The following is a piece of speculation. I invite my CLERICAL READERS to set me straight if I err.
On a table near my computer is a thecla like the one pictured above. It contains a First Class Relic (that is, a very small piece of the human remains) of St. Oliver Plunkett. This treasured and ancient devotion to the relics of the saints is a natural extension of the Catholic belief in the ultimate resurrection of the dead on the Last Day. This doctrine states that our bodies and our souls are created by God and are destined to be united forever in Glory.

The precursor to this final resurrection unto eternal life is the resurrected Lord himself. All prior resurrections, including those performed by Jesus, were resurrections unto death. Lazarus, for instance, died, was raised up, but would die again. In the resurrection of Christ, men are raised unto eternal life.

Christ’s crucified body was raised, not simply earthly matter in the form of His body. Therefore, the Fourth Lateran Council teaches that all men, “will rise again with their own bodies which they now bear about with them.” That is why Catholics treasure the remains of the dead, in particular the canonized sainted dead. Despite the ravages of time and nature, should a body be divided into millions of microscopic pieces, the Lord will reassemble them into the same flesh that was ensouled at our conception and used during our earthly lives.

So, when I look at the thecla, I wonder what will become of it on the Last Day?

This is what I propose:

The thecla, like the graves of the dead, will be opened in order that the body of St. Oliver might “rise” with life eternal. I think that this opening is foreshadowed by Christ’s resurrection. Christ entered the Upper Room through a locked door. This is because the glorified body possesses a quality known as subtlety, which means that, while material and real, it is not restrained by the bonds of physics or time. So, at the resurrection, Christ could have walked out of the tomb without the stone being rolled away. But Providence decreed that the tomb must be opened to show forth the Glory of God in the empty, open, bare tomb. Indeed, the resurrection of the dead is spoken of in Scripture in terms of the dead rising from out of the grave, and the sea “giving up her dead.”

Carrying out this proposition further, I propose that, along with empty thecla and reliquaries, the altars, which each (traditionally) have relics sealed up in the mensa (a component known as a “sepulchre”, meaning “tomb”,) will be likewise opened. Indeed, the heralding of the Day of Judgment will, in addition to the Resurrection, signal the end of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Earth. The Just will participate at the sacrifice at the throne of the lamb. It would seem appropriate, then, for all the altars to be opened (broken) at this time, just as the temple veil was rent at the time of the sacrifice of Christ.

We must remember that these relics are on loan, and that they will be taken from us when the loan comes due.