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THE ANCIENT PRACTICE OF VENERATING IMAGES

IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH


 

by:

 

Dom Basilio Magno




St. Dionysius the Areopagite: "Instead of attacking the veneration of images, we ought to comprehend their sacred significance, and not despise their divine origin or the sacred things which they portray, for they are visible manifestations of hidden and marvelous wonders."

St. John of Damascus: "The devil, unable to attack God, attacked His image, man. Unable to attack the Blessed Mary, the Holy Theotokos, and the Saints, he attacks their images."


 

I.  INTRODUCTION

 

A.  I am not worthy.

Though it is best for me to be silent, sorrowing over my sins, nevertheless I find it good and necessary to speak when the Church is tossed by the angry sea of evil spirits and their impious human instruments out to divide the body of Christ.

St. Paul warns, (Heb. 10:38) “But if the righteous man shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him, “If you see the sword coming and do not warn your brother, I shall require his blood at your hand.”

Let me review the ancient practice of the Church which is upheld by both Scriptures and Saints who were before us, whose conduct we should admire and whose life we must imitate.

I beg you to receive this treatise with kindness, not dwelling on my unworthiness or expecting eloquence, but considering the thoughts and arguments presented.


B.  Purpose of this Treatise.

1.             1.   To explain the wisdom in the Catholic Church’s practice of venerating the Saints by honoring their images, since most Catholics do not know how to use this great aid to salvation for their benefit.

2.             2.   To enlighten by the use of irrefutable arguments those who, because of their ignorance of true doctrine AND being deceived by false arguments, have set aside this holy practice.

3.             3.   This treatise is for those who believe in the usefulness of this practice and want to know how to defend their belief.

4.             4.   And hopefully, to convert those who are violently attacking this practice.

 

C.  The Main Arguments, in brief

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 Church.

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 image we really adore Christ, and venerate the Saints whose likeness the image represents.”

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 image 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 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 Sinai

God’s command was: “ You shall worship God alone” “You shall have no other gods before me” And this we Catholics are doing. I have not heard of any other gods.

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 worshiped 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 worshiped the calf as their God; it was not at all a mere image of God.

Describing them, St. Paul writes: “They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images of...animals...and served the creature rather than the creator” (Rom. 1:22-24). For this reason God forbade them to make any image.

The prohibition, since God had 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.

So this was what was forbidden: to make a graven image in the form of male or female, the likeness of beast, or of the sun and moon and stars and WORSHIP and SERVE them. We Catholics serve calves alright … but only at table. St. Basil states: “Why should we worship idols; they cannot even take care of themselves, they cannot even dust themselves.”

The prohibition was for the sons of Israel who were hard-hearted and who easily fell into idolatry, but not for the faithful sons of Israel and not for the faithful of the new dispensation of grace.

5.      The first attacks.

The first attacks against the making of images came from the Jews, probably Christian coverts, but who carried with them the misinterpreted Old Testament prohibition.

The present day attack on images has its origin, however, in the 8th century with Emperor Leo, the “Isaurian of Constantinople” (717-741) who needed gold, silver and precious stones to finance his planned invasion of Italy. Seeing that these precious metals and stones were easily available in religious images, he had them all confiscated, decreeing that the making of religious images was against the orthodox religion. He conveniently burned the wooden images but melted the metal ones into coins with his image; just like Henry VIII who conveniently used his desire for a mistress to break away from Rome. Both kings looked for learned men to rationalize their voices. No learned men would do so … precisely because they were learned.

Emperor Leo burned his learned theologians in their library; Henry VIII beheaded Thomas More.

So the two kings employed their "bottom of the barrel" theologians. Leo’s theologians picked up the Jewish ferrous interpretation of God’s Old Testament prohibition. Understandably so, for if they had chosen the right interpretation, they would had been burned alive too.

Poor Leo, did you not see that the fact you had so many images confiscated, shows that these images had been in those churches being honored by Christians long before you were born? Long before your heresy?

During Leo’s persecutions, Stephen, a monk, went to Leo and presented a coin bearing the imperial image; “Sire, whose image is this?” “It is mine.” The monk threw the coin down and trampled it. The emperor had him seized and condemned to a painful death. The monk’s last words were: “If I am punished for dishonoring the image of the emperor, what punishment is in store for those who dishonor the image of Christ and His Saints.”

