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The Precious Relics of Holy Resurrection Parish

Within our two places of worship, both in Tacoma and Wilkeson, we have been blessed to be stewards of the relics of various saints named below. They are treasures, sources of spiritual consolation and our divine joy.

 

Some outside the Orthodox faith may question the veneration of the relics of the saints. They may perceive it to be pagan, superstitious and against God’s holy Word.

 

Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, reprimanded those who made an idol out of the Bible:

You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me (John 5:39).

The scriptures bear witness to our Lord Jesus Christ, who is nothing less than God become flesh:

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, transfiguration, sanctification, resurrection, and ascent to an eternal glory surpassing that of the Cherubim. 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 Trinity. Matter thus attains its transcendent, divine meaning and goal, its eternal blessedness and its immortal joy in the God-Man. [1]

The Orthodox Church holds that both the souls and bodies of the faithful are involved in what St. Seraphim of Sarov described as “the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God.” As Christians confess right belief, participate in the sacramental life of Christ and His Church, and make every effort in prayer and Christian virtue, they “become partakers of the divine nature,” (II Peter 1:4).

 

How can this be? In order to understand the meaning of the holy relics, as well as the sacramental life of the entire Orthodox Church, one must regain a biblical consciousness. God himself revealed to Moses how certain objects; those things that are “most holy” sanctify those things that come into contact with them:

Seven days you shall make atonement for the altar, and consecrate it, and the altar shall be most holy; whatever touches the altar shall become holy (Exodus 29:37).
And you shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the perfumer; a holy anointing oil it shall be. And you shall anoint with it the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony, and the table and all its utensils, and the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils and the laver and its base; you shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy; whatever touches them will become holy (Exodus 30:25-29).

The relics of those glorified by God become vessels of sanctity, most holy, drawing the faithful into the holiness of God by mere contact with them. Pondering these passages from Exodus, it is no wonder that from the time of early Christians, down to this day, the relics of the saints have been associated with both the altar, for they are always included in the consecration of an orthodox altar; and with fragrant oil, for frequently the relics of the saints are found to be sources of fragrant myrrh.

St. Matthew tells us that when the diseased came to Christ "they besought him that they might touch but the hem of his garment.  And as many touched, were made whole" (Matt 14:36).

 

Again we read of a woman who touched the hem of Christ's garment and was cured: "And immediately Jesus knowing in himself the virtue that had proceeded from him, turning to the multitude, said: -who hath touched my garments?" (Mark 5:30).  In the Acts of the Apostles we find that "God wrought by the hand of Paul more than common miracles. So that even there were brought from his body to the sick, handkerchiefs and aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the wicked spirits went out of them" (Acts 19:11-12).

 

These practices were not only confined to the New Testament, for when we read II Kings we find that a dead man who was being buried in the tomb of Elisha was restored to life the moment his body came into contact with the bones of the great prophet of God:

And as a man was being buried, lo, a marauding band was seen and the man was cast into the grave of Eli'sha; and as soon as the man touched the bones of Eli'sha, he revived, and stood on his feet (II Kings 13:21).

All in all, the mystery of holy relics is at the heart of the universal mystery of the New Testament: the incarnation of God. The full mystery of the human body is explained by the incarnation, the embodiment of God in the God-Man, the Lord Jesus Christ. For this reason, then, the Gospel message concerning the body: "The body for the Lord, and the Lord for the body" (I Corinthians 6:13). And through a human body also the entire creation, all of matter, received its divine significance, the universal meaning of the God-Man. By man, who is sanctified in the Church by the holy mysteries and the holy virtues, the creation and even matter are sanctified, united to Christ. [2]

 

Endnotes
[1] From Orthodox Tradition, Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 9. Translated from the Serbian by the Reverend Gregory Telepneff. Read the entire text of this article here.
[2]  Ibid.

Holy Great Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John
Commemorated January 7, February 24, May 25, June 24, and August 29

In the Orthodox Church it is customary, on the day following the Great Feasts of the Lord and the Mother of God, to remember those saints who participated directly in the sacred event. So, on the day following the Theophany of the Lord, the Church honors the one who participated directly in the Baptism of Christ, placing his own hand upon the head of the Savior.

