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Meditation 408
How does anyone believe this stuff?

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Today is the final day of Milan's Festa della Nivola (15 - 18 September 2005.) I thought you would be amused by the background to this traditional festival in which the Archbishop of Milan is hoisted each year in a mechanical bucket to the heights of the Duomo to retrieve a nail.

Most of the holy places associated with Jesus were "identified" by Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great in the 4th century, some 300 years after the fact. Other than the New Testament, she had no way of determining actual locations and relied on "signs" to guide her. Consequently many Christian scholars regard these sites which are still venerated today as only symbolic, and not necessarily the true sites.

On one of her pilgrimages, Helena lit a bonfire and followed the smoke. Rationally, this may have been a sign of which way the wind was blowing, but not much else. However, such was her credulity in her powers of interpretation that she followed the smoke and it led her to a dump outside Jerusalem. On excavation, she unsurprisingly found some old wood in the dump. This she promptly identified as the remnants of the True Cross.

Not only that, she also found three nails amongst the trash and of course Helena determined they were very nails used to affix Christ to the cross three centuries earlier. How else could you explain bits of wood and a few nails in a dump?

She took the pieces of wood and the nails back to Constantinople with her.

Many years later, a nail was discovered on top of a crucifix high in the Duomo di Milano. Naturally, it was decided this was one of the three nails used in the crucifixion that Helena had discovered in the garbage outside Jerusalem. Where else could a nail possibly have come from?

And every year the rediscovery of the nail is celebrated in Milan with the Festa della Nivola.

How does anyone believe this stuff?