Monday, January 25, 2010


A relic is, in the simplest definition, portions of the earthly remains of Saints - also included are pieces of their clothing, vestments, or, for instance pieces of the True Cross. Now, I know that in Catholicism they break it down into First, Second and Third Class relics. A First Class relic is an actual piece of a Saint - a finger bone for instance. A Second Class relic would be a piece of their clothing - something that they used and touched. A Third Class relic would be something that touched something the Saint used. I'm not certain if Orthodoxy classes their relics in the same way, or at all.

In Catholicism, and, I believe, Orthodoxy as well, a relic is embedded in the altar of a church at the consecration of that church.

We venerate the relics of Saints because of the belief that, even after death, their body remains the temple of the Holy Spirit and that God may still perform miracles through their remains. I believe this is tied into the understanding of the physical world. I've heard it described as a 'sacramental world view' - God acts through physical things to affect us. Thus why all of the Sacraments or Mysteries involve not merely words and spiritual effects, but physical objects as well. Water at Baptism. Bread and Wine at Communion.

Go back to my posts on Moses and the Burning Bush or Elisha's Bones. Both contain verses from the Bible briefly illustrating that interaction with God makes physical, worldly things different. Sanctifies them. Elisa was dead and gone, yet touching his bones brought a man back to life. Why? The power of God working through the physical 'medium' if you will, of a saintly man's bones.

Now no ones saying that if you touch a dead person with the bones or a Saint they'll jump right up, all better, but is it so inconceivable that God can still work miracles in this way? Or do you think that the Presence of God, even in the slightest reflection, does not alter a physical form?


So that's my incredibly late and short relics post.

Any one have anything they want to talk about? Questions you're just dying to know the answers to?


  1. This use to creep me out as a kid. I was all "theres bones in the altar!?" Now i think its kind of a cool concept. Shias do this too (oh look another similarity). There are shrines to the Imams, some have articles or reminants of the Imams. I believe some are even their tombs. And at some Shia mosques there is a room which has replicas of the shrines and you can go and thank the Imams for their service and ask for intervention. Just like Saints!

    I always wonder everytime I go to a Catholic church what Saint is in the altar....

  2. I (think) it's supposed to be a relic of the Saint the church is named for. For instance, my parish is San Pedro (St. Peter) so (I've been informed by a deacon) the relic in our altar is one of St. Peter's. I don't believe it's a bone in our case though, so it's likely a piece of cloth.

    LOL. My verification word is 'panic'.

  3. I'm so glad you explained this. How very interesting!

    The Umayyad mosque in Damascus supposedly has John the Baptist's head. They have a shrine to him in there. The Shi'ite mosque had something from some lady who was killed or died. I can't recall now. People would go to the shrines and sometimes cry. It was a bit strange to me, but I've never been around relics or shrines. *surprise, surprise*

    And, of course God could do what you described! Miracles like that can happen for with God all things are possible.

    Thanks for this great post!

  4. Susanne,

    There's a variety of different places that claim to have St. John the Forerunner's head. I don't believe that the mosque has it. But I have no backup for that. Merely the very wrongness of such an important Christian relic being in Muslim hands. It does not belong in a mosque of all places...

  5. Now, Amber, you know John the Forerunner was a Muslim. As was Jesus. :)

    I remember when Samer was in his last year in college and his class took a trip to visit something related to their major. While there, they visited the monastery at Saydnaya. He later showed me pictures of himself and his friends with the icons and paintings of Jesus, John, Mary, etc. and I laughed to him that it was cute seeing Muslims with the Christian religious paintings/icons.

    Me -- "Hehehe...Samer, it's kind of cute to see you, a Muslim, with Jesus, John and Mary."

    Him -- "Well, Susanne, you know we think they are Muslims like we are, right?"

    Sooooo, that's why - to them - John's head is fine in their mosque.

    Now the surprising thing to me was finding they still have baptistries on display in the Umayyad mosque. It was leftover from when the mosque was a church. Did you see that picture on my blog?

    Here I found it. It's a Sunni mosque, but this post focused on the Christian and Shia connections. Apparently there is more than John's head there and too funny that Wikipedia makes it seem John's head just so happened to be found while they were renovating. As if that would be something considered lightly. :)

  6. Susanne,

    *twitches* No. No he wasn't.

