Saturday, January 20, 2007

On The True Cross

You may have noticed, particularly if you read my other blogs, that some things tend to get on my nerves. I'd have to say the worst offender is the habit that was rampant in the late 20th century of considering all our ancestors to be hopeless idiots because they didn't have the benefit of our superior intellectual powers. I won't comment, except to suggest you read the Summa Theologica and Catcher In The Rye. That ought to make it clear.
Now, one of the most ridiculous examples is an old line you've probably heard. "There are enough relics of the Cross to make a whole forest of crosses." You've heard that one, haven't you? I've been hearing it for years and I've even said it on occasion. I omitted the sneer that usually accompanies it, however. Then I did something that has to be avoided like the plague if you want to hold on to nostrums of this sort. I started thinking about it. Stop and think about how much wood is in the average tree. Run with it and think about how much wood would be needed to make a forest. That's a lot of wood. In order for the existing relics of the True Cross to make a forest, there'd have to be a hefty chunk in every Catholic and Orthodox church in the world. There isn't. Get the picture?
I'm not generally dumb enough to think I'm the first to think about things like this, so I did some research. It seems the first to come up with this particular bit of horsehockey was an expert in inventing nonsense, the great John Calvin. Really unimpeachable source, that. He was modest about it. Didn't say a forest, just enough to fill a ship. It took later dimbulbs to exaggerate the estimate.
Back in 1870, a man named Rohault de Fleury wrote Memoire sur les Instrument de la Passion. He tracked down the existing relics and started figuring. The Cross would have been about three or four meters tall. Not much room for argument on that. Fleury estimated that its volume would have been about 178 cubic meters. Then he started estimating the size of all known relics of the Cross and started adding. They add up to about 4 cubic meters. Calvin's ship must have been the one that kept his rubber ducky company in the bathtub. We won't even think about the matchstick forest.
By the way, the picture is the largest surviving relic of the True Cross, at the monastery of San Toribio in Spain. Am I saying all the relics of the Cross are genuine? Probably not. But it's no more "scientific" to deny the possibility that some are genuine than to accept the lot without question. For more, click HERE
(Photo Credit)

2 comments:

Hooda Thunkit said...

Yeah, but what are you going to do when relic collectors are clamoring for more..., you "find" more. . .

After all, business IS business ;-)

Jeffrey Smith said...

I can only partly agree. The relatively small number of spurious relics speaks well for the restraint of collectors. By the way, I'm tracking down a collection of impressive relics in a local parish.