See Leo, you yourself believed that honor given to the image is honor due to the prototype. You knew the truth; but you needed the funds more.

Leo’s heresy did not survive the onslaught of the holy and learned men of the Church. So it disappeared for a while until the 16th century where it found fertile ground in the errors of Protestantism. Their main argument, just like the Jews and Leo’s, was based on the same misinterpreted Old Testament prohibition.

The confusion and misinterpretation of God’s Old Testament command was partly caused by the word used: PROSKINESIS, which described everything from adoration to veneration, to mere friendship. Even in English, the words adoration, worship and veneration mean the same thing.

So St. John of Damascus used LATREIA for absolute worship of God and PROSKINESIS for the veneration given to Saints, relics and images.

Today, we have this heresy in a more alarming and hideous state. For as they set aside all images, they go further, like praying directly to God (thus removing the Saints and the Blessed Mother); next is confessing directly to God (dispensing with confessors and priests); next will be receiving Christ in spirit (putting aside the Holy Eucharist).

 

II. OUR ARGUMENTS IN MORE DETAIL



A.  The Old Testament Prohibition

The error of the iconoclastic argument may be clearly seen by searching Scriptures. Note that God spoke in many and various ways adapting Himself to the sick, healthy, to climates and seasons, one kind of medicine for a child another for grown-ups.

What was forbidden was idolatry, not the making and veneration of images. Though a prohibition was made to make images, it was for the weak who are susceptible to idolatry and easily abandon the worship of God. It does not apply to the healthy and the strong. Idolaters believe that the idols are gods with power and intelligence. Christians know those images have no intelligence and power. Idolaters make statues and worship them as god; Christians make statues to recall the deeds of the Saints. Pagans make statues and call upon the devil; Christians make statues and call on God and His friends.

The Jews knew what was forbidden and was allowed. So Moses knew the golden calf was forbidden, but he knew that the cherubims were allowed.

God’s words were: "...you heard the sound of the words but saw no form...beware you do not make an image of what has no form."(Deut. 4:12). But now God has become visible, has taken up a form, so we may now depict His visible form.

Before I could not see God; but now, after God became incarnate, I make an image of the God I see. I do not worship matter but the Creator of matter who became matter for my sake and worked out my salvation through matter. So do not despise matter for it is not despicable. God made nothing despicable. Only one thing is despicable, sin.

The golden calf was forbidden to root out material impiety and to keep the people safe from apostasy and idolatry. The brazen serpent was commanded to prefigure a truth. The calf led to idolatry; the brazen serpent led to the expectation of Christ.


B.  God in fact ordered the making and honoring of images.

God even gifted some to make artful images; He commanded others to make images and allowed some who took it upon themselves to make images. And the righteous men of old honored images.

Proofs that the Catholic Church's practice of veneration of Saints, people in authority, religious objects, holy places, etc., has its origin in the old Testament:

1.      St. Athanasius: "Jacob bowed down before the point of Joseph's staff, not honoring the staff but its owner."

2.      Stephen of Bostra: "Moses bowed down before the Ark of the Covenant, the altar, the mercy seat, the golden jar which held the manna, the table, the inner sanctuary and everything in the holy of holies. In doing so, he did not honor the stone or gold but the Lord who ordered them made."

3.      St. Leontius: "And God showed a vision of the temple to Ezechiel and from floor to ceiling the walls were covered with images of cherubims having the faces of lions and men pictures of palm trees." "Solomon knew the law and yet he made images, filling the temple with metal figures of lions, oxen and palm trees and pomegranates. . . but God did not reproach him because these things reminded them of God."

4.      St. Leontius: "Abraham bowed down before faithless men who sold him the cave and bent his knees. But he did not worship them as gods. Jacob honored Pharaoh and bowed before Esau but did not worship them as gods."

The whole Old Testament was meant by God as an image of things to come; so it is filled with images. How can He forbid images?

5.  God even gifted some to make images: "I have called by name BEZALEL and I have filled him with the spirit of God. . . with knowledge and craftsmanship to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver and bronze, in cutting stones. . . in craving wood. . ." (Exod. 31:1-5).

