Religion and Ethics Newsweekly: Holy Relics

May 11, 2011  []

MARTINA BAGNOLI (Curator, Walters Art Museum): A relic is usually a remains of the body of a holy person, could also be something that this holy person had touched. The saints were not touched by sin, and therefore their remains were imbued with the grace and the power of God. Therefore if you prayed to a relic, that is a kind of way of channeling your prayer to heaven. You don’t worship the relics or the saint. You venerate them, and that distinction is precisely in order to avoid falling into idolatry.

From the beginning of Christianity, artists were enlisted to create precious containers that would speak of the spiritual power of the content. According to doctrine, Christ and Mary ascended bodily to heaven, so we do not have bodily relics of these two very important figures of Christianity. However, we have reliquaries of the hair of Mary or the milk of Mary. Mostly for Christ you would have relics of the True Cross or other instrument of his passions.

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