The Relics of the True Cross

Icon St. HelenSeptember 21st is the leave-taking of the feast of the Elevation of the Cross (September 14th) so as we are still within this festal period it is appropriate to consider the relics of the True Cross.
In the years 326-328 AD St. Helen (Elena) the mother of St. Constantine the Great, was visiting the Holy Land, going to places associated with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In particular she was looking for the True Cross, the cross on which Christ was crucified. She found the True Cross, which was venerated in Jerusalem for many centuries. Part of it was taken to Constantinople and many fragments were taken by Crusaders. There are many churches around the world which claim to have fragments of the True Cross.
There are many sceptics who mock these claims, saying there are too many fragments in too many places. The Swiss reformer, John Calvin, said there were so many pieces which claimed to fragments of the True Cross that one could fill a whole ship with them. Many people say the same thing now.
However, in the 19th century a Frenchman, Charles Rohault de Fleury, drew up a catalogue of all the fragments he could find and wrote that all these fragments put together did not make up even one whole cross.
In the 20th century, a German biblical scholar, Carsten Pieter Thiede, did the same kind of research that de Fleury had done in the 19th century and reached a similar conclusion. He wrote a book called “The Quest for the True Cross”, which is available used for one cent on
So, can we prove that each and every alleged fragment of the True Cross is genuine? The answer is no, we can’t. However we should never mock relics because if we do we are, in effect, saying that God cannot be present in material things. But in fact, the whole point of Christianity is that Christ came to save not only human beings but the entire material cosmos, so God does, indeed, work through bread, whine, icons, relics of the saints and so on. Christianity is not a religion of the salvation only of disembodies souls but of the redemption of the entire human person, body, soul and spirit, and the material world also.

Link to book mentioned in article: The Quest for the True Cross

Fr. John

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