6.      Severianus, Bishop of Gabala: "God had just ordered, "You shall not make for yourself a graven image...' and then ordered Moses to make a brazen serpent?"

Scripture has it that God, at the beginning, made an image of Himself, man, from whence we see the image of God but not the essence of God. Just as a statue is an image of Christ but has not the essence of Christ.

 



C. Tradition further shows that this was the practice in the early Church.

The early Christians were known to revere St. Peter's shadow and the handkerchief and apron that touched St. Paul's body.

1.      Amphilochius: "The emperor and his statue does not make two emperors but only one. Only one receives the homage for the honor given to the statue is transferred to the prototype. So the images of Christ represent the Son of God."

2.      St. John of Damascus: "He who refuses to honor the image also refuses honor to him who is portrayed. And he who does not honor the Saints does not honor Christ."

3.      Eusebius of Pamphylia: "God appeared to Abraham at the oak of Mamre. Even now the inhabitants honor the place as a holy place and a picture of those whom Abraham entertained..."

4.      Eusebius, in his church history states that by the gate of the house of the woman with the issue of blood in Ceasarea is a bronze image showing the woman kneeling before Christ. And a plant grows at the base that is remedy for all illness.

5.      St. Basil: "If things made by man were bad then let us not use words which are fashioned by man." Basil praised the maker of images, "...you reknowned painters of the champion's brave deeds, my writings are dull compared with your brushes and radiant colors."

"Images are the books of the illiterate, while words are for the literate. Both are made by man."

6.      St. Gregory of Nyssa states that the picture of Abraham sacrificing his son is more eloquent than mere words.

7.      In the life of St. John Chrysostom, it is narrated that blessed John loved St. Paul so much, he had an icon of the holy apostle which he kept in a place where he would occasionally go.

8.      The righteous Euphraxia is known to have revered an image of the Lord (the Shroud?).

9.     St. Mary of Egypt prayed before an icon of our Lady.

The early Church has borne testimony to the above practice by adorning her churches with statues, paintings and other man made works of art. And so to say that this is not the doctrine of the Church is to throw Christ's flock into confusion and pollute the waters from which the people of God drink.

 10.  St. John Crysostom: "If you insult the image of the emperor you insult the emperor; so when you show contempt to the statue of Saints you show contempt to the Saints.

       Chrysostom is also known to have encouraged the people to place the image of Meletius on rings, goblets, dishes and bedroom walls.

11.    St. Ambrose relates that once he was caught up in ecstasy during which a face was revealed to him which resembled the blessed apostle Paul, the same face which was printed on the icon.

12.   St. Maximus, the confessor, describes in his Acts how the people rose with tears, joy and bowing down low, kissed the gospel, the cross, the icons of Christ and Mary, the all-holy Theotokos.

13.   Theodoret states that icons of St. Simeon the Stylite were found in the gates of workshops to gain his protection.

14.   St. Athanasius: "We do not worship images as do the heathens. Our only purpose and desire is to see in the image a reflection of people we love. When then image is damaged, we throw it into the fire like scrap lumber."

15.   Eusebius states that Gentile converts kept pictures of Jesus, Peter and Paul.

16.   St. Leontius: "I depict Christ and His suffering in homes, market places and storehouses, on clothes and vestments so that the remembrance of them is always before my eyes and never is neglected as you (those against images) have always disregarded the Lord your God."

"I honor the martyrs who destroyed idols and the saints who threw wooden idols into the fire. I honor the three young men of Babylon who refused to worship the golden idol. How can I worship idols?"

17.   St. Cyril: "If we honor the wooden image of earthly kings why not the wooden image of God."

The Magisterium of the Church, the traditional practice of the Christian community and the writing of the holy, orthodox Fathers of the Church are unanimous in upholding the ancient practice of venerating the Saints and honoring their images.

18.   St. Jerome: "Nowhere in Scriptures are we commanded to bow before the cross, but nowhere also in the Old Testament did God command the Jews to kiss the Ark of the Covenant."

19.  St. Euphraxia is said to have offered her maid servant to the service of God in front of an image of Christ.

The veneration of Saints and honoring of their images had been a treasured practice of the early Church.



