St. John the Baptist in Bulgaria?

Head of St. John the Baptist, by Andrea del Sarto, c. 1523

Now how did he end up there?  And is it even him?

Archaeologists working on an island just off the town of Sozopol, Bulgaria, announced earlier this week that they had found an ancient reliquary in the altar of an old church named for St. John the Baptist (the island, too, is named for the Baptist). The reliquary, shaped like an urn, was opened today and seems to contain bone fragments from an arm and a leg.

Of course, the mere presence of bone fragments is no proof at all that St. John the Baptist is involved. The fact that the church and the island are named for him constitute better proof – that there is some connection between location and saint. Such a connection often results in a special devotion to the saint in question. Age is another important element. The church that the archaeologists are digging around in dates from the 4th century or so, and Sozopol has a long Christian history. It was home to a Bishop Athanasius as early as 431. It clearly wasn’t just any Christian settlement.

The relics discovered could be those of St. John. It certainly is not unheard of that relics travel long distances after a saint’s death. The Baptist was beheaded not long after he baptised Jesus, so very early in the first century. His followers, who would later merge into the followers of Jesus, buried his body after it was released to them (Matthew 4:12). It is not inconceivable that they later took relics with them on their travels to spread the news of Christ. Sozopol, being on the coast of the Black Sea, would have been in easy reach of merchants from Greece and modern Turkey, and so it could have been an inviting location to introduce the Christian faith.

All elements that point at the possibility of the relics belonging to St. John the Baptist. But the fact is that we don’t know. Not yet, at least.



Credo in unum De-e-eum…

It’s Sunday, the Lord’s day, so why not take a look at the Creed, or Credo as it is ‘officially’ called in Latin, which we sing in every Sunday Mass. It may be skipped on weekday Masses, but I always enjoy singing it whenever I can. In my parish, we sometimes say or sing it in Dutch, but this Latin version is my favourite to sing.

The English translation of the Mass has recently undergone an overhaul. The website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops offers a handy comparison of the old and new translations of all parts of the Mass. Scroll down a bit for the Credo (labeled ‘Nicene Creed’ here).

Comparing the Latin and English texts reveals the enormous wealth of what is being said in the Credo. It is a fairly succinct but complete summary of the faith. What defines the Catholic faith? The answer may be found in the lines of the Credo:

– Faith in one God
– God is the almighty father (which implies the sort of relationship He wishes with us)
– He has made heaven and earth, defined as everything that is visible and invisible
– Faith also in one lord, Jesus Christ
– He is the only son of God
– He was born of the father before time began, true God from true God, and light from light
– He was born, not created like we were, and is consubstantial with the father
– Everything was created through Him (Christ is the word of God)
– He came down from heaven for us and our for salvation
– Through the Holy Spirit He was born from the Virgin Mary, and became fully human
– For us He was crucified under Pontius Pilate, He died and was buried
– On the third day he rose, in accordance with the Scriptures (the prophets of the Old Testament as well as Jesus’ own words in the Gospels)
– He ascended into heaven and is now seated at the right hand of the father
– He will return in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will never end
– Faith in the Holy Spirit, who is also lord and the giver of life
– He proceeds equally from the Father and the Son, is adored and glorified with them, and has spoken through the prophets
– Faith in one holy, universal and apostolic church
– Confession of a single baptism for the forgiveness of sins
– and the expectation of the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting

And each of these lines is a portal to a wellspring of study and experience.

Stats for July 2010

Time for another look at the statistics of the previous month. When it comes to numbers, July has been very unusual. The number of visitors since the start of January has reached 46, 041, and more than half of those visited this month. July has seen 23,789 visits. The top 10 of most popular blog posts shows a very clear winner: the topic of the contents of Cardinal Danneels’ computer, which was linked from a Polish news site.

The news about the orange Mass in Obdam, which made international headlines, also increased the number of visits. Various international Catholic news websites linked to my blog for that. The new auxiliary bishops in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, and the upcoming papal visit to England and Scotland were also moderately popular.

1: Pornography or art?: 17,415 visits
2: What to do about the sacrilege displayed in Obdam?: 1,105
3: A diocesan statement about Fr. Paul Vlaar: 799
4: Mottos and titular sees: 108
5: Some facts about the Turin shroud: 102
6: Cardinal Newman to be beatified by the pope, officially announced: 99
7: Introductie op de geest van de liturgie – onofficiële vertaling: 78
8: Back from Bootcamp: 75
9: Closing the discussion: 64
10: The nature of the Church: 59