On this eve of the Sunday of Orthodoxy I offer a snippet, more for fun than anything else, from my latest read, Umberto Eco’s Baudolino, a fantastical narrative set in 1204 Constantinople which follows the exaggerated story-telling of one Baudolino in his search for the priestly-king Prester John.
Below is a fictionalized account of the acquisition of the relics of the Magi (see info on Wikipedia):
“Years ago an Oriental traveler suggested I buy from him the most splendid relics of Christianity, the uncorrupted bodies of the three Magi.”
“The Magi? All three of them? Intact?”
“Three, Magi, and intact. They seem alive; that is, I mean they seem barely dead. I knew it couldn’t be true, because the Magi are spoken of in only one Gospel, the Gospel of Matthew, and he says very little about them. He doesn’t say how many there were, where they came from, whether they were kings or wise men…He says only that they reached Jerusalem following a star. No Christian knows what their origin was was or where they returned to. Who could have found their grave? For this reason I never dared tell the Milanese I was concealing this treasure. I was afraid that, out of greed, they would seize the opportunity to attract the faithful from all Italy, gaining money from a false relic…”
[Later, our Latin narrator asks his Byzantine companion:]
“…But does a relic, to be true, have to date back to the saint or to the event of which it was a part?”
“No, of course not. Many relics that are preserved here in Constantinople are of very suspect origin, but the worshiper who kisses them perceives supernatural aromas wafting from them. It is faith that makes them true, not they who make faith true.”