A Doctor at Calvary
Pope Pius XII listened to the medical explanation of Christ's sufferings on the Cross and went pale with grief: "We did not know; no one ever told us that."What so moved the Pope were the results of a renowned surgeon's unprecedented research into the physical sufferings of Our Lord, about which the Gospels reveal only the barest essentials. Collecting his findings in this mind-opening book, Dr. Pierre Barbet relied heavily on his close analysis of the Holy Shroud of Turin to re-create every stage of the Passion with heart-rending precision and detail. The result: a minor classic of spirituality by a modern layman. For Lenten meditation, this volume is unsurpassed. For example:
- The painful hemorrhaging phenomenon which corresponds to Jesus' sweating "drops of blood" - and renders the skin more susceptible to pain
- The "flagrum" used for scourging: designed to inflict deep wounds
- Evidence that Christ received more than the customary number of blows during the scourging - by two soldiers at once
- The Crown of Thorns: more like a cap - cutting into Our Lord's head in every part. How we know the thorns were particularly long and sharp
- Did Christ merely drag the Cross to Calvary, as artists often depict? Evidence suggests otherwise. How much it weighed
- Countless medically accurate details on the Shroud that no medieval artist could have forged - or even known about
- Were Christ's feet nailed separately, or one over the other? Dr. Barbet settles the question
- How the descent from the Cross differed from its depiction by nearly all artists
- Why Our Lord's violent thirst? Why the nailing to the Cross is one of the most terrible ways of torture a human can suffer
- The determining cause of Our Lord's death: asphyxia, after prolonged struggle. What it would have been like
Dr. Barbet was a devout Catholic who knew the spiritual value of his findings - and he encouraged priests to use them in homilies: "It is largely with a view to these clerics that I have wished to divulge my ideas, so that they may nourish their devotion to Jesus."
"Then therefore Pilate took Jesus and scourged him." (John 19:1)
What the Gospels merely mention, Barbet describes in detail, based on hard evidence.
There are two executioners, one on each side of Him, of unequal height (all this may be deduced from the direction of the marks on the shroud). They alternate their strokes, with great zest. At first, the strokes leave long livid marks, long blue bruises beneath the skin. Remember that the skin has already been affected; that it is sore owing to the millions of little intra-dermic hemorrhages brought about by the sweat of blood. Further marks are made by the balls of lead. Then the skin, into which the blood has crept, becomes tender and breaks under fresh blows. The blood pours out; shreds of skin become detached and hang down. The whole of the back is now no more than a red surface, on which great furrows stand out like marble; and, here and there, everywhere, there are deeper wounds caused by the balls of lead. These wounds, shaped like a halter (the two balls and the thong between them), will make their marks on the shroud.
At each stroke, the body gives a painful shudder. But He has not opened His mouth, and His silence redoubles the Satanic rage of His executioners. It is no longer a cold-blooded, judicial execution; it is the unchaining of demons. The blood flows from His shoulders down to the earth (the large paving-stones are covered with it), and is scattered like rain by the lifted whips as far as the red cloaks of the onlookers. But the strength of the Victim soon begins to fail; sweat breaks out on His forehead; His head whirls with giddiness and nausea; shivers run down His spine; His legs give way under Him, and if He was not tied up by His wrists, He would slip down into the pool of blood. They have completed the count, even though they have not counted. After all, they have not received the order that He should die under the lash. Let Him recover a bit; there will be further chances for amusement.