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HE GROSS SUPERSTITION that has accompanied I the use of relics reveals the deception and inconsistency with which Romanism has been plagued for centuries. Among the most highly venerated relics have been pieces of the "true cross." So many of these were scattered throughout Europe and other parts of the world that Calvin once said that if all pieces were gathered together, they would form a good ship-load; yet the cross of Christ was carried by one individual! Are we to believe that these pieces miraculously multiplied as when Jesus blessed the loaves and fishes? Such was apparently the belief of St. Paulinus who spoke of "The redintegration of the Cross, i. e. that it never grew smaller in size, no matter how many pieces were detached from it"!1
The noted reformer, John Calvin (1509-1564), mentioned the inconsistency of various relics of his day. Several churches claimed to have the crown of thorns; others the water-pots used by Jesus in the miracle of Cana. Some of the wine was to be found at Orleans. Concerning a piece of broiled fish Peter offered Jesus, Calvin said, "It must have been wondrously well salted, if it has kept for such a long series of ages." The crib of Jesus was exhibited for veneration every Christmas eve at St. Mary Major's in Rome. Several churches claimed to have the baby clothes of Jesus. The church of St. James in Rome displayed the altar on which Jesus was placed when he was presented in the temple. Even the foreskin (from his circumcision) was shown by the monks of Charroux, who, as a proof of its genuineness, declared that it yielded drops of blood.2 Several churches claimed to possess the "holy prepuce", including a church at Coulombs, France, the Church of St. John in Rome, and the Church of Puy in Velay!3
Other relics include Joseph's carpenter tools, bones of the donkey on which Jesus rode into Jerusalem, the cup used at the Last Supper, the empty purse of Judas, Pilate's basin, the coat of purple thrown over Jesus by the mocking soldiers, the sponge lifted to him on the cross, nails from the cross, specimens of the hair of the Virgin Mary (some brown, some blond, some red, and some black), her skirts, wedding ring, slippers, veil, and even a bottle of the milk on which Jesus had been suckled.4
According to Catholic belief, Mary's body was taken to heaven. But several different churches in Europe did claim to have the body of Mary's mother, even though we know nothing about her and she was not even given the name "St. Ann" until a few centuries ago! Even more difficult is the story about Mary's house. Catholics believe that the house in which Mary lived at Nazareth is now in the little town of Loreto, Italy, having been transported there by angels!
The Catholic Encyclopedia says: "Since the fifteenth century, and possibly even earlier,-the 'Holy House' of Loreto has been numbered among the most famous shrines of Italy... The interior measures only thirty-one feet by thirteen. An altar stands at one end beneath a statue, blackened with age, of the Virgin Mother and her Divine Infant...venerable throughout the world on account of the Divine mysteries accomplished in it...It is here that most holy Mary, Mother of God, was born; here that she was saluted by the Angel; here that the eternal Word was made Flesh. Angels conveyed
this House from Palestine to the town Tersato in Illyria in the year of salvation 1291 in the pontificate of Nicholas IV. Three years later, in the beginning of the pontificate of Boniface VIII, it was carried again by the ministry of angels and placed in a wood...where having changed its station thrice in the course of a year, at length, by the will of God it took up its permanent position on this spot...That the traditions thus boldly proclaimed to the world have been fully sanctioned by the Holy See cannot for a moment remain in doubt. More than forty-seven popes have in various ways rendered honor to the shrine, and an immense number of Bulls and Briefs proclaim without qualification the identity of the Santa Casa di Loreto with the Holy House of Nazareth"!5
The veneration of dead bodies of martyrs was ordered by the Council of Trent, the Council which also condemned those who did not believe in relics: "The holy bodies of holy martyrs...are to be venerated by the faithful, for through these bodies many benefits are bestowed by God on men, so that they who affirm that veneration and honor are not due to the relics of the saints...are wholly to be condemned, as the Church has already long since condemned, and also now condemns them."6 Because it was believed that "many benefits" could come through the bones of dead men, the sale of bodies and bones became big business!
