Orthodox Church

The deification of the Virgin Mary in Christianity – 3

The Deification of the Virgin Mary in Christianity

The Immaculate Conception

According to Pius IX (1854), “From the very beginning, and before time began, the eternal Father chose and prepared for his only-begotten Son a Mother in whom the Son of God would become incarnate and from whom, in the blessed fullness of time, he would be born into this world. Above all creatures did God so love her that truly in her was the Father well-pleased with singular delight. Therefore, far above all the angels and all the saints, so wondrously did God endow her with the abundance of all heavenly gifts poured from the treasury of his divinity that this mother, ever absolutely free of all stain of sin, all fair and perfect, would possess that fullness of holy innocence and sanctity than which, under God, one cannot even imagine anything greater and which, outside of God, no mind can succeed in comprehending fully.

“It was wholly fitting that so wonderful a mother should be ever-resplendent with the glory of most sublime holiness and so completely free from all taint of original sin that she would triumph utterly over the ancient serpent. To her did the Father will to give his only-begotten Son — the Son who, equal to the Father and begotten by Him, the Father loves from His Heart — and to give this Son in such a way that He would be the one and the same common Son of God the Father and of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was she whom the Son Himself chose to make His Mother and it was from her that the Holy Spirit willed and brought it about that He should be conceived and born from whom He Himself proceeds” (Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus, para. 1-2).

This is the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in the Catholic Church, a dogma also held originally by the Fathers of the Orthodox Church, the Byzantine Fathers.

The Virgin Mary

As shown, the Virgin Mary is deified, was deified at the instance of her conception, and has always been deified. In other words, Mary was granted the grace of perpetual deification by the Holy Trinity, in addition to the graces of immaculate conception and perpetual virginity, otherwise she would not have been worthy of being the Theotokos; the bearer of the sinless Word. The Eternal Father, the First Person of the Trinity, proclaimed Mary’s deification to the heavens at the commencement of time when He told Satan, who had possessed the serpent to entice Adam and Eve to sin: “I will put enmity between you and the Woman, and between your seed and her seed. They shall bruise your head and you will bruise their heel” (Gn 3:15). If Mary had not been deified, she would have been unable to remain victorious over the Evil One throughout her entire life in relation to sin, because after Eve had disobeyed God (Gn 3:6), she lost that state of deification with which she was originally created and that would have been confirmed in her and in her offspring had she not sinned.

Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, attested publicly to the Virgin’s perpetual deification during the wedding at Cana when He explicitly addressed Mary with the Father’s preferred term, after she had asked Him to take care of the issue with the wine: “Woman, what is that to Me and to you?” (Jn 2:4). Woman. The woman who not only had been proclaimed deified by the Father (Gn 3:15), but who was also proclaimed thus by the Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, through the Apostle John: “And a great sign appeared in heaven. A Woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rv 12:1). The Archangel Gabriel further attested to Mary’s perpetual deification at the Annunciation when he addressed her as “full of grace” (Lk 1:28).

The Virgin Mary is the epitome of deification (Palamas, 2005), a god by grace (Jn 10:34) though not God, as she has always been the incorrupt partaker of the divine nature (2 P 1:4). This because deification is “God’s perfect and full penetration of man” (Staniloae, 2002, p. 362), with “all who share in this [being] referred to as deified . . . above nature and virtue and knowledge . . . [as] this grace effects this ineffable union” (Gregory Palamas, 1338/1982).

The deification of the Virgin Mary in Christianity – 2

The Deification of the Virgin Mary in Christianity

The Church Fathers on Deification

Below are more statements by the Church Fathers and early Christian writers on deification. Both on their own and taken as a whole, these statements illustrate how it is deification, not mere salvation, that has always been the aim of God for humankind, regardless of the stripping of any semblance of divinity and language sanitization that have occurred throughout the more recent centuries:

Ambrosius of Milan:

He makes us partakers of the divine nature in His power (On Christ. Faith 5.14).

Athanasius of Alexandria:

He Himself has made us sons of the Father and deified men by becoming Himself man . . . He was God and then became man, and that to deify us (Cont. Arian 1.11.38,39).

The work is perfected because men, redeemed from sin, no longer remain dead, but being deified, have in each other by looking at Me the bond of charity (Cont. Arian 3.25.23).

