Monday, October 3, 2005

This has always fascinated me

"The Incorruptibles" -- bodies and relics of saints that seemingly remain impervious to natural decomposition.

Since becoming Catholic (or really, since becoming-a-becoming-Catholic), I have had not the slightest qualms about relics and other such "morbid" "medieval" devotions. In fact, I love the idea of them. Relics are unliving tokens of living grace. Relics are concrete "tags" on the wall of history with which God signals his ongoing solicitude. They are tangible (and for some, all to tangible!) artifacts that pin the supernatural life at work in God's holy ones with the natural life of other less attuned or open to grace. They are enduring signs of a grace-punctured and life-punctuated world seemingly made only of loss and death. For example, at the church I attend for early morning Mass, they have a bit of St. Therese of Lisieux in an orb standing before a statue of her. I love this. The same Little Therese who was so magnificently filled with grace in body and soul is with us not only in her soul in the mystical unity of the Church as we worship but also quite vividly with us in token form as a tiny tombstone of divinized flesh.

From the same church, shortly before leaving for Europe, I bought a rosary that includes a small ampule of water from Lourdes, and which, only a day or two later, led me to have one of the more powerful spiritual encounters with God I've ever enjoyed. The water in that ampule had reached me all the way from France, and was carried on the holy little hands of my brothers and sisters in the Body. More important, the power of that water was an artifact signaling divine grace having broken through to our world even today and having reached me all the way in Taiwan, all the way into my tattered life. That little ampule was and is a tiny estuary capturing some of the grace which pours like blood and water -- as any and all grace does -- from the pierced side of Christ our Savior. Perhaps I should say it is an estuary within an estuary, since I, as a Christian, am a much larger and more complex estuary of the same divine grace. The grace filling His pierced heart flows into us not merely psychologically (or neurologically), as Evangelicals would have it, but also in ways as embarrassingly mundane and diverse as we are. This is quite simply what Chrsitianity, what the Incarnation, means -- God dwelt among flesh as flesh -- and is exactly what relics protect: the unending, unfading pierced presence of God in His Body in real human bodies.

Anyway, a reader recently directed me to a widely reported Marian appartition in an Oriental (Coptic) Orthodox church in Zeitoun-Cairo. On the same webpage I found a really cool page about saints' incorrupt bodies and wanted to share it with you. You may also want to take a gander at this historical and biblical primer-defense about relics.

Thoughts? If not, I still treasure your prayers. ;)

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