St John, the holy Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, whom the Lord called the greatest of the prophets, concludes the history of the Old Testament and opens the era of the New Testament. The holy Prophet John bore witness to the Only-Begotten Son of God, incarnate in the flesh. St John was accounted worthy to baptize Him in the waters of the Jordan, and he was a witness.... (read the life)

St. John Chrysostom
Commemorated January 27, January 30 and November 13

Saint John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, one of the Three Hierarchs, was born at Antioch in about the year 347 into the family of a military commander. His father, Secundus, died soon after the birth of his son. His mother, Anthusa, widowed at twenty years of age, did not seek to remarry but rather devoted all her efforts to the raising of her son in Christian piety. The youth studied under the finest philosophers and rhetoricians. But, scorning the vain disciplines of pagan knowledge, the future hierarch turned himself to the profound study of Holy Scripture and prayerful contemplation. St. Meletius, Bishop of Antioch, loved John like a son, guided him in the Faith, and in the year 367 baptized him. After three years John was tonsured as a Reader.... (read the life)

St. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow
Commemorated April 7 and October 9

St Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and Apostle to America was born as Vasily Ivanovich Belavin, January 19, 1865 into the family of Ioann Belavin, a rural priest of the Pskov diocese. His childhood and adolescence were spent in the village in direct contact with peasants and their labor. From his early years he displayed a particular religious disposition, love for the Church as well as rare meekness and humility. When Vasily was still a boy, his father had a revelation about each of his children. One night, when he and his three sons slept in the hayloft, he suddenly woke up and roused them. He had seen his dead mother in a dream, who foretold to him his imminent death, and the fate of his three sons. She said that one would be unfortunate throughout his entire life.... (read the life)

 

St. Innocent, Metropolitan of Moscow
Commemorated March 31 and October 6

St Innocent, Metropolitan of Moscow, Enlightener of the Aleuts and Apostle to America (in the world John Popov-Veniaminov), was born on August 26, 1797 in the village of Anginsk in the Irkutsk diocese, into the family of a sacristan. The boy mastered his studies at an early age and by age seven, he was reading the Epistle in church. In 1806 they sent him to the Irkutsk seminary. In 1814, the new rector thought it proper to change the surnames of some of the students. John Popov received the surname Veniaminov in honor of the deceased Archbishop Benjamin of Irkutsk. On May 13, 1817 he was ordained deacon for the Irkutsk Annunciation church, and on May 18, 1821, he was ordained priest. The missionary service of the future Apostle of America and Siberia began.... (read the life)

 

St. Raphael Hawaweeny
Commemorated February 27

Our holy Father Raphael was born in Syria in 1860 to pious Orthodox parents, Michael Hawaweeny and his second wife Mariam, the daughter of a priest of Damascus. The exact date of Raphael’s birth is not known, but he estimated it to be on or near his Name Day, the Synaxis of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel and all the Bodiless Powers of Heaven. Due to the violent persecution of Christians, at which time their parish priest, St Joseph of Damascus and his companions were martyred, the Hawaweeny family was forced to flee to Beirut for their safety. It was here that the future saint first saw the light of day, and not in the city of his parents. Indeed, as the child’s life unfolded, it was evident that he would have no continuing city in this world, but would seek the city which is to come.... (read the life)

Holy Greatmartyr Barbara
Commemorated December 4

The Holy Great Martyr Barbara lived and suffered during the reign of the emperor Maximian (305-311). Her father, the pagan Dioscorus, was a rich and illustrious man in the Syrian city of Heliopolis. After the death of his wife, he devoted himself to his only daughter.

Seeing Barbara’s extraordinary beauty, Dioscorus decided to hide her from the eyes of strangers, and built a tower for Barbara, where only her pagan teachers were allowed to see her. From the tower there was a view of hills stretching into the distance. By day she was able to gaze upon the wooded hills, the swiftly flowing rivers, and the meadows covered with a mottled blanket of flowers; by night the harmonious and majestic vault of the heavens twinkled and provided a spectacle of inexpressible beauty. Soon the virgin began to ask herself questions about the First Cause and Creator of so harmonious.... (read the life)

 

Holy Greatmartyr Panteleimon
Commemorated July 27

The Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon was born in the city of Nicomedia into the family of the illustrious pagan Eustorgius, and he was named Pantoleon. His mother St Euboula was a Christian. She wanted to raise her son in the Christian Faith, but she died when the future martyr was just a young child. His father sent Pantoleon to a pagan school, after which the young man studied medicine at Nicomedia under the renowned physician Euphrosynus. Pantoleon came to the attention of the emperor Maximian (284-305), who wished to appoint him as royal physician when he finished his schooling.