The Word was made flesh in order to offer up this body for all and that we, partaking of His Spirit, might be deified (De Decret 3.14).

He has become Man that He might deify us in Himself and He has been born of a woman and begotten of a Virgin in order to transfer to Himself our erring generation, and that we may become henceforth a holy race and ‘partakers of the Divine Nature’ as blessed Peter wrote (Lett 60).

Augustine of Hippo:

If the word of God came to men, that they might be called gods, how can the very Word of God, who is with God, be otherwise than God? If by the word of God men become gods, if by fellowship they become gods, can He by whom they have fellowship not be God? If lights which are lit are gods, is the light which enlighteneth not God? If through being warmed in a way by saving fire they are constituted gods, is He who gives them the warmth other than God? (On the Gospel of John, Trac 48.9).

It is evident then that He hath called men gods that are deified of His grace, not born of His substance . . . If we have been made sons of God, we have also been made gods: but this is the effect of grace adopting, not of nature generating . . . The rest that are made gods, are made by His own grace, are not born of His substance, that they should be the same as He, but that by favor they should come to Him and be fellow-heirs with Christ (On the Psalms 50.2).

The Son of God hath been made partaker of mortality in order that mortal man may be made partaker of divinity (On the Psalms 53.5).

That Godhead equal to the Father was made partaker of our mortal nature not of His own store, but of ours, that we too might be made partakers of His Divine Nature, not of our store, but of His (On the Psalms 139.1).

God wishes not only to vivify us, but also to deify us. When would human infirmity ever have dared to hope for this unless divine truth had promised it? . . . Our God, the true God, the one God has stood up in the synagogue of gods, many of them of course, and gods not by nature but by adoption, by grace. There is a great difference between God who exists, god who is always God, true God, not only God but also deifying God; that is if I may so put it, god-making God, God not made making gods, and gods who were made, but not by a craftsman (Sermon 23B).

You are already gods (Sermon 81).

Basil of Caesarea

Hence comes foreknowledge of the future, understanding of mysteries, apprehension of what is hidden, distribution of good gifts, the heavenly citizenship, a place in the chorus of angels, joy without end, abiding in God, the being made like to God, and, the highest of all, the being made God (De Spir Sanc 9.23).

Clement of Alexandria

I desire to restore you according to the original model that ye may become also like Me (Exhortation 12).

They are called by the appellation of gods, being destined to sit on thrones with the other gods that have been first put in their places by the Savior (Stromateis 7.10).

Cyprian of Carthage

What man is, Christ was willing to be, that man may be what Christ is (Treat 6.11).

Freedom made hateful the beauty of Adam that he might be god . . . But grace adorned its flaws and God came to be human. Divinity flew down to rescue and lift up humanity. Behold the Son adorned the servant’s flaw so that he became god as he had desired (Hymns on Virginity 48.14-18).

Gregory of Nazianzus

Who can mold, as clay-figures are modeled in a single day, the defender of the truth . . . be God and make others to be god? (Orat 2).

His inferior nature, the humanity, became God . . . in order that I too might be made god (Third Theol Orat).

What greater destiny can befall man’s humanity than that he should be intermingled with God and by this intermingling should be deified . . . that thou mayest become a god, ascending from below (Fourth Theol Orat).

Gregory of Nyssa

He was transfused throughout our nature in order that our nature might by this transfusion of the Divine become itself divine (The Great Cat 25).

The God who was manifested infused Himself into perishable humanity for this purpose, that by this communion with Deity mankind might at the same time be defied (The Great Cat 38).

Gregory of Thessalonica

He who participates in the divine energy . . . becomes himself, in a sense, Light; he is united to the Light and with the Light he sees in full consciousness all that remains hidden for those who have not this grace. He thus surpasses not only the corporeal senses, but also all that can be known . . . for the pure of heart see God . . . who, being the Light, abides in them and reveals Himself to those who love Him (Serm Feast of Pres Bl Virgin).

Hilary of Aries

Just as God stepped out of his nature to become a partaker of our humanity, so we are called to step out of our nature to become partakers of his divinity (Intro Comm 2 P).

Hilary of Poitiers

The object to be gained was that man might become God (De Trinitate 9.38).

