Relics…

Although as a general rule Orthodox Christians do not “proof text”, that is take a selection of individual verses from the Bible to “prove” a particular doctrine, here are some passages from the Bible which do undergird the larger Orthodox understanding, forged not just from the texts but also from the lived experience of the Faith,  that the power of God is able to manifest itself, in certain circumstances, through either the remains of a holy person or objects that may have been touched by the holy person.

 

Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the main’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet. (2 Kings 13:21, NIV)

Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding to 12 years came up behind him [Jesus] and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed from that moment. (Matthew 9:20-22, NIV)

People brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by… and all of them were healed. (Acts 5:15-16, NIV)

God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. (Acts 19:11-12, NIV)

 

While one may rightly object to the abuse of the practice of veneration of relics, it should also be noted that it is not without biblical precedent. It is also not without precedent in the larger human understanding. We often, as humans, cherish objects, for example, that have been given to us by those who have departed this life because we understand that a certain part of the person and their attributes remain with us in those objects. We obviously don’t and shouldn’t worship such things, but they do hold a cherished and venerable place in our hearts.  Historically, even in the earliest eras of the Faith Christian believers understood that the graces of God were so profound and powerful in certain people that they were holy, as it were, right down to the bone and that this holiness, because all true holiness is from God, is not ended by death.

 

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