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sense of the word, and considered as possessing in itself a considerable degree of holiness; because it is a part of that body which was sanctified by the superabundant graces of God, with which its soul was adorned ; that body which was the temple of the Holy Ghost, and whose blessed soul, to which it was united, and to which it will again be joined, is now reigning with Christ in glory. (2.) When the relic is not a part of the saint's body, but only something that belonged to him in his lifetime, such as his books, clothes, or the like. This also is esteemed holy, f:oin the connexion and relation it had with the saint; such was the rod of Moses, and the mantle of Elias. (3.) Such things as did not even belong to the saints, but only had touched their bodies, either in their lifetime or after their death ; such as the aprons and handkerchiefs that had touched the body of St. Paul, and afterwards cured all diseases. This kind is also called a relic, though in a less proper sense of the word, than the former two.
Q. 37. What does the Church teach concerning the honour and veneration due to holy images and relics ?
A. With regard to holy images, the Church, in the general Council of Trent, teaches: “The images of Christ, and of his Virgin Mother, and of other saints, are to be had and retained, especially in Churches, and a due honour and veneration is to be given them; not that any divinity or virtue is believed to be in them, for which they are to be honoured, or that any prayer is to be made to them, or that any confidence is to be placed in them, as was formerly done by the heathens, who placed their hopes in idols: but because the honour which is given them, is referred to the originals which they represent; so that by the images which we kiss, and before which we uncover our heads, VOL. II.
or kneel, we adore Christ, and venerate his saints, whose likeness they represent," Sess. xxv. And, with regard to holy relics, the same council teaches, that “the sacred bodies of the martyrs, and other saints, who are living with Christ, which were the living members of Christ, and temples of the Holy Ghost, and are to be raised up by him to eternal life, and glorified, are to be held in veneration by the faithful ; by them many benefits are bestowed by God an men,” Ibid.
Q. 38. On what is this veneration of holy images and relics founded?
A. On three very strong and solid reasons: (1.) On the very natural disposition and frame of the heart of man. For, when we have a real affection and esteem for any other, our regard is not confined to his person alone, but naturally and forcibly extends itself to every thing that belongs to, or is intimately connected with him. What esteem and regard do we not constantly pay to the picture of our king, or of any friend whom we sincerely love ? If a mother loses her darling child by death, how carefully does she keep a little of his hair, or set it in a ring or bracelet, and pay the highest regard to it on all occasions, as a dear memorial of her darling child. Examples of this kind are innumerable. If, therefore, we have a real esteem and sincere affection for Jesus Christ and his holy saints, does not nature itself impel us to have an esteem and regard for their holy images and relics ? And is it possible to have a real esteem and regard for these things, without shewing the external signs of it when occasion offers? But is it to these images or relics, as considered in themselves, that we shew this regard ? By no means, any more than the regard we shew for the picture of a friend, or the esteem we put upon any memorial of those we
love, is paid to these objects as considered in themselves. It is only for the sake of those whom they represent, and for the connexion they have with those we love, that we shew any regard to them at all. So that all the outward respect we pay to these things, is only a testification of the inward love, esteem, and veneration we have for those to whom they relate; and, on this account it is, that all the regard we pay to these things, is called relative honour, relative worship, and the like.
(2.) On the authority of God himself, who has often been pleased to give the most manifest approbation of our respect and veneration paid to holy images and relics. Tbe brazen serpent, set up by his express command in the wilderness, was an image of Jesus Christ upon the cross, and
what numbers of miracles did not God perform by. it: for, as many as were bitten by the fiery serpents, whose bite, till that time, was certain death, by only casting their eyes upon the brazen serpent were immediately healed, Numb. xxi, 11. When Elias was taken up to heaven, Eliseus, his successor as the prophet of God, “ took up the mantle of Elias, that fell from him, and going back, he stood upon the bank of the Jordan, and he said, Where is now the God of Elias? And he struck the waters with the mantle of Elias, and they were divided hither and thither, and Eliseus passed over,” 4 Kings ii. 13. And after some time this prophet “ Eliseus died, and they buried him. And the rovers from Moab came into the land the same year; and some that were burying a man, saw the rovers, and cast the body into the sepulchre of Eliseus ; and when it had touched the bones of Eliseus, the man came to life, and stood upon his feet,” 4 Kings xiii. 20. If we examine the New Testament, their we find, that God wrought
by the hand of Paul, more than common miracles; so that even there were brought from his body to the sick, hankerchiefs and aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the wicked spirits went out of them,” Acts xix. 11. See here what 'examples of the greatest benefits bestowed on man, and the most surprizing miracles wrought by God, by means of holy images and relics. Could any thing more manifestly approve and authorize the respect and veneration due to these things ? Let. us examine the feelings of our own hearts : Suppose we had in our possession the mantle of Elias, or the aprons and handkerchiefs that had touched the body of St. Paul, and saw the same miracle done by them which are recorded in Scripture to have been actually performed by their means, would not nature itself dictate to us to put the highest value and esteem upon them ?
(3.) On the advantages which we receive from the use of holy pictures, even in a natural way; for they are a proper and becoming ornament for the churches of God; they serve much for the instruction of the ignorant ; they excite love and other holy affections towards God and bis saints, as the picture of our absent friend calls him to our remembrance, and revives our love and ailection for him ; they encourage us to an imitation of their virtues; and they are a profession of our faith, that we believe the doctrine of Christ and his saints.
Q. 39. In what manner is due respect paid to holy images and relics ?
A. Sacrifice, both in its own nature, and from the common judgment formed of it by all mankind, is an external manifestation of the belief we have of the divine Being, and his infinite perfections, and of that supreme worship and adoration which we give to him as God. On this account, it can be
given to none but God alone, and to offer sacrifice to any creature whatever, would be the grossest idolatry. But sacrifice alone excepted, there is no outward sign of respect, whether bowing, uncovering our head, kneeling, or the like, that, either of itself, or in the opinion of mankind, signifies any que particular kind of respect more than another; and hence they are used promiscuously on all occasions, both towards God, and towards one another, to signify evil, natural, religious, and divine worship, according to the object to which they are paid. And as, in fact, we have no other way of shewing outwardly the respect and regard we have for any object; bence we make use of them also to express the veneration and respect we pay to holy images and relics, as well as to any other object.
Q. 40. But does not the affectionate manner in which these outward signs of respect are sometimes used towards crucifixes, holy images, and relics, shew that they are really more thought of than they deserve, and give a just handle to accuse those who do it of superstition, or even of idolatry?
A. This is the argument used by the adversaries of the Catholic Church, to render her odious to the people; but nothing can be more unjust or uncharitable. All that these external actions naturally represent is, that we do esteem, respect, and venerate the object to which we direct them; the more ardently and affectionately we perform these actions, the more we shew the sincerity of our love and respect for the object, but they certainly have no manner of connexion with the motive upon which out love and esteem of the object is founded: nay, as hypocrisy can perfectly well imitate all these exterior signs of the internal affections, they may be used out of mockery and ridicule, as well as out of respect and veneration, as the soldiers did when.