When God was born to be man, the purpose was not that the Godhead should be lost, but that the Godhead remaining, man should be born to be God (De Trinitate 10.7).

Hippolytus of Rome

Thou hast become God: for whatever sufferings thou didst undergo while being a man, these He gave to thee because thou wast of mortal mould, but whatever it is consistent with God to impart, these God has promised to bestow upon thee because thou hast been deified and begotten unto immortality (Ref Her 5.30).

Ignatius of Antioch

It is therefore good for you to be in perfect unity that you may at all times be partakers of God (Eph 4.2).

Irenaeus of Lyons

God stood in the congregation of the gods, He judges among the gods (Adversus Haereses 3.6.1).

To whom the Word says, mentioning His own gift of grace: ‘I said, Ye are all the sons of the Highest and gods; but ye shall die like men’ . . . it was for this end that the Word of God was made man and He who was the Son of God became the Son of man, that man, having been taken into the Word and receiving the adoption, might become the son of God (ibid. 3.19.1).

Man does not see God by his own powers; but when He pleases He is seen by men, by whom He wills and when He wills, and as He wills . . . those who see the light are within the light and partake of its brilliancy; even so, those who see God are in God and receive of His splendor . . . Men therefore shall see God that they may live, being made immortal by that sight and attaining even unto God (ibid. 4.20.5, 6a).

The Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did through His transcendent love become what we are that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself” (ibid. 5.Pref).

As the opinions of certain [persons] are derived from heretical discourses, they are both ignorant of God’s dispensations and of the mystery of the resurrection of the just, and of the [earthly] kingdom which is the commencement of incorruption, by means of which kingdom those who shall be worthy are accustomed gradually to partake of the divine nature (ibid. 5.32.1).

Jerome of Stridon

We are gods, not so by nature, but by grace: ‘But as many as received him he gave power of becoming sons of God.’ I made man for that purpose, that from men they may become gods: ‘I said, You are gods, all of you sons of the most High’ (Homily 14).

John Chrysostom

He Himself is God and He hath called me god; with Him is the essential nature as an actual fact, with me only the honor of the name: ‘I have said ye are gods, and ye are all children of the most highest.’ Here are words, but in the other case there is the actual reality. He hath called me god for by that name I have received honor (Homily 2).

Man can become God and a child of God. For we read, ‘I have said, Ye are gods, all of you are the children of the Most High’ (Ps. lxxxii. 6).

And what is greater, the power to become both God and angel and child of God is put into his own hands (Hom Acts 32).

Justin Martyr

All men are deemed worthy of becoming ‘gods’ and of having power to become sons of the Highest (Dial 124).

Lactantius

The Word exercises an influence which does not make poets . . . by its instruction it makes mortals immortal, mortals gods (Discourse to the Greeks 5).

The man will triumph over the earth. He will be exactly similar to God (hic erit consimilis Deo) who has embraced the virtue of God (Div Inst 6.23).

Mark the Ascetic

The Logos became man, so that man might become Logos (Let Nic).

Origen of Alexandria

It was by the offices of the first-born that they became gods, for He drew from God in generous measure that they should be made gods, and He communicated it to them according to His own bounty (Comm J 2.2,3).

From Him there began the union of the divine with the human nature in order that the human, by communion with the divine, might rise to be divine (Adv Cel 3.28).

Tertullianus of Carthage

We shall be even gods, if we shall deserve to be among those of whom He declared, ‘I have said, Ye are gods,’ and ‘God standeth in the congregation of the gods.’ But this comes of His own grace, not from any property in us, because it is He alone who can make gods (Adv Herm 5).

Although Adam was by reason of his condition under law subject to death, yet was hope preserved to him by the Lord’s saying, ‘Behold, Adam is become as one of us;’ that is, in consequence of the future taking of the man into the divine nature [hominis in divinitatem] (Adv Marc II.25).

But how does deification apply to the Virgin Mary, since she has always been a creature and not the Creator?

(continued in Part 3)

The deification of the Virgin Mary in Christianity – 1

the-deification-of-the-virgin-mary-in-christianity.jpg

The Deification of the Virgin Mary in Christianity

Many tend to claim that the Virgin Mary is not deified, was not deified at the moment of her conception, and has never been deified. This claim seems to originate from the deep-seated fear, likely Protestant in origin, that the Holy Virgin is being worshipped with that kind of worship reserved for God alone, instead of being honored as the Mother of God. This fear, however, is unfounded. What seems to be happening is the perpetuation of a misunderstanding and lack of sufficient comprehension (and use) of the terms deification and worship.

