The place of holy relics in the Orthodox Church

Because of the revolution during the period of the Protestant Reformation, the veneration of the saints, came under attack, leading to the burning of the bodies of saints, depriving them of even a Christian burial, and thus leading to perhaps the worst sin of iconoclasm. We see a continuation of this iconoclasm demonstrated by our fear of the dead by our avoidance of even the tradition of Christian burial. Increasingly we choose to cremate the remains of our loved ones, thus denying the truth that we were created in God’s image and likeness. This leads to most Americans looking upon the Orthodox practice of giving the “last kiss” to our loved ones, prior to their burial, with revulsion. We even avoid the subject of death by having their remains cremated, without even gazing, one last time, upon our dead.

Given all this, is it any wonder our Orthodox practice of venerating the relics of those whom the Church has declared as saints, is looked upon as repulsive? The number of times I’ve heard people proclaim the myth that relics of the True Cross are so numerous as to be enough to build a ship, is sickening, whereas the actual count wouldn’t even be enough to reconstruct one cross.

That there is clear evidence for us to venerate the relics of the saints is made clear in Scripture (see 2 Kings 13:21), yet this ancient practice of venerating the relics of saints is hidden from most members of the “denominations”, all the while as we Orthodoxy continue to testify our faithfulness to this ancient Christian Tradition.

Just as we Orthodox realize the benefit of receiving the blessing of a priest, or the spiritual benefit of kissing the icon of a saint, we recognize the grace-filled blessing that comes to us when we venerate the relics of the saints.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Photos: 1) The reliquary of Saint John the Wonderworker, Holy Virgin “Joy of All Who Sorrow” Russian Orthodox Cathedral in San Francisco. 2) The icon and relic of Saint John the Wonderworker, in our monastery’s temple.

Saturday October 19, 2019 / October 6, 2019
18th Week after Pentecost. Tone eight.
Holy and Glorious Apostle Thomas (1st c.).
New Hieromartyr John priest (1937).
Virgin-martyr Eroteis of Cappadocia.
New Martyr Macarius at Kion in Bithynia (Mt. Athos) (1590) (Greek).
Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos “O All-Hymned Mother”.
Venerable Cindeus of Cyprus, monk (Greek).

The Scripture Readings

John 21:15-25

Jesus Restores Peter

15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”

He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”

16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”

He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”

17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”

And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. 18 Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.”19 This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”

The Beloved Disciple and His Book

20 Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” 21 Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”

22 Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”

23 Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?”

24 This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true.

25 And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.

1 Corinthians 15:39-45

39 All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds.

40 There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial isanother. 41 There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory.

42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45 And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

Luke 5:27-32

Matthew the Tax Collector

27 After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” 28 So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.

29 Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them. 30 And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

31 Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Abbot Tryphon

About Abbot Tryphon

The Very. Rev. Abbot Tryphon is Igumen of All-Merciful Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island, Washington. Situated in the heart of a beautiful forest, surrounded by the Salish Sea, the monastery is reached by ferry from either Seattle, or Tacoma, Washington.


  1. I once heard a priest in another denomination speaking who was repulsed at the veneration of relics and also shut out the Old Testament saying we only needed to read the Gospels.

    God bless you for this article and mentioning the Book of Kings…..

  2. The entire Church is now alive, being humbled before God and glorifying Him. When this realization is in my heart, I fear no rational objection from the Protestant tradition.

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