ORTHODOX TEACHINGS ABOUT SACRED RELICS
Relics (in Greek: Leipsana), are the bodily "remains", the material remains of a saint after his or her death. Relics may also be any sacred object or article of clothing that may have had contact with the saint's body. The relics in our sacred shrine are slivers from the bones of the saints From the earliest of times, sacred relics of saints have been objects of reverence and honor. The theological foundation for relics is found in sacred scriptures and in holy tradition. The reverence, respect, and honor expressed to the bodies of saints are grounded on the teaching that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul writes: "Don't you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who lives in you and who was given to you by God?" (I Corithians 6:19). Scriptural examples are found in the miracles worked through the mantel of Elijah (2 Kings 2:14), through the bones of the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 13:21), through the handkerchiefs that had contact with St. Paul's body (Acts 5:14-15) and even by the shadow of St. Peter as he passed by the sick (Acts 5:14-15). The most treasured relic of the Church is the true cross upon which our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ was crucified on Golgatha and which was discovered by Saint Helen in the fourth century.
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (4th century) writes: "Though the soul is not present, a power (the Holy Spirit) resides in the bodies of the saints because the righteous soul has for so many years dwelt in it or used it as its minister." (Catechetical Lectures XVIII, 16).
In the Orthodox Church we praise, glorify, honor and worship Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We also reverence, venerate, respect and honor saints as heroes of our faith and as reflections of the image of Christ. Our worship and prayers are directed to the All Holy Trinity first and foremost. We also petition the intercessions of the Most Holy Mother of God and Ever Virgin Mary, the power of the Life-Giving Holy Cross, the protection of the holy, heavenly, bodiless powers, the supplications of the glorious forerunner John the Baptist and the prayers of all the apostles, martyrs and saints.
Redeemed, cleansed, sanctified by the blood of Jesus and consecrated by the Holy Spirit, we believe that the saints are drenched to their very bones with divinity and for this reason we reverence and venerate their sacred relics and petition their prayers.
Bishop Kallistos Ware reminds us that the veneration of the relics of Saints in the Orthodox Church proceeds from a highly developed theology of the body:
"Belief in the dedication of the body and in it's eventual resurrection helps to explain the Orthodox veneration of relics. Since the body is redeemed and sanctified along with the soul, and since the body will rise again, it is only fitting that Christians should show respect for the bodily remains of the saints. Reverence for relics is not the fruit of ignorance and superstition, but, springs from a highly developed theology of the body."
SAINT DEMETRIOS RELIQUARY SHRINE
The Reliquary resta in the sacred bier located in the left front alcove of our Church nave. AHEPA commissioned the painting of the icon depicting the fifteen men and women whose relics are in our Sacred Reliquary with the addition of Saint Kyrikos the Child Martyr and Saint Bonafatios the Martyr whose relics are resting in the Holy Altar Table of our Church together with the relics of Saint Panteleimon the Great Martyr.
HISTORY OF THE RELIQUARY SHRINE
After the death of Ignatius Koutroulelis, for many years the Chanter at Sts. Constantine and Helen Church, in Reading, PA, his wife gave Gust Kraras two reliquaries with the request that one be given to Sts. Constantine and Helen Church, in Reading, PA and the other be given to Father Christ Efstathiou, who was then the pastor of St. Demetrios Church in Wildwood. Both were delivered circa 1973. Although the relics were a sacred gift to Fr. Efstathiou, they remained in our Church following his passing and aid us in recalling his sacred ministry.
THE RELIQUARY SAINTS
The relics of the following Saints are in our Sacred Reliquary and their respective feast days:
St. Paraskevi (July 26)
St. Barbara (December 4)
St. John the Baptist (August 29)
St. Theodore the Holy (May 16)
St. Haralambos (February 10)
St. Andrew the Apostle (November 30)
St. Mary Magdalene (July 22)
St. Tryfon (February 1)
St. Panteleimon (July 27)
St. Fokas (July 22)
St. Theodore of Perga (April 21)
St. Ierotheos of Athens (October 4)
St. Ignatios of Methymna (October 14)
St. Anastasia the Pharmacolytria (December 22)
St. John the Merciful (January 31)