What is Worship?

Two kinds of worship exist: the worship of latreia and the worship of proskynesis (Bartolo-Abela, 2017). Latreia is the kind of worship reserved for God alone, while proskynesis is the relative worship that can be legitimately given to any saints. Proskynesis is more commonly understood by people as veneration. However, it is still worship in a technical sense, although not the kind of worship that needs to be reserved for God. What is deification and what kind of worship is employed towards those human beings who have become deified?

Deification – Brief Overview

Have I not said that you are gods? (Jn 10:34).

God, you see, wants to make you a god; not by nature, of course, like the One whom He begot but by His gift and by adoption (Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 166.4).

Through Christ, the Word made flesh, man has access to the Father in the Holy Spirit and comes to share in the divine nature (Paul VI, Dei Verbum, 1965).

The Most High knew that Adam wanted to become a god, so He sent His Son who put him on in order to grant him his desire (Ephraim the Syrian, Nisb. Hymns LXIX.12).

He became human so that he might make us gods (Athanasius of Alexandria, De Incarnatione 54.3).

According to Dionysus the Aeropagite, deification is defined as “the attaining of likeness to God and union with Him so far as is possible” (EH 1. 3, PG 3. 376a) both in this life and the next. Maximus the Confessor called deification “the invocation of the great God and Father, the symbol of the authentic and real adoption, according to the gift and grace of the Holy Spirit, thanks to the bestowal of which the saints become and will remain the sons of God” (Ad Thalas 61, PG 90, 636C; Scholia 6, ibid. 644C). Thomas Aquinas stated that deification allowed “this name God [to be] communicable not in its whole signification, but in some part of it by way of similitude so that those are called gods who share in divinity by likeness, according to the text I have said, ‘You are gods (Ps 82:6)’ (Summa Theologica, Resp. to I.13,9).

Gross (1938/2002) elaborated that deification, [the] “divinization of the Christian is not an identification with God [but] an assimilation, a very eminent restoration of the original divine likeness [where one] participates by grace in the perfections that God possesses by nature . . .  [Throughout the process of deification], the Spirit transforms the soul to the image of the Logos, the natural Son of God, thus making the Christian an adoptive child of God. Affecting, it seems, the very essence of the soul, this mysterious conformation is not of a moral nature only, but of a physical nature. It is a veritable partaking of the divine nature and of the divine life” (p. 272). Aquinas added that in deification “the gift of grace surpasses every capability of created nature, since it is nothing short of a partaking of the Divine Nature, which exceeds every other nature . . . God alone should deify, bestowing a partaking of the Divine Nature by a participated likeness” (Summa Theologica, 2.1:112.1).

Irenaeus of Lyons explained that God had “become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself” (Adversus Haereses, Preface). He added, “Do we cast blame on Him because we were not made gods from the beginning, but were at first created merely as men and then later as gods? Although God has adopted this course out of his pure benevolence, that no one may charge him with discrimination or stinginess, He declares, ‘I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are sons of the Most High’ . . . It was necessary at first that nature be exhibited, then after that what was mortal would be conquered and swallowed up in immortality” (ibid., 4.38[4]). Clement of Alexandria declared, “Yea, I say, the Word of God became a man so that you might learn from a man how to become a god” (Exhortation to the Greeks 1). He stated, “If one knows himself, he will know God, and knowing God will become like God . . . His is beauty, true beauty, for it is God and that man becomes a god since God wills it. So Heraclitus was right when he said, ‘Men are gods and gods are men’” (Stromateis 23). Clement added, “He who obeys the Lord and follows the prophecy given through Him . . . becomes a god while still moving about in the flesh” (Stromata 716,101,4). Augustine of Hippo stated, “He Himself that justifies also deifies for by justifying He makes sons of God: ‘For he has given them power to become the sons of God’ [Jn 1:12]. If then we have been made sons of god, we have also been made gods” (On the Psalms 50.2.).

