The Magdalene Relic

My dear readers, the veneration of saints’ relics is not a central part of my spirituality, Catholic though I may be. And I’m cynical enough to wonder if any 1st century relic can ever really be accepted at face value (I mean, just how many relics of the “true cross” are there?). However, with this disclaimer and caveat in mind, even I have to say that this is really, really cool:

A relic of St Mary Magdalene is coming to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia. Her relics have been venerated in Europe since the 2nd century. Now, Fr. Louis Marie Ariño-Durand, a Dominican priest will accompany the reliquary to the Monastery on Sunday, November 29, 2009, from 11 AM to 6 PM. The relic will be in the Abbey Church which is open to the public.

The relic is only in the United States for a limited time and the Monastery is fortunate to host it for a day. Look at it this way: if it’s an actual relic of Mary Magdalene, then… wow. And if it’s not, it still represents an interesting piece of cultural history as well as an object of fervent devotion for many centuries. So either way, this is worth putting on your calendar.

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  • Fencing Bear

    In fact, there aren’t as many pieces of the True Cross out there as Calvin claimed, certainly not enough to make a ship. As per the Wikipedia entry on the True Cross:

    “Conflicting with this is the finding of Rohault de Fleury, who, in his Mémoire sur les instruments de la Passion (1870) made a study of the relics in reference to the criticisms of Calvin and Erasmus. He drew up a catalogue of all known relics of the True Cross showing that, in spite of what various authors have claimed, the fragments of the Cross brought together again would not reach one-third that of a cross which has been supposed to have been three or four meters in height, with transverse branch of two meters wide, proportions not at all abnormal. He calculated: supposing the Cross to have been of pine-wood (based on his microscopic analysis of the fragments) and giving it a weight of about seventy-five kilograms, we find the original volume of the cross to be .178 cubic meters. The total known volume of known relics of the True Cross, according to his catalogue, amounts to approximately .004 cubic meters (more specifically 3,942,000 cubic milimeters), leaving a volume of .174 cubic meters lost, destroyed, or otherwise unaccounted for.”

    The problem then becomes whether all of these fragments can be traced back to the crossbeam that Helena found. Whether Helena found the True Cross is another question altogether.

  • Ali

    Speaking of relics, I’m curious: I thought I remembered hearing that the Catholic injunction against cremation had to do with a doctrine about the body being kept whole and preserved during burial in preparation for bodily resurrection after final judgement…. how does this square with the idea of the bones, etc. of holy persons and saints being used as relics and scattered all over the world? …Now that I’m thinking about it, I’m not even sure bodily resurrection is a Catholic doctrine, since certainly at some point some theologian would have addressed and reconciled such an obvious contradiction.

    Still, the idea of “the very tibia bone which knelt before the Risen Christ” has a kind of morbid (yet semi-clinical) fascination, doesn’t it? Really interesting. :)

  • thegreeningspirit

    On a much lighter note, as a fan of the former Brother Cadfael series with Deric Jacoby as the medaeval “sherlock holmes”/herbalist/medic of a 10th century monastery, I remember an episode in which the bones of a holy woman saint was making the rounds and became a source of conflict between two monasteries in its moving, since it was such an important source of revenue for its home base. I guess I should not be surprised that the relic culture is still, shall we say, “alive” centuries and centuries later…but, I am (surprised, that is). I am captivated by the Magdalene but being in the presence of her encased tibia bone would not make her more present to my imagination, or my Heart.

  • Darrell Grizzle

    It’s on my calendar – I’ll be there!