"Res sane mira": Orthodox Saints and Relics Described by Protestant Pastor John Herbinius (1675)

Kyivan Academy:101-119 (2018)
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John Herbinius (1633–1679) was a well-known Lutheran theologian and writer. Living for a long time on the territory of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, he wrote a description of the religious caves of Kyiv, which was published in 1675 in Jena. Plenty of popular cults of Ruthenian spiritual life of the first half of the seventeenth century are reflected in the book. It is important to underline that Herbinius did not criticize the glorification and imitation of saints. He briefly mentioned their post-mortem waiting role in the place of salvation and omitted the Orthodox prayers to them. The great Orthodox mistake for Herbinius was glorifying human and not Christ’s merits as a cause of sanctity and miracle. This very important theological difference was, however, the only one distinction that Herbinius saw between the Orthodox and Protestant traditions of the veneration of saints. The veneration of relics was not criticized by John Herbinius either. On the contrary, relics of Christ’s followers can and must be worshiped, through them God performs miracles, the Protestant author believed. However, Herbinius did not share the Orthodox idea of miraculous unperishability of the saints’ remains in the Cave Monastery. Those remains, as he wrote, are particularly damaged and particularly preserved because of the existing ventilation system in the caves; the saints’ heads are oozing the oil as a result of absorbing of the special air as well. Trying to provide these arguments, Herbinius aimed to deny the core of the Orthodox belief that Kyiv relics preserved undamageed because of great merits and dignities possessed by the Cave fathers in the eyes of God. Obviously, the very idea of merits, earned by the monks due to their ascetic efforts, could have not been accepted by the Protestant author. It strongly contradicted with his confessional views and was unambiguously treated by him as idolatry.


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