Reliquary of the True Cross
Recently, I was confronted by someone, presumably a Roman Catholic, who did not agree with what he had read in an article I had written concerning one of Catholicism's most revered idols, the supposed True Cross upon which Jesus had been crucified.
This individual informed me that the relics of the True Cross are articles of faith. He added that people do not worship them; that they are reminders that Christ died on the cross for man's sins. He then argued that, in so much as the relics serve to remind [Catholic] faithful that Jesus “is a living savior (sic)” who is among us even today , they serve a purpose.
As I understand the term, an article of faith is a very basic belief that is not to be doubted. Applying this understanding to relics, it appeared as though my antagonist were saying that belief in little pieces of wood is basic to his [Catholic] faith.
He claimed that the itty-bitty bits of wood alleged to have been taken from the cross upon which Christ died somehow remind Catholics of Christ's substitutionary atoning sacrifice. How do they do that? He did not say whether he had ever seen one of those near microscopic bits of old wood. Aren't they generally entombed in Catholic altars? or locked away in a reliquary? I cannot comprehend how a miniscule bit of matter scarcely larger than a grain of rice can be so inspirational, especially when it is kept out of sight. What is it that Catholics are required to believe: that the mote of wood is present in the altar or reliquary? that it really came from the cross that Jesus died on? that Jesus died for the sins of mankind?
Those who would like to see what an authenticated (?) Catholic relic of the True Cross looks like are in luck. All you need do is go to ebay.com and search for "true cross." I did just that, on April 14, 2007, and discovered that a dozen or more reliquaries containing bits of the "True Cross" were up for auction. Of course, every one of these had the required threads, wax seal, etc., that serve to "prove" that the near-microscopic bit of whatever actually was taken from the cross upon which died the Lord Jesus Christ. Yeah! Fer shur! The little scraps of wood are displayed in golden, plated or gilded. statuettes, in pendants, etc. With such a variety of reliquaries from which to choose, it is a buyer's market.
These "holy" bits of Catholic stuff generally aren't cheap. If you want one today, figure on spending between about 300 and 1800 bucks. Is it worth it? Think about it. With a bit of the True Cross on his or her home altar, a person would be the darling of the Sodality or Rosary group. Given that even the most horrific diseases allegedly can be cured with a little faith and a touch of the True Cross, who needs a doctor's training or license to cure the infirm and injured? These motes of wood are even more powerful than a St. Benedict medal when it comes to healing. With reliquary in hand, a person could set out cross-country and around the world curing people right and left. Why, if every one of the bits of the True Cross up for auction today were carried around by compassionate people, AIDS, cancer, heart disease and every other illness would disappear from the face of the earth in short order. I wonder what other Catholic scrap would have the power to eliminate the widespread starvation that would result from everyone in the world having perfect health and full life spans?
Why is it necessary to have these little specks of wood to be reminded of Christ's atoning death? Doesn't every Catholic church have a great crucifix on display? Don't the rosary beads that some Catholics toll as they pray repeated prayers to their goddess Mary or hang off their rearview mirrors always include a crucifix? And don't those crucifixes incorporate an image of dead Jesus hanging on a cross? How does being reminded of Jesus' death serve to remind Catholic faithful that Jesus is a “living Savior” when they are focused on his death?
Why are Catholics so hung up on dead Jesus? There is nothing terribly special about dying. We all do it, or one day will. Even dying so that others might be saved is not unheard of. Members of the military endure suffering and sometimes death so that others might live. So do firemen. So do policemen. So do others we read about in our newspapers. Had Jesus of Nazareth merely died on that cross, even to atone for the sins of others, would Christianity exist today?
We know from Scripture that Jesus indeed did die on Golgotha. It is an historical fact attested to in the Gospels and letters of the New Testament, documents written when some of those who had stood near the cross and witnessed His death surely were still alive and able to contest the account, were it untrue. These same records inform that His lifeless body was taken down from the cross and hurriedly entombed in the burial place prepared for Joseph of Arimathea. We know that the tomb was closed by a great stone that was rolled in front of the door. We know that when the Sabbath had passed and the women went to the tomb to prepare the body for burial according to Jewish custom they found the stoned rolled back and the body gone. And this despite the presence of a Roman guard sent to ensure that no one came to steal the body.
An angelic being informed the women that Jesus had risen. Within a short span of time, Jesus walked and talked with a number of people who knew Him. Indeed, He had risen. This was irrefutable proof that He was who He had claimed to be: the Son of God. And this is what Christians celebrate: Not that Jesus died, though His atoning death was indispensable if the sins of men were to be forgiven, but that He had risen. By His resurrection His deity was confirmed. By His resurrection, He showed how those who believe Him to be the Son of God also will be resurrected in His name. Had that lifeless body placed in Joseph's tomb been there when the women arrived on the day following Sabbath, Jesus would have been shown to have been but a man and there would be no Christian faith, no hope of salvation.
The Jesus of Christianity is not a lifeless figure hanging on a cross, but the living Christ who even now is seated at the right hand of God and speaking to Him of us. Our Savior is not dead, as in Catholic imagery; He is alive. Our God lives! We need no silly bit of wood of dubious origin to remind us of that. He lives within the breast of every true believer.
My antagonist then pointed out that, while indeed there are what he referred to as “negatives” in the Roman Catholic Church, so also are there “positives.” He added that this is the case with all churches.
Is this his apologetic? that there are positives and negatives in all churches? Of course there are. After all, what he apparently meant by “churches” are organizations created by men in their efforts to reach out to God. There is nothing, I am convinced, made by man that is not in some way flawed. Fallen men are saved, not by the imperfect religious organizations to which they belong, but by the grace of God, which indeed is perfect.
In an outburst of self-righteousness, he then declared that he finds it much more useful to build on the positives within churches than to dissect the negatives. And of course he would, for he clearly appeared to have fallen for the false gospel of the Roman Catholic Church and to have joined in her ecumenical drive to seduce mankind away from sound doctrine and true faith.
Finally, he called upon that well-beloved tactic of Catholic apologists and fired his best shot, thereby attempting to discredit what I had written in my article. He suggested that I take a trip to visit one of the sites where relics of the True Cross are displayed. This was a variation of the infamous “You simply do not understand” apologetic so dear to Catholics who are inept at defending their faith.
I asked if he done this, and urged him to share with me the details of his visit to a scrap of wood. Was he healed of some dreadful disease or chronic medical condition by touching the splinter? Was he in fact able even to touch the thing? How many others did he personally see cured by coming into contact with it? If he neither were cured nor personally saw anyone else cured, I demanded, why does he believe the claims of its miraculous powers?
His response to my challenge was to toss out a red herring. According to him, people are saved and God works through the Holy Spirit who, he argued, is not bad for a bit of wood.
Saved by what? Surely he was are not implying that people are saved by travelling to a church and gazing upon an altar or reliquary in which they are told rests a bit of wood from the cross upon which Jesus supposedly died. Does the god of Catholicism do his best work through idolized scraps of wood fiber? My correspondent claimed that God works through the Holy Spirit. I wonder; does he believe the sliver of cellulose fiber is the Holy Spirit, or home to Him?
I found this person's limited expression of his understanding of Catholic soteriology to be utterly unconvincing. I'll keep my saving faith in Christ, which was a gift from God Almighty.
For those who place their hope in idols and images of a dead savior, I offer these words from the Revelation of John:
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