My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
THE HOLY MARTYRS CYRICUS AND HIS MOTHER JULITTA (July 15th)
Saint Julitta was from the city of Iconium. Fearing the persecution of Diocletian, she took her son Cyricus, who was three years old, and departed for Seleucia; but finding the same evil there, she went over to Tarsus in Cilicia, where the ruler arrested her. He took her son from her and tried with flatteries to draw the youth to himself. But the little one, in his childish voice, called on the Name of Christ and kicked the ruler in the belly so hard, that the tyrant became enraged and cast him down the steps of the tribunal. In this manner, the child's head was crushed, and he gave up the spirit. As for his blessed mother, she first endured many torments, and finally was beheaded in the year 296 A.D.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of Martyr Julitta and Cyricus
Blessed Julitta, Christ's God's rational ewe-lamb, with holy Cyricus, her three year-old offspring, stood at the judgment seat and with authority and great boldness they proclaimed the true Faith of the Christians. In no wise were they afraid of the threats of the tyrants; and now in Heaven, wearing precious crowns, they both rejoice as they stand before Christ our God.
Kontakion Hymn. Fourth Tone
As the Martyr of Christ God, the chaste Julitta, in her arms bare Cyricus, she cried out in the stadium with manful courage and boundless joy: Thou art the strength of the Martyrs, O Christ my God.
(Source: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America)
FOR YOUR INFORMATION...
Upon the consecration of our beloved church of Saint Andrew, His Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos, placed the holy relics of the holy Martyrs Cyricus and Julitta among others. Our parish is truly blessed to have the unique honor to possess fragments of their holy remains.
THE VENERATION OF THE HOLY RELICS IN THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
The honor and veneration of the remains of holy men and women can be found in both the Holy Bible and in the practice of the early Christians. The most dramatic example is recorded in the Old Testament and tells the story of a miracle worked through contact with the bones of the Holy Patriarch Elisha:
"Now Elisha died, and they buried him. Then in the following year, the raiding bands from Moab invaded the land. And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, they beheld a lightly armed band of raiders, and cast the man into the tomb of Elisha. When the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood up on his feet" (4 Kingdoms 13:21 (2 Kings)
The Old Testament book Wisdom of Sirach recalls this miracle through the bones of Elisha:
"Elisha was covered by the whirlwind, And Elisha was filled with his (Elijah's) spirit. And in his days he trembled before no ruler, and no one oppressed him. No word could overcome him, And after death his body prophesied, as in his life he did wonders (miracles), So even in death his works were amazing".
(Wisdom of Sirach 48:12-14)
In the New Testament, the early Christians found that there was miraculous power in handkerchiefs that had been in contact with the holy Apostles and simply even the holy Apostle's Peter shadow was enough to effect a healing:
Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Saint Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them: "and the evil spirits went out of them" (Acts 19:12)
And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them" (Acts 5:15).
THE EARLY CHRISTIANS
Like these experiences with the Holy Apostles, the earliest Christians gave special honor to the bodies of the holy Martyrs, those men and women who gave their life for the Lord. One of the earliest Christian documents is called The Matyrdom of Polycarp dating from about the year 155 A.D. This early document tells the story of the martyrdom of the aged bishop Saint Polycarp. It gives us insight into how the early Church honored the relics of its martyrs:
"And so, afterwards, we took up his bones, more valuable than precious stones and finer than gold, and put them in a proper place. There, as far as we are able, the Lord will permit us to meet together in gladness and joy and to celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who fought the fight and for the training and preparation of those who will fight." (Martyrdom of Polycarp, chapter 18)
Many of the early Christian holy Fathers wrote of the veneration of the holy relics of the Martyrs including Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Saint Jerome, and Saint Gregory Nazianzus. Saint Gregory of Nyssa in his 4th century Sermon on the Blessed Theodore the Martyr said:
"...drawing near to (the martyr's) tomb which we believe to be both a sanctification and blessing. If anyone takes dust form the martyr's resting place, it is a gift and a deserving treasure. Should a person have both the good fortune and permission to touch the relics, this experience is a highly valued prize and seems like a dream both to those who were cured and whose wish was fulfilled...one implores the martyr who intercedes on our behalf and is an attendant of God for imparting those favors and blessings which people seek."
THEOLOGY OF THE BODY
The veneration of the holy relics of Saints is clearly a Christian practice attested to by both the witness of the Holy Bible and the practices of the early Church. We honor the holy relics of Saints because our Faith has always believed and taught that salvation does not simply involve our soul but our body participates in this salvation. Our body and soul are baptized, our body and soul receive the anointing in Chrismation, our body and soul receive the Lord in the Holy Eucharist. While at death the body and soul are separated, on the Last (Final) Day our bodies will be raised from the earth and rejoin our souls to receive either salvation or damnation. Our Lord Jesus ascended into heaven with a human body, therefore our bodies are sanctified and holy. The grace of the Holy Spirit which filled these Saints while they were alive, continues to be present in their bodies which were and are temple of the Holy Spirit. As Saint Paul explains in the Holy Scripture:
"Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?" (1 Corinthians 16).
As miracles (Wonders) were performed through the holy relics of the Holy Prophet Elisha, miracles take place today at the shrines containing the holy relics of Saints. Among the most well known places for miraculous healings are the holy relics of Saint Nektarios of the Greek island of Aegina, the holy relics of Saint Nicholas in Bari, Italy, and here in America, the holy relics of Saint John the Wonderworker in San Francisco and many others. (Source: American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the U.S.A.)
Speaking of the miraculous power of holy relics, Saint Ephraim the Syrian relates the following concerning the holy Martyrs: "Even after death they act as if alive, healing the sick, expelling demons, and by the power of Lord rejecting every evil influence of the demons. This is because the miraculous grace of the Holy Spirit is always present in the holy relics."
The universal faith of the Church concerning the pious veneration of holy relics was confirmed by the God-bearing Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Synod (Council) in its decrees: "Our Lord Jesus Christ granted to us the relics as a salvation-bearing source which pours forth varied benefits on the infirm. Consequently, those who presume to abandon the relics of the Martyrs be hierarchs, let them be deposed. If however monastics or laymen, let them be excommunicated."
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God