Deification is the process of fulfillment, starting from this earthly life, of the words of the Apostle Peter, “He [Christ] has given us most great and precious promises: that by these you may be made partakers of the divine nature, flying the corruption of that concupiscence which is in the world” (2 P 1:4). Deification as a term was common in the writings of the Greek Fathers and other Early Church Fathers until it was supplanted by the sterile and ‘safe’ language of the Reformation (Kharlamov, 2010).

(continued in Part 2)

Happy Easter to all readers

Resurrection_(24)

Happy Easter, Christ is risen!

Relics of the Passion – 9 – The Stone of the Anointing and the Holy Sepulcher

sepulcher

From the Stone of the Anointing and the Holy Sepulcher

The Stone of the Anointing

The Stone of the Anointing can be found inside the main entrance to the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher,[1] Jerusalem. It was placed there after the reconstruction of the church had been finished in 1810 (Murphy-O’Connor, 1998).

According to tradition, the slab of reddish Stone is located in commemoration on the spot where Saint Joseph of Arimathea had prepared the Body of Jesus Christ for burial (See the Holy Land, 2017). It belongs conjointly to the Armenian Orthodox,[2] the Roman Catholics[3] and the Greek Orthodox[4] that are at the Sepulcher, all of whom were indicated as primary custodians of the church in the firman[5] of the Ottoman Sultan, Osman III, in 1863[6] (ibid.; Morio, 2014). Above is a photograph of a relic from the Stone of the Anointing in a sealed hand-carved, gilt-bronze reliquary that comes from the Custodian Franciscans serving the Holy Land.

The Holy Sepulcher

The Holy Sepulcher is the tomb where Christ was buried for three days before His Resurrection. It is located 295 feet (90 meters) northwest of Golgotha.[7] The tomb had been provided for the burial of Christ by Saint Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin who had quietly disagreed with their condemnation of the Savior.

The tomb, which has a bed of limestone (Romey, 2016; Pells, 2016) upon which the Body of Christ had been placed, is enclosed inside the Kouvouklion, a small chapel that is located in the Aedicule of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher. The bed had been covered for centuries by a marble slab with a cross on it, which had been reportedly engraved by the Crusaders. Above is a photograph of a small stone from the Holy Sepulcher in the same sealed bronze reliquary that comes from the Custodian Franciscans in Jerusalem.

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[1] Also known as the Church of the Resurrection.

[2] The Armenian (Saint James Brotherhood; 2011).

[3] The Franciscans of the Order of Friars Minor (Custodia Terrae Sanctae, 2019). Known locally as ‘Latins.’

[4] The Jerusalem Patriarchate (Brotherhood of the All-Holy Sepulcher; 2012).

[5] A firman was a royal decree issued during the time of the Ottoman empire. The 1863 firman confirmed that which had been decreed in the firman of 1749.

[6] The Status Quo (United Nations Conciliation Commission, 1949).

[7] The place of the skull.

Relics of the Passion – 8 – The Shroud

shroud

From the Burial Shroud

The Burial Shroud is a linen cloth of 14 feet 5 inches long by 3 feet 7 inches wide (4.4 x 1.1 meters). Imprinted on it is the negative image of the Body of Jesus Christ (Adler, 2002), which had resulted after the Savior was wrapped in it for His entombment after the Crucifixion.

The Shroud is known to have been in the possession of the Byzantine emperors until the Sack of Constantinople, which occurred in April 1204[1] (Poulle, 2009). Boniface I[2] and his chief counselor, Othon de la Roche,[3] took the Shroud from the Church of Saint Mary of Blachernae together with other relics and kept them in Athens (Anon., n. d.; Legrand, 1982; Piana, 2014; Rinaldi, 1983; Villehardouin, 2007). But after that no mention of it has been reliably documented for another two centuries.

The knight, Geoffroy I de Charny,[4] and his wife, Jeanne de Vergy,[5] were noted as the new owners of the Shroud in the 14th century, where it was preserved from 1360 to 1389 at Monfort-en-Auxois. Their great-granddaughter, Marguerite de Charny,[6] gave the Shroud to Louis I of the Casa di Savoia[7] in 1453 (Chevalier, 1900; Dubarle, 1993), in exchange for the castle of Varambon and monetary assets. The Savoyards in turn presented it to the Holy See in 1983.