The hieromartyrs Hermolaus, Hermippus and Hermocrates, survivors of the massacre of 20,000 Christians in 303, were living secretly in Nicomedia at that time.... (read the life)

 

Holy Newmartyr Elizabeth
Commemorated July 18

Not every generation is destined to meet along its path such a blessed gift from heaven as was the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna for her time, for she was a rare combination of exalted Christian spirit, moral nobility, enlightened mind, gentle heart, and refined taste. She possessed an extremely delicate and multifaceted spiritual composition and her outward appearance reflected the beauty and greatness of her spirit. Upon her brow lay the seal of an inborn, elevated dignity which set her apart from those around her. Under the cover of modesty, she often strove, though in vain, to conceal herself from the gaze of others, but one could not mistake her for another. Wherever she appeared, one would always ask: "Who is she who looketh forth as the morning, clear as the sun" (Song of Solomon 6:10)? Wherever she would go she emanated the pure fragrance of the lily.... (read the life)

 

Holy Virgin Martyr Justina
Commemorated October 2

The holy Virgin Martyr Justina suffered for Christ in Nicomedia with the Hieromartyr Cyprian and the Martyr Theoctistus in 304.

At first St. Cyprian was a pagan sorcerer, and tried to corrupt Juliana through his magic spells. The holy virgin Justina lived in Antioch. After turning her own father and mother away from pagan error and leading them to the true faith in Christ, she dedicated herself to the Heavenly Bridegroom and spent her time in fasting and prayer. When the youth Aglaides proposed marriage to her, the saint refused, for she wished to remain a virgin. Agalides sought Cyprian’s help and asked for a magic spell to charm Justina into marriage. But no matter what Cyprian tried, he could accomplish nothing, .... (read the life)

 

Holy Martyr Boniface in Tarsus
Commemorated December 19

The Holy Martyr Boniface was the slave of a rich young Roman woman named Aglaida and he dwelt with her in an iniquitous cohabitation. But they both felt the sting of conscience and they wanted somehow to be cleansed of their sin. And the Lord granted them the possibility to wash away their sin with their blood and to finish their life in repentance.

Aglaida learned that whoever keeps relics of the holy martyrs in the home and venerates them receives great help in gaining salvation. Under their influence, sin is diminished and virtue prevails. She arranged for Boniface to go to the East, where there was a fierce persecution against Christians, and she asked him to bring back the relics of some martyr, who would become a guide and protector for them. As he was leaving, Boniface laughed and asked, “My lady, if I do not find any relics, and if.... (read the life)

 

Monk-Martyrs of St. George of Chozeba Monastery
Commemorated January 9

St. George Monastery of Chozeba from Judea, also called Wadi Kelt, is an ancient Orthodox monastery bearing the relics of Saint John Jacob of Neamt (the Romanian), called also “the Chozebite” and of Saint George the Chozebite. The monastery is situated approximately twelve miles east of Jerusalem. The valley of “Wadi Kelt” occupies a large part of the Judea desert and runs parallel with the ancient Roman road that once connected Jerusalem to Jericho, a road with biblical connotations – where the parable of the Good Samaritan is situated (Luke 10: 29-37). It is also believed that the prophet Elijah lived in this region during his persecution by King Ahab. The Monastery was founded in the fifth century by St. John of Thebes. After been tonsured a monk, St. John left Thebes in Egypt.... (read the life)

