebius, History of the Church (325)
The image was probably the most compelling in the exhibit. I found tears in my eyes as I gazed into those Eyes. Although in a proper museum with large crowds mingling, I wanted to drop to my knees in worship. The picture doesn\’t do it justice, seeing the real thing is rather mind blowing…was for me, anyway.
It may be only legend, and that is ok. It still speaks volumes and, no doubt, some (even today) are healed in their viewing of it. Reminds me that our God is a person, has a face, a healing visage, eyes that sees us, and a penetrating gaze that knows everything, sees right through our facades. We are known and loved…how can we say \’No\’ to that gaze, I ask. I don\’t know, I don\’t know…
Lengthy history of the Mandylion at http://www.mystae.com/restricted/reflections/messiah/edessa.html