    I find myself surprised by the... simmering anger I feel at the idea. I know Muslims believe that *everyone* who was good in the Bible was a Muslim but...*grr*.

    I know why *they're* okay thinking that they have St. John the Forerunner's head, but I'm not okay with it. Of course, I don't believe they really do, so it's a moot point.

    *wanders off to look at post*

    Oooh...very pretty. Of course now I'm *headdesking* because Pope John Paul II visited the shrine to 'visit' the relics of St. John the Forerunner. *headdesk*

    Heh. Your cover kind of looks like the one jilbab I own. Plus, you're kind of adorable in that picture! :)

  7. Thanks for the explanation! I never really got that (as I said before). Now that you've explained it, I vaguely remember seeing relics mentioned in TV shows and movies, but that's my full experience w/the idea. Very interesting.

  8. no its not very likely it is John the Baptists head. But I see no issue with having a shrine to him present.

    Susanne: Ooooo its really pretty. I first thought it was still a church, I didn't realize this was the Ummayad mosque. Oh this place holds so many negitive things for Shias. I really wouldn't be surprised if the heads are there. Yazid's army took them all after Karbala.

  9. And John the Baptist, in my mind, can only be a muslim if you go by the definition of the word "One who submits himself to the will of God" But the religion itself didn't exist yet (although they say it always did, in a way it did, in a way it didnt) The MAN John the Baptist was Christian, just like Jesus was Jewish.

    Dont let it ruffle your feathers :) Its only said because many believe Islam has always existed and encompasses all that submit themselves to the One true God. So in that way they are. But were they "Those that follow the religion of Islam" not really since it didnt technically exist yet.

  10. LK, you might be interested in seeing this Shiite mosque in Damascus. It was very ornate. Check it out if you want. :)

  11. Hehehe...Amber, you're so funny. :)

    I always love the *headdesks* -- I hope you don't have a headache after reading that Pope John Paul went to the mosque to see John's shrine. :)

    "I know Muslims believe that *everyone* who was good in the Bible was a Muslim but...*grr*."

    Well, it's not so much that anyone "good" was Muslim, but that all of them were good - even better than the Bible makes them out to be. David never committed adultery for starters. :)

    LOL that I'm "kind of adorable" in that thing I'm wearing. Ha! You make me giggle.

    LK, I didn't know the Umayyad mosque holds a lot of negative things for Shiites. Thanks for letting me know a bit of the history - interesting!

    Yes, I see what you mean about them being "muslim" and not "Muslim." Thanks! :)

  12. LK,

    I'll be honest and say I see no reason for them to have a shrine to him. He's not mentioned all that much in the Qur'an, as far as I can recall. It just seems odd to me for them to even want to have a shrine for him.

    Ah, but LK, according to Muslims it *did* always exist. Always. Forever and ever and ever. Just exactly the way Mohammed did it. *Really*. So all the Patriarchs and the Prophets were Muslim. Just like Mohammed.

    Meh. It annoys me, but that's nothing new.

  13. Susanne,

    I have a hard head. :)

    *twitches* That Papal visit is just...nyegh.

    'Well, it's not so much that anyone "good" was Muslim, but that all of them were good - even better than the Bible makes them out to be. David never committed adultery for starters. :)'

    Oh, I know. I said 'good', meaning the people that worked 'for' God. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, St. John the Forerunner, etc. As opposed to the 'bad guys'. You know, the Pharoah, Goliath, yadda. I know everyone in Islam is perfect and never did anything even the slightest bit wrong. I know it, and it's insane and impossible to believe.

    'LOL that I'm "kind of adorable" in that thing I'm wearing. Ha! You make me giggle.'

    It's the combination of the hat, which is kind of slid forward, and the curls of hair, plus the hood on the cover! You almost remind me of a kid playing dress up, where you just throw all the clothes on and wander around thinking how awesome you look. :)

  14. :-P***** Brat!

    "You almost remind me of a kid playing dress up, where you just throw all the clothes on and wander around thinking how awesome you look. :)"

    Yep, that's me! I look *awesome* in that getup. ;) Hey, I gotta stay young at heart somehow, don't I?


    Ahhh,kids these days. *shaking my head in sad disbelief* Don't parents teach these young folks how to respect their elders?

  15. Susanne,

    Hey, I respect you!

    You should see how I treat the people I *don't* respect! Feel special! :)


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