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
THE CONSECRATION OF AN ORTHODOX CHURCH AND THE PLACING OF THE HOLY RELICS INSIDE THE CRYPT IN THE HOLY ALTAR TABLE
The Place of Holy Relics in the Orthodox Church
By Saint John Popovich
Without doubt, matter is represented in the human body in a manner which is most puzzling, most mysterious, and most complex. The brain: What wondrous mysteries pass between its physical and spiritual parts! How vast is the experience of the human race. In no manner can one ever fully comprehend or grasp these mysteries. Indeed, little of this is accessible to the human senses or intellectual investigation. So it is also with the heart of man, formed as it is entirely and solely from cosmic mysteries. So formed, too, are every cell, every molecule, every atom. Everyone and all are set on their mystical path toward God, toward the God-Man. Inasmuch as it was created by God, the Logos/Word, matter possesses this same theocentricity. Moreover, by His advent into our earthly world, by His All-embracing condescension that not only the soul, but matter also was created by God and for God, and that He is God and Man; and for it, matter, He is all and everything in the same manner as for the soul. Being created by God, the Logos/Word, matter is, in its innermost core, God-longing and Christ-longing.
The most obvious proof of this is the fact that God the Logos/Word has become Incarnate, has become man (Saint John 1:14). By His Incarnation, matter has been magnified with Divine glory and has entered into the grace- and virtue-bestowing, ascetic aim of deification (theosis), or union with Christ. God has become flesh, has become human, so that the entire man, the entire body, might be filled with God and with His miracle-working forces and powers. In the God-Man, the Lord Christ and His Body, all matter has been set on a path toward Christ - the path of deification (theosis), transfiguration (metamorphosis), sanctification, resurrection, and ascent to an eternal glory surpassing that of the Cherubim (Archangels). And all of this takes place and will continue to take place through the Divine and human Body of the Church, which is truly the God-Man Christ in the total fullness of His Divine and human Person, the fullness "that fills all in all" (Ephesians 1:23). Through its Divine and human existence in the Church, the human body, as matter, as substance, is sanctified by the Holy Spirit and in this way participates in the life of the Holy Trinity. Matter thus attains its transcendence, diving meaning and goal, its eternal blessedness and its immortal joy in the God-Man.
The holiness of the Saints-both the holiness of their souls and of their bodies--derives from their zealous grace-and virtue-bestowing lives in the Body of the Church of Christ, of the God-Man. In this sense, holiness completely envelops the human person-the entire soul and body and all that enters into the mystical composition of the human body. The holiness of the Saints does not hold forth only in their souls, but it necessarily extends to their bodies; so it is that both the body and the soul of a saint are sanctified. Thus we, in piously venerating the Saints, also venerate the entire person, in this manner not separating the holy soul from the holy body. Our pious veneration of the Saints' relics is a natural part of our pious respect for and prayerful entreaty to the Saints...
"...By piously venerating the holy relics of the Saints, the Church reveres them as temples of the Holy Spirit, temples of the Living God, in which God dwells by grace even after the earthly death of the Saints. And by His most wise and good Will, God creates miracles in and through these holy relics. Moreover, the miracles which derive from the holy relics witness also to the fact that their pious veneration by the people is pleasing to God.
The pious veneration of holy relics, based on their miraculous nature, originate from Divine Revelation. Even in the Old Testament God deigned to celebrate with miracles the holy relics of certain of those who were-pleasing to Him. Thus, by the touch of the holy relics of the Prophet Elisha, a dead man was resurrected. The tomb and bones of this Prophet, who had prophesied to Jeroboam the destruction of idolatrous altars, were greatly revered in Judea. The Patriarch Joseph also left a testament to the sons of Israel to preserve his bones in Egypt and, during their exodus, to carry them to the Promised Land (Genesis 50:25).
The New Testament raised the human body to the sublime and divine heights, endowing it with a glory which the Cherubim and Seraphim do not possess. The Good News of the New Testament concerning the body -- the significance and goal of the human body--is that, together with the soul, it achieves and inherits immortal life in Divine eternity. The Lord Christ has come to deify (Theosis), to make Christ-like, the entire man, that is, the soul and body, and this by the resurrection, insuring thereby victory over death and eternal life. No one ever elevated the human body as did the Lord Christ by His bodily Resurrection, the Ascension of His body into heaven, and its eternal session at the right hand of God the Father. In this way, the Resurrected Christ extended the promise of resurrection to the nature of the human body--"having made for all flesh a path to eternal life." Thus man now knows that the body is created for eternity through union with the God-Man and that his divine work on earth is to struggle, with the soul, for eternal life; to struggle, with all those means that convey grace and virtue, to make himself grace-filled, fulfilled by Divine grace, and created anew as the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the temple of the Living God.
Bearing in mind that this New Testamental notion of the human body has been achieved and realized in the persons of the Saints, Christians show a pious veneration for the bodies of the Saints, towards holy relics, the temples of the Holy Spirit, Who by God's grace abides within them. But Holy Revelation indicates that by God's immeasurable love for man, the Holy Spirit abides through His grace not only in the bodies of the Saints but also in their clothing. So it is that the handkerchiefs of the holy Apostle Paul healed the ill and expelled unclean spirits (Acts 19:12). With his mantle the Prophet Elias struck the water, separating the waters of the Jordan, and along the dry bed of the river crossed the Jordan with his disciple Elisha (IV Kings 2:8). The Prophet Elisha did the very same thing himself, with the same mantle, after the taking-up of Elias into heaven (IV Kings 2:14). All this has its verification and source in the Divine power that rested in the garments of the Savior, which encompassed His Most Pure and Divine Body. Moreover, by His inexpressible love for man, the Divine Lord allows the servants of His Divinity to work miracles not only through their bodies and clothing but even with the shadow of their bodies, which is evident in an occurrence with the holy Apostle Peter: his shadow healed an ill man and expelled unclean spirits (Acts 5:15-16).
The Universal faith of the Church concerning the pious veneration of holy relics was confirmed by the God-bearing Holy Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Synod in its decrees: "Our Lord Jesus Christ granted to us the relics of Saints as a salvation-bearing source which pours forth varied benefits on the infirm. Consequently, those who presume to abandon the relics of the martyrs: if they be hierarchs, let them be deposed; if however monastics or laymen, let them merely be excommunicated."
(Next: The Orthodox Tradition of placing holy relics in the crypt of the altar table during the consecration of the church.)
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"-Saint John Chrysostomos
With agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God