III. SPIRITUAL BENEFITS OF THE PRACTICE

The Lord called the disciples blessed because they saw what the prophets did not see. We also, did not see; but we can get an idea of what they saw through the Word, pictures and images. We did not see the true face of Christ; but we have an idea through the Shroud. We did not see the true face of Mary; but we have an idea through Juan Diego's tilma.

1.      St. Dionysius: "truly, sensory images make invisible things visible."

2.      St. Basil: "Brave deeds. . . are remembered by the words of orators, the paint brushes and canvass of artists. . . these inspire everyone with valor. Words are for the ears, pictures are for imitation."

3.      St. Stephen of Bostra: "We can make images of the Saints to remember such people as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob... and holy martyrs who gave their life to God. Everyone who looks at these Saints remember their deeds and glorify the ONE who glorified them."

4.      St. Leontius: "I venerate the cross so that the remembrance of His suffering is always before my eyes; without the image of the cross I shall forget He died for me."

       "When Jacob caressed Joseph's multi- colored coat, he was not weeping over the coat but over his son. So too when we embrace the cross or icon of Christ and His martyrs."

5.      Blessed Dionysius: "Our inability to immediately direct our thought to contemplation of higher things makes its necessary that what is with form be utilized to give an idea of what is formless. By this we are able to construct understandable analogies."

6.      St. Gregory warns: "The mind which is determined to ignore corporeal things will find itself weakened and frustrated. So God created nature to lead us to the concept of God."

7.      St. John Damascus: "We use the sense to further our knowledge of God. The noblest are the ears and sight. So we have words to edify the ears and forms to stimulate the eyes. What book is to the literate, the images are to the illiterate."

I have omitted many other saintly and learned bishop's quotations because they say the same things. The rationale of the veneration of Saints and honoring of their images is simple and short; it can be expressed in two lines. The long list of quotations was meant more to show the universality of its practice in the Catholic Church.

"For this reason God ordered the Ark to be made. . . to provide an image for remembrance of the past and a foreshadowing of the future. And the people praised and worshiped God before the Ark. They did not worship the wood and gold; but through them they were led to remember God's wonders and to worship Him."

"God also ordered twelve stones to serve as an image commemorating the day passed through the Jordan dry shod. If we may honor twelve stones to remind us of a past event, why not a cross to remember our redemption."

"Solomon decorated the temple with cherubs, etc. to increase the people's devotion; wouldn't the image of Christ, His Mother and Saints also increase the faithful's devotion?"

8.      Blessed Dionysius: "It is good for us to clothe with shape and form that which is shapeless and formless, that we may remember them and so be moved to imitate them."

"For aren't we led by natural things to supernatural things; aren't we led to the perception of God and His majesty by visible images?"

9.      St. Basil: "Images remind us of those who accomplished righteous deeds that we may zealously imitate their holiness. This way we glorify the master of the servant."

10.  Leo, Bishop of Neopolis: "If God can work wonders through the bones of Elisha or the staff of Moses or through the brazen serpent or through the rod of Aaron, why not through the images of Christ and His Mother."

11.  St. John Damascus: "It is good...to accept with honor images which are the books of the illiterate. Embrace them with your eyes, lips, and heart, bow before them, love them for they are the likeness of God incarnate, of His Mother, the holy Theotokos and of the communion of Saints who shared the sufferings and glory of Christ, who conquered and overthrew the devil, his angels and his deceit."

St. Ephiphanius is purported to have objected to the use of images. But the writing in question has been proven to be fictitious and unauthentic. To discredit the holy Bishop, the heretics of the church produced some heretical writings and signed the name of the Saint. When St. John of Damascus visited the holy Bishop's church it was adorned with sacred images of Christ, the holy Theotokos and the Saints.

 

12.  St. John Chrysostom states that we make images and monuments to remind us of great deeds. No one ever makes monuments for cowards and deserters because we want to forget their deeds.

13.  St. Athanasius: "We venerate the images of the Saints that we may remember them and their lives."

14.  St. Simeon the Great: "Christians live by faith. Through the visible we see the invisible. Through the visible we honor God who is ever present and the Saints who are present because they are alive in God."

 

IV. THE HATERS OF IMAGES

 
      
The Fathers of the Church did not hesitate to call this heresy, like any other heresy, the work of the devil.