In about 750, long lines of wagons constantly came to Rome bringing immense quantities of skulls and skeletons which were sorted, labeled, and sold by the popes.7 Graves were plundered by night and tombs in churches were watched by armed men! "Rome", says Gregorovius, "was like a mouldering cemetery in which hyenas howled and fought as they dug greedily after corpses." There is in the Church of St. Prassede a marble slab which states that in 817, Pope Paschal had the bodies of 2,300 martyrs transferred from cemeteries to this church.8 When Pope Boniface IV converted the Pantheon into a Christian church in about 609, "twenty-eight cartloads of sacred bones were said to have been removed from the Catacombs and placed in a prophyry basin beneath the high altar."9
Placing bones beneath a church or other relics were required to "consecrate" the ground and building.10 The Castle Church at Wittenberg, to the door of which Luther nailed his famous "Ninety-five Theses", had 19,000 saintly relics!11 Bishops were forbidden by the second Nicaean Council in 787 to dedicate a building if no relics were present; the penalty for so doing was excommunication! Were these ideas taken from the Bible or from paganism ?
In the old legends, when Nimrod the false "savior" of Babylon died, his body was torn limb from limb—part being buried one place, and part another. When he was "resurrected", becoming the sun-god, it was taught that he was now in a different body, the members of the old body being left behind. This is in contrast to the death of the true savior, Jesus Christ, of whom it was prophesied, "A bone of him shall not be broken" (John 19:36) and who was resurrected in the true sense of the word. The resurrection of Christ resulted in an empty tomb, no parts of his body being left behind for relics!
In the old mystery religion, the various places where it was believed a bone of their god was buried were considered sacred—"consecrated" by a bone. "Egypt was covered with sepulchres of its martyred god; and many a leg and arm and skull, all vouched to be genuine, were exhibited in the rival burying places for the adoration of the Egyptian faithful."12
The influence of Egypt on the children of Israel is evidenced in their setting up of the golden calf. Since Egypt was a place of multiplied relics, the wisdom of God in the secret burial of Moses is apparent (Deut. 34:6). No one knew the place of his burial and no sacred pilgrimages could be made to his tomb. Years later, the brass serpent that Moses made was named "Nehustan" and was worshipped as a sacred relic by the Israelites (2 Kings 18:4). If such idolatry was practiced with something Moses made, how much deeper in idolatry would they have gone had they possessed one of his bones!
Perhaps needless to say, the use of relics is very ancient and did not originate with Christianity. The Catholic Encyclopedia rightly says that the use "of some object, notably part of the body or clothes, remaining as a memorial of a departed saint" was in existence "before the propagation of Christianity" and "the veneration of relics, in fact, is to some extent a primitive instinct associated with many other religious systems besides that of Christianity."13 If Christ and the apostles did not use relics, but the use of such was known prior to Christianity and among other religions, do we not have another example of a pagan idea being "Christianized"?
We do not see that relics have any part in true worship, for "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). The extremism to which the use of relics has led, is certainly not "truth." Some of the bones that were at one time acclaimed as the bones of saints have been exposed as the bones of animals! In Spain, a cathedral once displayed what was said to be part of a wing of the angel Gabriel when he visited Mary. Upon investigation, however, it was found to be a magnificent ostrich feather!14 It is not necessary to labor long on this point. The Catholic Encyclopedia itself recognizes that many relics are doubtful. "Many of the more ancient relics duly exhibited for veneration in the great sanctuaries of Christendom or even at Rome itself must now be pronounced to be either certainly spurious or open to grave suspicion...difficulties might be urged against the supposed 'column of the flagellation' venerated at Rome in the Church of Santa Prassede and against many other famous relics"!*5
How, then, is this discrepancy explained? The Catholic Encyclopedia continues: "...no dishonor is done to God by the continuance of an error which has been handed down in perfect good faith for many centuries...Hence there is justification for the practice of the Holy See in allowing the cult of certain doubtful ancient relics to continue."16 But, again, we would point out that true worship is in spirit and in truth-^aot by the continuance of an error. Even if we did have one of Mary's hairs, or a bone of the apostle Paul, or the robe of Jesus, would God be pleased with these things being set up as objects of worship? According to the example of the brass serpent of Moses, he would not. We can only ask: if there would be no real virtue in the actual hair, bone, or robe, how much less merit can there be in relics which are known to be fakes?
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