...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:46 PM [+]
H/T: Mike W
A bit of a lunchtime babble here.
A curiously written article about Relics in the context of the Roman Catholic Tradition. I say "curiously" because it seems the author at once REALLY likes Relics - decrying their falling out of the spotlight in the RCC - and yet he seems to treat them with some degree of levity and what I hope is skewed popular perceptions regarding the practice. I cannot help but a few words.
First, the notion that the "cult of relics" began with Polycarp is simply not true. It is one of the first extant and definitive examples of the early Church ascribing great care for the body of a martyr, but that by no means implies that we are here witnessing its birth. Also, the impression I got from these few lines in the article just don't seem to do justice to the actual account. Compare and contrast:
"Polycarp's followers scurried over and scooped up his remains and ran off with them. With that, the cult of relics was born."
From Martyrdom of Polycarp:
"And so we afterwards took up his bones which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place; where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together, as we are able, in gladness and joy, and to celebrate the birth-day of his martyrdom for the commemoration of those that have already fought in the contest, and for the training and preparation of those that shall do so hereafter."
I see a difference of perspective here. This is NOT a "macabre culture" that "yearned to see bones and other pieces of sanctified stiffs encased in glass." This is a holistic and an o(O)rthodox Christian honoring of God's Image in our flesh. There's a world of difference between honor and veneration and an odd interest in the macabre.
The Church has ALWAYS revered the body as a "temple" and unlike some Christians today, we do not dabble in gnosticism! We, like the most ancient Church, believe the body is sacred and is not merely a shell to be freed from upon death. We preach the Resurrection...our Lord's and our own!
I really did like this line from the article though:
"...the faithful are hungering for a less sterile form of religion."
This, I believe is absolutely true...it reminded me (somewhat) of this old post of mine. But let's face it, most Christians who are unfamiliar with the idea of relics are extremely put off by it. I cannot tell you how many people I meet these days who intend to be cremated and additionally cannot stand the notion of seeing a "corpse" (I just don't like this word...sounds too...well...too clinical) at an open casket funeral. So the honor given to relics is profoundly foreign to most Americans (at least). And, well, I wouldn't exactly offer this article as a means of encouraging anyone to start looking positively upon the venerable custom. You might start with some lengthy excerpts Clifton collected some four years ago.
We Orthodox (and I suspect the RCC as well) are a faith that believes in STUFF. By "stuff" I mean that our faith is not simply in our hearts or spirits or mental constructs...we believe it is in our hands, our feet, our lips, our ears, our noses, our EVERYTHING. AND, it's in this world too! A sacramental faith believes that our interactions with God need not only take place in a mental encounter alone.
A few more things to say:
"For the faithful, praying to a saint's relic..."
Blech! We do not pray TO a saint's relics. Nonsense.
"Prince Albrecht of Brandenburg had a stock of saintly remains so huge that a tireless pilgrim could have accrued a remission from purgatory of 39,245,120 years."
Funny...but the teaching represented in the joke is NOT. We've never believed it and I think the Catholics are no longer doing purgatory math, are they?
I do, however, appreciate the author's interest in seeing relics be revived in RC parish life. We should all be well aware of whose Holy Relics call our various parishes home.
The Catholics are, indeed, still playing the Purgatory game. I believe the current edition of the NAB has an imprimatur of B16 saying that such-and-such amount of Bible reading a day will lead to this-or-that amount of time out of you-know-where.