1.      St. Basil the Great: "The devil, seeing it useless to attack God, attacked His image, man, instead. In the same way, unable to kick the emperor, an angry man would kick his statue instead. Obviously, to strike an image is to strike at him whom it represents."

2.      St.  Sophronius in his book "Spiritual Garden" narrates that the devil appeared to Abbot Theodore Aeliotes and swore he would never tempt the Abbot as long as he stops bowing to an icon of our Lady, the Holy Theotokos. The demon is more pleased if we stop bowing to the image of our Lady than if we stop being chaste. 

3.      St. John of Damascus: "Will you allow an imperial edict to overturn the body of teachings handed down from the Fathers? An unjust decree was forced by the Emperor but condemned by the 2nd Council of Ephesus. Those who had rejected the veneration of images  ended up losing their entire Faith."

4.      St. John of Damascus: "This is the work of the devil.

a.      To make images of man, birds and beasts and have man worship them as gods. 

b.      To disturb the Church, through false lips and treacherous tongues, misinterpreting the word of God for evil purposes. Teaching that it is wrong to make or display images of the saving wonders of Christ and the struggles of the Saints against the devil."

The devil does not want man to recall how the Saints overcame him that man may remain ignorant on how to defeat him. The devil also wants man to forget what Christ did that man may become ungrateful.   

5.   St. Leontius: "You mock us that we are worshipers of wooden gods. If I worship wooden gods, then I should worship every piece of wood. Yet we use these wooden images for firewood when they fade. If I worship stone gods, then I should worship every stone on the ground."

       "When I honor Scriptures, I do not honor paper and ink but the word of God."

6.      St. Athanasius: "They forbid us to venerate the images of the Saints that we may forget their life and example."

7.      St. John of Damascus: "Christians treat images the way they treat each other since both are images of God. But we don't treat each other the way we treat God."

8.      St. Dionysius: "Do not attack what you do not understand... do not attack our images just because you do not comprehend their sacred significance. For us, images are visible manifestations of hidden and marvelous wonders."

9.      Leo, Bishop of Neapolis: "If you reproach me for bowing before the cross of Christ, reproach Jacob for bowing before Joseph's staff and Abraham to faithless men."

10.  St. John of Damascus: "Since when did an emperor become a maker of Church doctrine?"

"If you wish to observe the commands of the Old Testament, then observe also the Sabbath, circumcision, taking your brother's wife and never sing the Lord's song in a foreign land."

       The above quotations are mostly from the Eastern Fathers of the Church. I have not even quoted the teachings of the Western Fathers. But this treatise has become too lengthy. If, by now, you are not convinced of the Church's teaching and practice, another proof will be of no help.

 

V. HOW CHRISTIANS SHOULD VENERATE THE SAINTS AND HONOR THEIR IMAGES

 

A.     What are Images for.

 1.           St. Simeon the Great: "The sacramental life of the Church essentially consists in believing in the invisible through the visible."

2.           St. Cyril of Alexandria: "Images are representatives of their archetypes and therefore are similar to them."

3.           St. Gregory of Nazianzus: "The nature of an image is to be an artistic representation of its archetype."

4.           St. John Chrysostom: "The image is just the figure of a man, but not the power."

 

B.    How do we use our Images.

1.           St. Leontius: "The Chaldeans used musical instruments to worship their devilish idols;  the children of Israel used the same instrument to worship their God. The same way you must distinguish the way Christians venerate their icons from the way  heathens worship their idols."

 

C.     What Christians do when they venerate the Saints and honor their statues.

1.           St. Gregory: "When we venerate the Saints, we simply recall their good deeds, their struggle against evil, their prowess and virtues."

 

D.    The prohibition was not meant for us.

We are no longer under the Old Testament but under grace. And we have seen God made man. And the law was not laid down for the just. We have reached the state of mature manhood and are fed on solid food, not on that which leads to idolatry. The laws for the weaklings of the Old Testament do not apply to the strong ones of the New Testament. 

Why would God allow the image of Holy Mary to be imprinted on Juan Diego's tilma and Christ's image to be imprinted on the burial shroud if venerating these clothes were against His will.  

 

VI. CATECHISM OF CHURCH DOCTRINE

ON THE USE OF IMAGES

 

A.     What is an image, a statue or painting.  

It is a mere likeness or figure of what it depicts. An image is always a far cry from what it signifies for it has no life, no intelligence, it cannot speak, hear or move. 

