Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Holy Relics in the Patriarchal Church, Constantinople

Like icons, relics are a central aspect of Orthodox worship, underlining the transfiguration of the material world by divine grace. Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom, the Three Hierarchs, whose joint feast day is January 30th, were the most influential theologians of the early Church. They are venerated by all Christians. After 1204, with the Fourth Crusade, the relics of these three saints were taken from Constantinople to Rome. In November 2004 the relics of St Gregory and St John Chrysostom, who were the two renowned Archbishops of the Byzantine Capital, were solemnly restored to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as a generous gift from Pope John Paul II. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew presided over their return, and they are now preserved on the left aisle of the Church of St George. Additionally, more recently, the relics of St Basil the Great were also returned from Rome.

The aforementioned relics are not the only relics to be found in the Patriarchal Church. The relics of St Euphemia the Great Martyr (4th century), whose feast day is September 16, are a precious spiritual treasure. St Theophano the Empress (r. 886-93), the wife of Emperor Leo the Wise, is commemorated on December 16th. Despite the other set of relics being traditionally attributed to Solomone, mother of the Maccabess, who feast day is August 1st, it probably belongs to Mary Salome (commemorated on the second Sunday after Easter), one of the myrrh bearing women, who first witnessed the Resurrection.  

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