The Shroud is woven in a 3-to-1 herringbone twill pattern made of flax fibrils. The negative image imprinted on it has been described as that of

A front and back view of a naked man with his hands folded across his groin. The two views are aligned along the midplane of the body and point in opposite directions. The front and back views of the head nearly meet at the middle of the cloth (ibid.).

The burial cloth of Christ can be found enclosed in a bullet-proof glass case at the Cappella della Sacra Sindone in Turin, Italy. This chapel had been built in the 17th century by Carlo Emmanuele II[8] to house the sacred relic.

Above is a photograph of a single thread from the Shroud in a sealed reliquary that comes from the Augustinians. A limited number of relics of the Shroud had been distributed to Catholic bishops around the world after a drop of molten silver from a fire had damaged a small part of it in 1532, while at the Sainte Chapelle in Chambéry,[9] France (Cruz, 1984).

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[1] The culmination of the Fourth Crusade, which is considered a major victory and turning point in medieval history.

[2] Marchese di Monferrato and King of Thessaloniki. Boniface was one of the knight-commanders of the Fourth Crusade.

[3] Baron of Ray-sur-Saõne and the first Frankish Lord of Athens.

[4] Lord of Lirey and Savoisy.

[5] A fifth-generation descendant of Othon de la Roche.

[6] de Charny became Madame de la Roche in 1418 after having married Humbert of Villersexel, Count de la Roche.

[7] The House of Savoy, a royal family that was established in 1003 at the historical region of the northwest Alps northwest of Italy. The Savoyards ruled Italy from 1861 to 1946 (Ginsborg, 2003).

[8] The Duke of Savoy.

[9] Chambéry was the capital of the Savoy region at the time. After the fire, Emmanuele Filiberto, the current Duke of Savoy, ordered that the Shroud be translated to Turin where it has remained since 1578. The coffer in which it traveled can also be seen (Piana, 2014).

Relics of the Passion – 7 – The True Effigy of the Holy Face

Vera Effigies

The True Effigy of the Holy Face

Relics of the true effigy of the Holy Face originate with the 19th century miracle that had occurred with the Veil of Veronica[1] kept at the Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican City (Cruz, 2015). The Veil, which the pious woman[2] had given to Jesus Christ at the top of the steep hill located between al-Wad Road and the Souq Khan al-Zeit (Sacred Destinations, 2019), so that He could wipe away the Blood and sweat pouring down His Face while carrying the Cross, had been taken to Rome by Saint Veronica herself during the reign of the Emperor Tiberius.[3]

In 1849, during the revolution that had occurred at the time of Saint Pius IX, the Veil of Veronica was on display for veneration after Vespers on the 5th Sunday in Lent[4] (Cruz, 2015). All of a sudden, it was transfigured in front of everyone present. The Face of Christ appeared as though it was lifelike. It was also surrounded with a halo of soft golden light, while the Veil itself glowed with the divine light in front of everyone present.

The miracle lasted for three hours and one the Canons of Saint Peter was ordered by the Pope to draw the Holy Face as it had appeared transfigured in order to preserve it for posterity (For All the Saints, 2009). Saint Pius IX also ordered that the Canon’s drawing of the Holy Face be engraved as an effigy onto linen cloths that would be touched to the original Veil of Veronica, a relic of the True Cross and the tip of the spear of Longinus,[5] making them precious relics in themselves, not just devotional images (Archconfraternity of the Holy Face, 1887). These effigies were to bear the official wax seal of a Cardinal of the Catholic Church and imprinted with the textual description:

VERA EFFIGIES SACRI VULTUS DOMINI NOSTRI JESU CHRISTI[6]

The true effigies of the Holy Face are known to have been distributed for a period of about 75 years. Above is a photograph of the effigy of the Holy Face that comes from Rome.

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[1] One of the few images of the Holy Face not made by human hands (Cannuli, 2014).

[2] Originally named Seraphia (Doyle, 2000) and commonly known as the pious woman, she became identified as Veronica in the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus (Reid, 1913), because of the imprint of His Face that Christ had left on her Veil in gratitude for her merciful gesture.

[3] Tiberius was the Roman Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD.

[4] Previously known as Passion Sunday.