 

B.     Why do we make images.

Images reveal and make perceptible those things which are hidden. Images were devised as aids to advance in knowledge so that what is invisible and difficult to understand might be made visible and easier to understand, thus  becoming for us a source of spiritual profit and salvation.

 

C.     Kinds of Images.

1.           Natural images; as the son is the natural image of the father.

2.           Images of God's foreknowledge of things which have yet to happen; like the brazen serpent was a foreshadowing of Christ.

3.           Images made by God as imitation of Himself, like man.

4.           Images wherein we construct understandable analogies of invisible realities; like the sun or running fountain symbolizing God.

5.           Images for the remembrance of persons and past events which encourage us to flee evil and desire good; like Aaron's staff.

 

  1. What may be depicted by an image.

1.          Physical things which have shape, bodies which are circumscribed and have color are suitable subjects for image making; like a statue of a beautiful lady to represent the Blessed Virgin Mary.

2.          Or in the case of angels who have NO forms, we may depict them according to their nature; as messengers we can show them with wings.

 

  1. What may NOT be depicted.

1.          The Divine Nature ALONE may never be depicted because it is without form, without shape and can never be understood. This was the mistake of the Jews in Sinai.

 

  1. Who first made images.

1.          God the Father, in the beginning, begot the living image of Himself, the Word.

2.          Then THEY made man into their own image and likeness.

3.          Then man made images of God as man because when Jacob struggled with God, God appeared to him as a man. Moses saw the back of a man. Isaiah saw Him as a man sitting upon a throne. Daniel saw the likeness of a man.

 

  1. What is WORSHIP.

     Worship is an act of submission shown in acts of abasement and humiliation. 

 
  1. Kinds of worship.

1.           Absolute worship is directed to God alone shown as adoration, as acts of awe and yearning, as acts of thanksgiving, as acts inspired by our needs and hopes, as acts of repentance.

2.           Relative worship or veneration is directed to those places where God rests. God rests in holy people, like the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints, for they are children of God, not by nature but by adoption.

     We venerate the Saints, not because they deserve it but because they bear in themselves Him who is worshiped; because God has glorified them and through Him they have become fearful to the enemy and are benefactors for the faithful. They are obedient servants and friends but they are not gods.

     God had used their shadows, handkerchiefs and aprons to benefit man. But those who, because of their presumptuous arrogance and contempt, refuse to honor God's servants will be convicted as arrogant impostors who dishonor God. Those who mocked and laughed at Elisha to scorn were devoured by bears. (St. John of Damascus)

     Relative worship is also given to places and things by which God has accomplished our salvation, like Mr. Sinai, Nazareth, the manger at Bethlehem and Golgotha.

     Relative worship is given to objects dedicated to God; like the gospels, chalices and altars. Remember how Belshazzar drank from the sacred vessels and God slew him that night and brought his kingdom to an end.

     We also render relative worship to one another since we are God's inheritance, and to those who have been given authority to rule over us. So Jacob bowed down before Esau, as well as to Pharaoh.

     Relative worship is also given by servants to masters and by petitioners to benefactors; just as Abraham did reverence to the Hittites when he bought the cave.

God  ALONE  is  worshiped absolutely; whatever is reckoned to be due the others is given for God's sake.



VII. CONCLUSION

 


    
St. John of Damascus concludes: "Strength and power is given to him who uses the images of the Saints with faith and a pure conscience."

     Let us stand on the rock of Faith and on the Tradition of the Church, not removing the ancient landmarks which our holy Fathers have set; not allowing any room for those who would decree innovations and destroy the structures of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of God. If all those who make new decrees are allowed such license, in a short time the church would come to an end.

     Let us receive the Tradition of the Church in simplicity of heart, without vain questioning, since God created man to be straight- forward, but man has entangled himself with an infinity of questions.

     Do not allow yourself to adopt a new Faith in opposition to the tradition of Fathers.

     May God make us worthy to follow in the footsteps of His Son with the help of Holy Mary, with the intercession of the Saints and with the guidance of the holy shepherds and teachers of the Church so that we may attain His love and glorify Him forever with the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

 

 

(updated 01-03-02)

 

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