THE VENERATION OF IMAGES IN THE
CATHOLIC CHURCH - Part I
1. The Teaching of
the Catholic Church
St. Leontius stated that the teaching of the Church on images is based
on a practice that began at creation and continued through the Old
Testament; it was maintained in the New Testament and continued in the early
The council of Trent summarized
the Tradition of the Church thus: "Honor given to images is honor given
not to them but to the prototype which they represent, so that, by honoring
the imag,e we really adore Christ and venerate the saints whose likeness the
The image of Christ is meant to remind us of His love, life and sufferings
and our obligation to love Him in return by obeying His commands. The images
of Mary, the holy Theotokos and the saints are meant to remind us of how
they loved God and obeyed the commands of Christ.
2. God forbade the
making of images for the weak but not for the strong.
In fact, God made an image of Himself, man; He ordered the making of images
as the brazen serpent and gifted some people with the art of making images
for His glory.
3. Why were the Jews
forbidden in Deuteronomy to make images?
Because, being corrupt and stiff-necked, they had a strong tendency to
worship the idol rather than God. Looking up at the sky, they were easily
enticed to worship the stars. God's prohibition is like forbidding an
alcoholic to touch wine because of his evil tendency of getting drunk. But
for the sober, there is no such prohibition, because wine is meant to cheer
man's heart and, as in the case of Timothy, a help for his frequent illness.
4. What happened at
At Horeb, Moses saw no form. God had no form, so God told the Jews not to
represent Him in any image because, having no form, any representation
would be erroneous. But the Jews disobeyed and attempted to represent
God. . .of all things, as a calf!! This was their first mistake. But their
second mistake was worse. They worshipped the calf, not God. The
stiff-necked people rose up and said to Aaron, "Make us gods."
Having made the calf, they ate and drank, saying in their folly, "These
are your gods, O Israel." They worshipped the calf as their God; it was
not at all a mere image of God.
The prohibition, since God has no form, does not apply in the New testament
because God had taken the visible form of man; so now we can depict Him as
He conversed with man.