[5] Longinus had pierced Christ’s side with the spear after His death. This relic is also housed at the Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican City.

[6] True Image of the Holy Face of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Relics of the Passion – 6 – The Crown of Thorns

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From the Crown of Thorns

UPDATE: The Crown of Thorns that was held at Notre Dame, together with other precious relics, is presently being held at the Louvre after the conflagration that occurred on April 16, 2019 at the Cathedral.

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The ring of canes that makes up the base of the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus Christ during the Passion can now be found at the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris (2010). Its diameter is 8.5 inches (21cm). The Crown was carried to France from Venice by two Dominican friars in August 1239 and eventually placed in the Sainte-Chapelle,[1] after Saint Louis IX had redeemed it for 13,134 gold ducats from Baldwin II, the Emperor of Constantinople.

Baldwin had pawned the Crown of Thorns as security with a Venetian bank for the money he needed to borrow, to support his crumbling empire. The Crown had been housed in the Basilica of Hagia Zion in Jerusalem since 409, until it was translated to Constantinople during the Crusades. The Crown had been braided from the rushes of the Juncus balticus,[2] while the thorns attached to it by the Roman soldiers were from the Ziziphus spina-christi.[3]

Numerous thorns have been splintered off from the Crown throughout the centuries and distributed widely around the world. More notable are those held at Saint Michael’s Church, in Ghent, Belgium; the Cathedral of Saint Vitus in Prague, Czech Republic; the Cathedral of Trier, Germany; the Basilica della Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, Rome, Italy; the Cathedral of Oviedo, Spain; the British Museum, England; and Saint Anthony’s Chapel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States of America (Gazetteer of Relics and Miraculous Images, 2009). Above is a photograph of a relic from the Crown of Thorns in a sealed reliquary that comes from the Augustinians.

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[1] The Sainte-Chapelle was built specifically by Saint Louis IX to house the Crown of Thorns and 28 other relics he had received from Baldwin II.

[2] Baltic rush taken from the Jucaceae perennial flowering plant native to Northern Britain, the Baltic and Scandinavia.

[3] Christ’s thorn jujube, an evergreen plant native to Africa, the Middle East, Southern and Western Asia.

Relics of the Passion – 5 – The Purple Robe

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From the Purple Robe

Before crowning Him with thorns after the Scourging at the Pillar, at the order of Herod Antipas, the Roman soldiers at the court forced Jesus Christ to wear a purple[1] robe in mockery of His kingship of the Jews (Lk 23:6-12). The soldiers then stripped Christ of this robe after Pontius Pilate had presented Him to the mob (Jn 19:5) and made Him put back on His seamless garment[2] to carry the Cross. Above is a photograph of a very rare relic of the Purple Robe in a sealed reliquary that comes from the Augustinians.

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[1] Purple was at the time considered to be the color worn by kings.

[2] The seamless garment had been woven for Christ by the Virgin Mary.

Relics of the Passion – 4 – The Column of Flagellation

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From the Column of Flagellation

The column of flagellation to which Christ had been tied during the Scourging at the Pillar was made of marble (McNeely, 2015). Part of the column remained at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher and resides in the Franciscan Chapel (Mason, 2017). Another part of it was given to Giovanni, Cardinal di Colonna the Younger, by the king of Jerusalem during the Fourth Crusade.[1] Colonna took it back with him to Rome, Italy, and placed it in the Basilica di Santa Prassede, his cardinalate church (McNeely, 2015). This part of the Column is housed in a bronze reliquary and can be found at the San Zeno Chapel.

Fragments of the column of flagellation have been distributed around the world throughout the centuries in ways similar to the True Cross. Above is a photograph of a small piece of the column in a sealed reliquary that comes from Rome.

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[1] The Crusades were a series of nine religious wars that started in 1095 by order of Pope Urban II (Mills, 1820). These wars were carried out to recover the Holy Land and other sacred sites for Christianity from under Muslim rule, which had been in place since the 7th century. It was common practice during the Crusades to translate relics from the Holy Land to Rome and other places in the West for their ‘preservation’ (Andrea & Rachlin, 1992; McNeely, 2015).

