This weekend is a very solemn one in the worldwide Christian community, as the faithful commemorate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
A few legends have evolved in connection with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ nearly 2 000 years ago.
The Holy Grail is one such legend. Since the description of an artifact with miraculous powers in the literature of the 12th century AD, some people have speculated that artifact was the cup or vessel that Christ drank from at the last supper in the upper room with His disciples, a day or two before His crucifixion.
The speculation has it further that the same vessel was used by Joseph of Arimathea to collect the blood of Jesus as the latter hang on the cross at Golgotha.
Harrison Ford starred in a 1989 film titled Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in which he, an archeologist, had running battles with the Nazis in 1938 over the Holy Grail.
What both parties did not realise was that the grail had mystical powers to defend itself against any intruders.
They eventually found it, but it mysteriously disappeared from their possession. Another legend flowing from the Easter story is the Shroud of Turin.
This is a piece of cloth believed to have been used to wrap the body of Christ as he lay in the tomb. The cloth has a faint image of a man with a beard, a moustache and parted hair, believed to be the image of Christ.
It first appeared around 1353 in a small French Town of Lirey, in the possession of a French Knight called Geoffroy de Charny.
The shroud of Turin has inspired intense debate among theologians and scholars, with some claiming it is a genuine burial piece of cloth of Christ and others maintaining that it is a forgery.
Several scientific tests have been conducted on it—ranging from carbon dating to optical imagery to establish its authenticity or lack of it.
Early carbon dating tests placed its origin in the middle ages. However, more recent scientific articles claim that these early carbon dating tests were erroneous. It is now a matter of conjecture whether the Shroud of Turin is the cloth in which the body of Christ was wrapped, but one thing we know is that the Apostle John records that the cloth that had been around Jesus’ head was found by the disciples rolled up and lying separate from the linen cloths (John20:7).
The shroud is now kept in the royal chapel of the cathedral of St. John the Baptist in the city of Turin in northern Italy.
Perhaps more real, and qualifying as more than a legend, is a phenomenon known as stigmata, common among the Catholic faithful throughout the world.
Stigmata (plural for stigma) is a term used to describe marks or sensations that some people (known as stigmatics) reportedly experience in areas of their body corresponding to the areas of Christ’s body that were pierced, namely hands, feet, the side and sometimes the forehead (the thorny crown that Christ wore pierced some areas around His head, including the forehead).
Some stigmatics have reported intense pain and actual wounds in these areas when they experience stigmata. The first recorded case of stigmata was that of St. Francis of Assisi.
Christian tradition has it that in 1224, St. Francis bore the wounds of Christ’s passion during the apparition (vision) of Seraphic angels.
Since then and up until now, many more people have claimed to have suffered s t i g m a t a o f v a r i o u s degrees. Stigmata are believed to be based on Apostle Paul’s reference to the “marks of Christ” in Galatians 6:7 where he says: “From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”
Any remarkable c h a r a c t e r o r e v e n t will attract all manner of legends, some very highly embellished and others only mildly so. Minus the atrocities, real or imagined, Kamuzu Banda, for example, was a highly remarkable individual.
Little wonder that his life attracted so many legends. Some people have speculated that he was of American origin, others that he had originated in Ghana.
Search within anything y o u m a y c o n s i d e r remarkable and you will notice that numerous legends surround it.
Easter is a truly remarkable event in human history, which is why it has attracted its fair share of legends. Let me wish all my dear readers a very happy Easter.