St. Seraphim of Sarov
Commemorated January 2 and July 19

Saint Seraphim of Sarov, a great ascetic of the Russian Church, was born on July 19, 1754. His parents, Isidore and Agathia Moshnin, were inhabitants of Kursk. Isidore was a merchant. Toward the end of his life, he began construction of a cathedral in Kursk, but he died before the completion of the work. His little son Prochorus,the future Seraphim, remained in the care of his widowed mother, who raised her son in piety. After the death of her husband, Agathia Moshnina continued with the construction of the cathedral. Once she took the seven-year-old Prochorus there with her, and he fell from the scaffolding around the seven-story bell tower. He should have been killed, but the Lord preserved the life of the future luminary of the Church. The terrified mother ran to him and found her son unharmed. Young Prochorus, endowed with an excellent memory, soon mastered reading and writing.... (read the life)

 

St. Alexander of Svir
Commemorated April 17 and August 30

Saint Alexander of Svir was born on July 15, 1448, on the feastday of the Prophet Amos, and was named for him in Baptism. St. Alexander was a beacon of monasticism in the deep forests of the Russian North, living in asceticism, and he was granted the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit.

His parents, Stephen and Vassa (Vasilisa) were peasants of the village of Mandera near Lake Ladoga, at the bank of the River Oyata, a tributary of the River Svira. They had sons and daughters who were already grown and lived away from their parents. Stephen and Vassa wanted to have another son. They prayed fervently and heard a voice from above: “Rejoice, good man and wife, you shall bear a son, in whose birth God will give comfort to His Church.” ....(read the life)

 

St. Herman of Alaska
Commemorated December 13 and August 9

In 1793 a spiritual mission was organized made up of monks of the Valaam Monastery. They were sent to preach the Word of God to the native inhabitants of northwestern America, who only ten years before had come under the sovereignty of Russia. St Herman was among the members of this Mission.

St Herman came from a family of merchants of Serpukhov, a city of the Moscow Diocese. His name before he was tonsured, and his family name are not known. He had a great zeal for piety from youth, and at sixteen he entered monastic life. First he entered the Trinity-Sergius Hermitage which was located near the Gulf of Finland on the Peterhof Road, about 15 versts from St Petersburg.... (read the life)

 

St. John Jacob the Chozebite
Commemorated August 5

Saint John the Chozebite, the son of Maxim and Catherine Jacob, was born July 23, 1913 in the Horodistea district of Moldavia. He was named for the holy prophet Elias (July 20). In 1914, his father died in the war, and his mother succumbed to a disease, leaving Elias as an orphan. His grandmother Maria raised him until he was eleven. She was a nun, so she was able to educate him in spiritual matters. She died in 1924, so young Elias went to live with other relatives. He had a great love for Christ and His Church, and longed for the monastic life.

He entered Neamts Monastery on August 15, 1933 when he was twenty years old. Here his soul was nourished by the beauty of the services, the experienced spiritual instructors.... (read the life)

St. Amphilochius of Pochaev
Commemorated January 1 and May 12

St. Amphilochius of Pochaev was born into a family of ten children in the Ukrainian village of Malaya Ilovitsa on November 27, 1894. His father and mother, Barnabas and Anna Golovatiuk, gave him the name Jacob in holy baptism. Barnabas was known for making shoe lasts (forms) and sleighs, and had a reputation as a skilled bone setter. Young Jacob would assist his father in his work, and learned how to set bones himself.

In 1912, Jacob was called into the Imperial Army, where he fulfilled his compulsory service as a field medic in the throes of World War I. He was advanced to the front lines, witnessing the death of many friends, often carrying his wounded companions from the field of battle.... (read the life)

 

St. Alexis Toth
Commemorated May 7

Our holy Father Alexis, the defender of the Orthodox Faith and zealous worker in the Lord’s vineyard, was born in Austro-Hungary on March 18, 1854 into a poor Carpatho-Russian family. Like many others in the Austro-Hungarian empire, the Toths were Eastern Rite Catholics. Alexis’ father and brother were priests and his uncle was a bishop in the Uniate church. He received an excellent education and knew several languages (Carpatho-Russian, Hungarian, Russian, German, Latin, and a reading knowledge of Greek). He married Rosalie Mihalich, a priest’s daughter, and was ordained on April 18, 1878 to serve as second priest in a Uniate parish. His wife died soon afterwards, followed by their only child—losses which the saint endured with the patience of Job.... (read the life)

 



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