Relics of the Passion – 3 – The Ropes

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From the Ropes of the Flagellation

Many of the ropes of the flagellation of Jesus Christ that took place during the Scourging at the Pillar can be found at the Basilica di Santa Prassede in Rome, Italy, to where they were translated during the Fourth Crusade. Above is a photograph of a few strands from one of the ropes in a sealed reliquary that comes from Rome.

Relics of the Passion – 2 – The True Cross

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Relics of the True Cross

After the death of Jesus Christ, the very last thing the leaders of the Jews wanted at the time was any mention of Christ being able to rise from the dead (Mayo, 2018). They had heard enough of that in the preceding years and wanted no more of it. For them it was blasphemy. Thus, to prevent such a thing from happening, after Christ died, the Jews proceeded to dump the wood of the Cross into a ditch and covered it over with several boulders to prevent it from ever being found. But in 320, the aged Saint Helena[1] visited Jerusalem in the hope of learning more about Christ’s life and the places where He had been (Socrates Scholasticus, 1984).

With the support of both her son and Saint Macarius of Jerusalem,[2] Helena ordered that the 2nd century temple to Venus,[3] which had been built upon what was suspected to be the tomb of Christ, be destroyed and replaced by what is today known as the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher (ibid.; Eusebius of Caesarea, 4th cent.). But as workers were carrying out the demolition and excavation works in compliance with Helena’s request, under the religio-jurisdictional supervision of Macarius, three crosses were found buried among the rubble on September 14:[4] the Cross of Christ, with the titular inscription I. N. B. I.[5] still attached to it; and the crosses of Saint Dismas, the good thief, and Gesmas, the bad thief (da Varagine,[6] 1260).

Macarius ordered that the three crosses be placed alternatively upon a woman who was so ill that she was considered to be on her deathbed (Socrates Scholasticus, 1984). The woman is said to have recovered when touched by the third cross, which was the Cross of Christ with its inscription.

A large part of the True Cross of Christ was then placed in a silver casket and has remained at the Basilica of Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem (Marucchi, 1908; McClure, 1919). A second large part was later taken to Rome, Italy, and placed for veneration at the Basilica della Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, which was also built by Helena. A third large part was taken by the queen to the palace in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey), where Constantine proceeded to declare the city impregnable to enemy attacks. Smaller parts of the Cross were broken up into fragments and widely distributed to the faithful throughout the world.

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From the wood of the True Cross

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 350) declared that

The holy wood of the Cross bears witness, seen among us to this day, and from this place now almost filling the whole world, by means of those who in faith take portions of it.

Significant parts of the Cross can, among others, also be found at the Monastery of Koutloumousiou on Mount Athos, Greece; the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris, France; the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption in Pisa, Italy; the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana, Spain; and at the Monasterio de Tarlac in San Jose, Philippines.

Presented above are photographs of two small relics of the True Cross in a sealed brass reliquary, together with their detail. They are placed one upon the other to form of a cross. These fragments of the Cross of Christ come from that part of the True Cross that can be found in Istanbul. Their provenance was certified in 2004 by Paul Karatas, then Archbishop of the Chaldean Eparchy of Diarbekir, Turkey.

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[1] Mother of the Emperor Constantine.

[2] Macarius was the bishop of Jerusalem from 312 to 335.

[3] The goddess of love, beauty, sex, fertility, prostitution, and victory (Garcia, 2013). Venus was the mother of Hermaphroditos who epitomized androgyny.

[4] In 335, this day was proclaimed thenceforth in the Church as the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (or Triumph of the Holy Cross), with the first feast being held on the dedication of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher (Holy Sepulcher, n. d.).

[5] Iησος Ναζωραος Bασιλες τν ουδαίων [Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Judeans] as had been ordered to be written by Pontius Pilate despite the objections raised by the Jewish leaders: “O γέγραφα γέγραφα” [What I have written, I have written] (Brown, 1988; cf. Ps 56, 57).

[6] Blessed Jacobus da Varagine was the archbishop of Genova from 1288 until his death 10 years later. According to da Varagine, the Cross of Christ was made from the different types of wood of three trees, the seeds of which had been planted by Seth in the mouth of Adam’s corpse during his father’s burial. These trees of cedar, cypress and pine (Roman, 2005; cf. Is 60:13) were said to have sprouted in one spot from the seeds of the Tree of Mercy in the Garden of Eden. The wood from the three trees had been used to build Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.