I spent quite a bit of time in Europe, traveling. I wasn't saved then. I visited many churches, chapels, and cathedrals in Italy and France. One thing that always puzzled me was the veneration of relics.
Holy relics are defined by Wikipedia as something that "in religion, is a part of the body of a saint or a venerated person, or else another type of ancient religious object, carefully preserved for purposes of veneration or as a tangible memorial. Relics are an important aspect of some forms of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Shamanism, and many other religions. The word relic comes from the Latin reliquiae, meaning "remains" or "something left behind" (the same root as relinquish). A reliquary is a shrine that houses one or more religious relics."
Part of a body of a saint. I can't tell you how many times, in Catholic churches in some small Tuscan town, in a jar of liquid at the altar there would be a shriveled finger or a gray toe from some supposed saint. Ew.
According to Catholic, Greek, and other traditions, the mother of Jesus was a virgin all her life. This, despite the teaching of the bible that Joseph 'knew her not' until after Jesus was born, indicating that they did have marital relations. "Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS." (Matthew 1:24-25, emphasis mine)
This indication is supported by the fact that the bible further says that Jesus had brothers and sisters, and they are even named.
"Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?" (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3). And again in Matthew 13:54-58 where his brothers are mentioned and named and his sisters mentioned too.
Well, Catholics and the Greek Orthodox believe that Mary was ever a virgin. Here is a prayer from the a pastor of a Greek Orthodox church related to Mary worship:
"O EVER-VIRGIN Theotokos, shelter of mankind, thou hast bestowed upon thy people a mighty investure, even thine immaculate body's raiment and sash, which by thy seedless childbirth have remained incorrupt; for in thee nature and time are made new. Wherefore, we implore thee to grant peace to the world, and great mercy to our souls.* THE MOST VENERABLE and full of grace Belt of our Blessed Virgin Mary, which is found at the Holy Great Monastery of Vatopedi in Agios Oros (Holy Mt. Athos), is the only precious souvenir that survives from her earthly life."
Theotokos is the Greek title they give Mary. Appealing to Mary to bestow peace on the world usurps Jesus' place as the identified Prince of Peace. (Isa 9:6). Imploring her to give mercy usurps Jesus as the only giver of mercy: "To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him." (Daniel 9:9). The prayer mentioned Holy Mt. Athos, that is the church that houses her belt. You heard me. Her belt.
It's bad enough that millions worship Mary in place of Jesus. But for those same many millions, they also worship her belt as a holy relic, the belt itself able to perform miracles and wonders. Mary worship is idol worship. Mary's holy belt is idol worship. The bible says not to do that. It commands us not to do that.
Exodus 20:4-5 -- "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;"
Here is the story of Mary's belt.
Supposedly, when Mary died, Thomas missed the funeral. He came hurrying back, only to find her tomb empty. He searched for her and found the place where she was ascending to heaven. He called out, and Mary either descended on a little detour, or while on her way up, took off her belt and cast it to Thomas.
Today, people pray to the belt and ask it to bless them with children. Here is a video of the displaying of the belt. It is held in a church in Prato, Italy, and taken out and shown 5 times per year.
Now, the folks at Prato, Italy say that they have the entire belt, and the folks at Athos, Greece say they have the entire belt, which makes a dilemma. But nevertheless, throngs at both places clamor to see it at the duly appointed times per year it is taken out of its reliquary and shown to the people. The explanation from the Greek Orthodox pastor concludes: "...the Church attributes it honorary worship, as it does to the Holy Wood of the Cross of the Lord. The Holy Belt has the unique grace to cure women's sterility as well as cancer patients, with a ribbon that has firstly been blessed on the Belt and is subsequently worn by the sterile women and patients."
So why this explanation about Mary's Belt? Because it is on the move. It is entering Russia and everyone is very excited about the belt's appearance for the first time in that country.
"Putin welcomes Greek 'fertility-boosting' relic to Russia"
"Vladimir Putin on Thursday welcomed to Russia a highly revered Orthodox relic credited with fertility-boosting powers as his country struggles to halt a population decline. The relic venerated by believers as the belt of the Virgin Mary arrived on loan from violence-hit Greece in the northwestern city of Saint Petersburg where hundreds, mostly women, waited patiently to pay their respects. ... Monks from the Vatopedi monastery accompanying the (relic) showed Vladimir Putin the reliquary containing the belt," the Russian government said in a statement. Arriving in Russia for the first time from its home on Mount Athos in Greece, the relic, whose full name is the Belt of the Mother of God, will remain in Russia's former imperial capital until Monday. Hundreds of people, mostly women, were standing in line in Russia's second city, also Putin's hometown, to see one of the most treasured Orthodox relics, which is believed to have miraculous powers to boost fertility."
The Voice of Russia says simply: "Mother of God's belt comes to Russia"
It was stated several times that the object is brought so they could worship it and so they could ask it to perform miracles of fertility. That makes it an idol and them idol worshiping idolaters. Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM) has a piece on Mary-worship here.
There is only one true God. There is only one intercessor between God and man. There is only one who bestows mercy There is one who covers the whole world with protection. It is Jesus. Not Mary.
If you watched the video above of the priests marching around the Prato square and the priest lifting up the belt to the people, you likely saw how ridiculous the spectacle was. It was ridiculous because God said not to worship anything other than Himself. And yet they hold up this garment and follow it. It is a direct rip-off of the biblical incident described in Mark 5:25-30:
"And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering."
Jesus later explains to the woman that it was her faith that made her well. It was not the garment. (v. 34)
Is it any wonder, then, that the world mocks us as ridiculous people? Isn't worshiping anything aside from the one true God blasphemous, too? I'm not down on Catholics or Greek orthodox. I'm UP on Ten Commandments and the One True God.
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