On the Veneration of the Holy Relics

By Archpriest Vasily Demidov

"Behold we count them happy which endure..." (Js. 5:11).

In the apostolic Church, all the remains of the "friends of God," the righteous strugglers (I Cor. 9:25), were referred to as relics — bones, heads, hair, hands, feet, and sometimes entire bodies, if they were preserved, through which the Lord God is glorified by mysterious wonders. The Protestant Lutherans and all sectarians reject the veneration of the holy remains of Christian strugglers, and, like the heretics of times past, laugh at this pious custom and scoff at Orthodox Christians who call upon the friends of God in their prayers to Him. The sectarians, without any serious proof, maintain that it is nowhere proclaimed in the Bible that we should honor the friends of God (Jn. 15:14), to reverence the remains of the holy martyrs and ascetics, and to glorify in sacred hymns those who have suffered for Christ, shedding their blood.

Of course, the question of the veneration and glorification of the holy martyrs, and the ascetics that served Christ during their life without the shedding of their blood, touches upon a number of beliefs — the impious reject them all. They do not believe in God, they do not acknowledge the immortality of the soul, they reject even man's conscience and feeling of shame and accept only material things, disregarding the spiritual realm. The communists blaspheme, making a mockery of the relics of the holy ascetics; but for believers, relics are objects of great veneration, and this is why, from the days of the apostles, Christians have reverently honored both the martyrs themselves and all the "friends of God" — the ascetics, and their bones, as well as all their remains.

Christians are convinced and deeply believe that the "friends of God" who have come out of great tribulation and have made their robes white in the Blood of the Lamb, abide now before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His temple (Rev. 7:14-15). Christians turn with prayer to God and believe in the power of the prayerful intercession of the Saints before Him, for they have that One Intercessor with the Blood — Jesus Christ—and a multitude of intercessors in prayer (II Cor. 1:11).

Only ignorant and thoughtless people can reject that which is mystical in the Christian religion. Religion itself — i.e., the bond between the human soul and the everlasting Spirit of God — is the greatest mystery. All of human life is surrounded by mystical and incomprehensible phenomena. The birth and death of man constitute a great marvel, for people know not whence they come and whither they go. "For who hath known the mind of the Lord?" asks the apostle. "How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!" (Rom. 9:33-34). Yet, the Righteous Job of the Old Testament pointed out mysterious phenomena incomprehensible to many, saying: "The Mighty One...hath done great things which we knew not" (Job 37:5).

The Lord God works in the world in various ways. "in wisdom hath He made them all" (Ps. 103:24). Of all His creations on the earth, the Lord considered man alone worthy of great gifts, investing in him something divine which is called the conscience. He gave him the gift of speech, the feeling of shame, regret, sympathy, pity, reverence and worship for the Most High. Possessing the divine spark in his soul, man, enlightened by faith in Christ, already glorifies God, showing himself in his bodily form to be a temple of the Holy Spirit. "Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, which is in you, which ye have of God?" (I Cor. 6:19).

Christ Himself attests that He lives in His friends: "I in them and Thou in me" (Jn. 17:23). "If a man serve me, him will My Father honor" (Jn. 12:26). "And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them" (Jn. 17:22). "1 am glorified in them" (Jn. 17:10). The Church of the apostles does not deify inanimate objects; it does not honor the Saints for any sort of divinity; it does not render to anyone any form of worship; being instructed by the word of the Scriptures, it humbly offers worship to the One Almighty God, deeply, with child-like simplicity, believing that the holy relics are divinely-chosen instruments of the power of God and His might. In the holy relics the power of God is shown forth.

An excerpt from: http://orthodoxinfo.com/general/relics.aspx

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