I am blessed with a wonderful collection of documented relics from the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ that I have taken throughout the United States, Hawaii, Guam and the Philippines for public veneration. These relics are always the center of the liturgical Easter session and draw large crowds of the faithful and curious alike.
What is a relic? Relics, the word includes the bodies of departed saints, fragments of their bodies, articles or portions of articles which they have used, such as clothes, vestments, rosaries, and the like. The Church also venerates relics of Christ and His Blessed Mother. Such are the holy nails, lance, spear, fragments of the True Cross, the girdle, veil, etc., of the Blessed Virgin.
God gave the relic, in the first instance, by allowing it to be discovered, and then by allowing it to be translated. As St. Augustine said in a sermon on St. Stephen: "His body lay hidden for so long a time. It came forth when God wished it. It has brought light to all lands, it has performed such miracles." The discovery of a relic, therefore, was far more than an act of pious archaeology.
A sense of the mercy of God lies at the root of the discovery, translation, and installation of relics. The relic itself may not have been as important as the invisible gesture of God's forgiveness that had made it available in the first place; and so its presence in the community was very much the proof that it had been judged by God to deserve the presence of the saint.
What I have found interesting is that we generally think of the Passion and the implements of Christ’s torment as items, things and events that happened over 1900 years ago. Maybe sometimes non-believers even wonder if all of this even relevant in today’s world and modern sophisticated society. Maybe these sacramental’s and the sufferings of Our Lord are more relevant than people realize.
(Reliquary containing relic of Longinus)
* The Crown of Thorns – MIND - is symbolized as a wreath of thorns placed upon the head of Christ. There are a number of people, myself included that believe it was constructed more in the fashion of a helmet. If you research a little you can find at least three times when the garment of our condemned Savior was removed and/or changed. This of course would produce a completely new set of wounds in His sacred head each time.
Now here’s a twist, fast forward to the current time. How many minds are currently suffering with the pains of mental illness, addiction, and psychosis that suffer daily. This of course does not take into consideration the people that are mentally handicapped from birth and those driven to a diminished mental capacity through life’s twist and turns.
* The True Cross – BURDEN – one of our great saints has said that Christ was not put on the cross; He laid Himself upon the Cross-for us. How many parents and single mothers and fathers have laid themselves upon the cross for their children. How many people have had the very object of their love and devotion become their own personal cross. I have read that a Saint had said that the cross becomes heavier if you drag it instead of embracing it. I keep reminding myself of St. Mark 8:34 -  And calling the multitude together with his disciples, he said to them: If any man will follow me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
* The Nails – BONDAGE – often times people state that the nails couldn’t have been in the hands because the weight of the His body would have torn the palms of the hands. Archeologists of the Holyland have found skeletonized hands from the period of the crucifixion with pieces of wood placed across the palm and the nail driven through the palm, a crude washer.
How many men and women and young adults are now confined in institutions, jails and prisons throughout the world, yes some guilty, but some imprisoned because to their beliefs on human rights, faith and religion. While I was in Guam on a “Passion Tour” we visited a prison, it was and still remains a moving experience for me. A table was set up in the prison courtyard in the center of a wire fenced (steel cage match) sort of venue. Prisoners were brought in by groups to listen to a brief talk and the share the opportunity to venerated the relics.
One inmate said, “Dude, I wasn’t always a bad person” and I relied, “ I know, the only difference between you and I is that when I did something stupid in the past I didn’t get caught.
The Column of Flagellation – ADDICTION – The column was more than likely a broken architectural column that had a large steel ring attached to the top so animals could be tied to it for securing the beast.
This brings to mind the beast of addition, a beast that torments an individual on a daily basis. Even when clean and sober the desire is still there waiting for a moment of weakness to tie you down and beat you again and again .
* St. Longinus – BLINDNESS – was the centurion that pierced the side of Christ. Legend has it that Longinus had impaired vision (blind) in one eye, and when he pierced the side of Our Lord the blood and water issued forth and splashed off his spear/lance into his eye. His sight was restored and he proclaimed, "In truth this man was son of God."
How many times of us have made other things our main pursuit in life other than in Christ? The pursuit of love, money, even status and job security only to have it all disappear quicker and easier than it was attained. It is usually then at our lowest point in life that we cry out, “My Lord and my God” and realize what are true priorities are.
As you can see it is easy to parallel the past to the present, it seems it makes it easier to understand and comprehend. We have been given sacramental’s in the relics and accounts of the Passion to help strengthen us in our difficult times and to give us hope and reinforce our will power. This is the very important lesson to be learned from the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ for today and forever.
Thomas J. Serafin is the founder of the International Crusade for Holy Relics.