Monday, 2 January 2012

The Legend of the Letter from the Lord

Since 2003, I have had a devotion to St Jude, Patron of hopeless cases. I endeavour to pray to him every morning in my daily prayers. His intercession is without doubt very powerful indeed with God, and his fame for procuring favours for the Faithful in desperate need is nearly global.

Recently, I acquired a CTS book on the Saint and discovered the Legend of the letter from the Lord. By pious tradition St Jude is involved in a remarkable story involving a letter said to have been either written by, or dictated by Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The CTS pamphlet says...

'One of the most well-known stories about St Jude begins in Edessa, the capital of a small kingdom in the area of what is now Urfa in Southern Turkey.  The king of Edessa, Agbar V 'The Black', had contracted leprosy and, having heard of Jesus's miracles, wrote to ask Jesus to come and heal him. Eusebius quotes the letter as well as Jesus's alleged reply: 
Agbar, Ruler of the city of Edessa, to Jesus the Saviour, the good physician, who has appeared in Jerusalem, Greetings -
I have heard about you and about the cures you perform without medicine or herbs. What I have heard is that you make the blind see again and the lame walk, you cleanse lepers, expel unclean spirits and demons, cure those who have suffered from chronic and painful diseases, and raise the dead. On hearing all this about you, I concluded that one of two things must be true - either you are God and came down from heaven to do these things, or you are God's son doing them. I am therefore writing to ask you to come to me and cure the illness from which I suffer. I have heard that the Jews are treating you badly and wish to cause you harm - my city is very small, but very noble, adequate for both of us to live in peace.' 
Jesus's reply:
'Blessed is he who has never seen me and yet believes in me. Long ago it was written that those who see me will not believe in me and that those who have not seen me will believe in me and be saved. As to your request that I visit you, it is better for me to stay here and finish the work I was sent to do. After I have finished, then I will be taken up to him who sent me. Then I will send you one of my disciples to heal your disease and bring salvation to you and your people'. 
Eusebius says he read these letters in a Greek translation of the original Aramaic and did not question their authenticity. These days they are dismissed as forgeries, although some people believe these were spoken messages which were written down later. In any case, the letters were cherished relics in Edessa and were widely believed to protect the city - so much so that, when the Persians besieged the city, Christ's letter was held aloft on the city walls and hte Persians were defeated. The letters, forgeries or not, have disappeared in the mists of time but are rumoured to be held in a monastery in Kyrgyzstan. 
King Agbar had also commissioned a portrait of Jesus, but the painter was unable to paint him. Jesus, feeling sorry for the man, pressed a cloth to his face and an image miraculously appeared. This was called the mandylion (a small cloth or handkerchief). One tradition says that this cloth was delivered to Agbar by St Jude and this is one explanation of the large portrait medallion of Jesus that statues of St Jude are shown wearing. The cloth was venerated in Edessa and then, after AD 945, in Constantinople, in the Hagia Sophia (Church of the Holy Wisdom). During the Fourth Crusade in 1204 the cloth disappeared. There are many claims as to what happened to it next. It could be hte cloth in the church of San Bartolomeo degli Armeni in Genoa. It has also been linked to the Sudarium, another cloth kept in Oviedo Cathedral. 
Various sources say that when the disciples went out to the world, Jude went first to Edessa to fulfil Jesus's promise to Agbar. Eusebius says Jude stayed there in the Jewish quarter with a man called Tobias. According to The Golden Legend, Jude cured Agbar by wiping his face with Christ's letter and Agbar was converted, as were many other people in Edessa.'

2 comments:

  1. Why has Our Blessed Ladys face been defaced and Child Jesus on the opening banner headline of Guild of Catholic Bloggers? I would like to see their faces on this enchanting piece of art. Thank you.

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  2. Thank you for correcting it.

    ReplyDelete