Thursday, September 20

Lessons from the saints : Januarius

Yesterday was the feast of Januarius (Gennaros), a fourth century bishop and martyr.  Like so many of the 'persecution-era' martyrs, little is known about the person's life and we only have scant information about his death ('s the only way to be sure).  What brings Januarius to my attention (and why I wish to mention him here) is his relics.  Yes, you read that, his relics.

In Naples, there is a reliquary bust of Januarius which purportedly contains his head.  There are also bones (fingers, I think) stored in a vault, but there are also two ampoules of his solidified blood which are kept in a specially made monstrance-like vessel.  And this is where things get....exciting.  Thrice a year for the past 600+ years, the vessel is brought forward and placed next to the altar (and the bust).  Every year, the blood liquifies....sometimes for hours, sometimes for days....and then resolidifies.  It has not happened five times in over six hundred years, and every time there has been a significant natural catastrophe which has befallen the city or direct environs (plague, earthquake, etc).  Scientists have done spectral analysis and concluded that it is, in fact, blood, but have no working theories as to how, let alone why, it occurs.

I mention this for two reasons.  The first is that witnessing this miracle first hand is on my rather short 'bucket list' of places/things to see.  I have been to the Temple of the Holy Sepulchre, visited the Upper Room and knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane (Join the Navy, see the world).  I have walked in places where the presence of God was tangible, where the Divine was present, and I have stood in halls called hallowed and knew that there was nothing special here.  I wish to see this with mine own eyes and, through direct experience, know the truth of things.

The second reason I mention this miracle is to highlight the importance of icons and miracles of this nature.  The key is that it actually isn't important.  They are corporeal pointings to the incorporeal being.  These icons and mystical things are fingers which point to the Divine moon.  They can also be considered to be comfort and solace, something tangible which links us to the intangible.  Of course, that is a falsehood...not because they are not temporal things which link us to the Divine, but rather because the Divine is within us all already.

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