only today, therefore, but every day let us go forth to him, plucking
spiritual fruits from him. For it is, it is possible for him who comes
hither with faith to gather the fruit
of many good
things. For not the bodies only, but the very sepulchers of the saints have been filled
with spiritual grace.
For if in the case of Elisha this happened, and a corpse when it touched
the sepulcher, burst the bands of death and returned to life again,
much rather now, when grace
is more abundant, when the energy of the spirit is greater, is it possible
that one touching a sepulcher, with faith, should win great
power; thence on this account God allowed us the remains of the saints, wishing to lead by
them us to the same emulation, and to afford us a kind of haven, and a
secure consolation for the evils
which are ever overtaking us. Wherefore I beseech you all, if any is in
despondency, if in disease, if under insult, if in any other circumstance
of this life, if in the depth of sins, let him come hither
and he will lay aside all those things, and will return with much joy, having procured a
from the sight alone. But more, it is not only necessary that those who
are in affliction should come hither, but if any one be in cheerfulness,
in glory, in power, in much
assurance towards God,
let not this man despise the benefit."
--Chrysostom, Homliy on St. Ignatius
Pre-Christian Notions (Jewish and Greco-Roman)
- Regular festivals celebrating the gods and local
figures of renown
- Traveling to special sites associated with the
gods to seek healing
- Dead having a ritualized role in the world of the
- Visits to the tombs of one's family, including
ritual meals eaten at the graves
- Prayers offered to the souls of the dead
- Biographies of key figures are popular
- A calendar full of feast days
- Accounts of the suffering of martyrs
- The Christian practice begins by early second
century with biographies of martyrs, accounts of their endurance under
torture, and exemplary sermons.
- Martyrs' prayers considered effective after
- The environment of the catacombs encourages a
spirituality of places, objects, and memories associated with the
- Rituals affirm the faith and identify with its
- (Late 3rd, early 4th century) Belief arises that
the bones of the saints are tools for exorcism.
- More elaborate public rituals develop around the
- (Late 4th century) Martyrs' relics considered
signs of triumph over death--first signs of the beliefs that their
bones are sweet smelling instead of corrupt.
- Christians evince more and more faith in the
sanctity of places and objects.
- A network of communication and assistance makes
travel among the various sites easier.
- Invocations of the saints become more acceptable.
- How should Christians view the relationship
between the living and the dead?
- How physical should our memorials of the dead be?
- Are the veneration and prayers requested of the
saints worship? Explain.