Tuesday, September 2, 2008
More Graven Images? Not!
It is disturbing to read many of the Protestant blogs where they attack the incarnation of Our Lord. Recently on many of the "Reformed" blogs we see this insistence on blaspheming Our Lord and His incarnation by attacking images that give Him glory and praise. In fact the theology that lies behind such images gives support to the incarnation of Christ as well as His divine and human natures. Since the earliest centuries of the Church we see images of Christ and the Theotokos as being a very substantial part of Christian worship. I have visited in person the catacombs outside of Rome (St. Callixtus) where there are ancient images of the faith depicted by Christians well before the time of Constantine. Archaeologists confirm that depictions of Christ being baptized in the Jordan, and the multiplication of the bread and fish, as well as other images date from the 1st half of the 3rd century. (Barrufa 2000)
Many heretics like James White continue in their iconoclastic mentalities which was condemned by the Church over and over again throughout the centuries. Look at the 7th Ecumenical Council for one example among many. Can these images be graven? In other words, do we Catholics or Orthodox Christians worship these images as if they were God? I think not, this would be a gross distortion of the Christian faith. God tells us not to worship false gods. He tells us not to make images and worship them as if they were gods, or if they represented a false god, which people would worship in place of the One True God. This of course has never been the case with Catholicism, nor Orthodoxy. We can read some of the Early Fathers who wrote about this very subject. For someone like James White to constantly attack images of Christ puts him clearly at odds with Christianity, and whether he wants to admit or not, makes him an enemy of Christ and the Gospel.
St John Damscene said in the 8th century, long before the iconoclasts of the Reformation,
"It is clear that when you contemplate God, who is a pure spirit, becoming man for your sake, you will be able to clothe Him with the human form. When the Invisible One becomes visible to flesh, you may then draw a likeness of His  form. When He who is a pure spirit, without form or limit, immeasurable in the boundlessness of His own nature, existing as God, takes upon Himself the form of a servant in substance and in stature, and a body of flesh, then you may draw His likeness, and show it to anyone willing to contemplate it. Depict His ineffable condescension, His virginal birth, His baptism in the Jordan, His transfiguration on Thabor, His all-powerful sufferings, His death and miracles, the proofs of His Godhead, the deeds which He worked in the flesh through divine power, His saving Cross, His Sepulchre, and resurrection, and ascent into heaven. Give to it all the endurance of engraving and colour. Have no fear or anxiety; worship is not all of the same kind. Abraham worshipped the sons of Emmor, impious men in ignorance of God, when he bought the double cave for a tomb. (Gen. 23.7; Acts 7.16) Jacob worshipped his brother Esau and Pharao, the Egyptian, but on the point of his staff.* (Gen 33.3) He worshipped, he did not adore. Josue and Daniel worshipped an angel of God; (Jos. 5.14) they did not adore him. The worship of latreia is one thing, and the worship which is given to merit  another."
Similary these hecklers also condemn any other glory given to God through visible manifestations, such as relics or any other image which would lift the heart to God. Again we see early writings condemning this mentality. White and those like him throw stones at God and His servants as the unbelievers did. He follows those Jews who rejected Our Lord and attacked the incarnation of the God-man, yet all the while proclaiming himself as some preacher of the Gospel. He is indeed the one whom Sacred Scripture warns us about. Jesus said, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves."
Bishop of Neapolis in Cyprus wrote in the 7th century,
If you, O Jew, reproach me saying that I adore the wood of the Cross as God, why do you not reproach Jacob, who worshipped on the point of his staff (epi to akron thV rabdou)? Now it is evident that he was not worshipping wood. So with us; we are worshipping Christ through the Cross, not the wood of the Cross.......Abraham worshipped the impious men who sold him the cave, and bent his knee to the ground, yet did not worship them as gods. Jacob praised Pharao, an impious idolator, yet not as God, and he fell down at the feet of Esau, yet did not worship him as God. And again, How does God order us to worship the earth and mountains? "Exalt the Lord your God and worship Him upon His holy mountain, and adore His footstool," (Ps. 99.9, 5) that is, the earth. For "heaven is My throne," He says, "and the earth My footstool." (Is. 66.1) How was it that Moses worshipped Jothor, an idolator, (Ex. 18.7) and Daniel, Nabuchodonosor? How can you reproach me because I honour those who honour God and show Him service? Tell me, is it not fitting to worship the saints, rather than to throw stones at them as you do? Is it not right to worship them, rather than to attack them, and to fling your benefactors into the mire? If you loved God, you would be ready to honour His servants also. And if the bones of the just are unclean, why were the bones of Jacob and  Joseph brought with all honour from Egypt? (Gen. 50.5ff, Ex. 13.19) How was it that a dead man arose again on touching the bones of Eliseus? (II Kgs. 13.21) If God works wonders through bones, it is evident that He can work them through images, and stones, and many other things, as in the case of Eliseus, who gave his staff to his servant, saying, "With this go and raise from the dead the son of the Sunamitess." (II Kgs. 4.29) With his staff Moses chastised Pharao, parted the waters, struck the rock, and drew forth the stream. And Solomon said, "Blessed is the wood by which justice cometh." (Wis. 14.7) Eliseus took iron out of the Jordan with a piece of wood. (II Kgs. 6.4-7) And again, the wood is the wood of life, and the wood of Sabec, that is, of remission. Moses humbled the serpent with wood and saved the people. (Num. 21.9) The blossoming rod in the tabernacle confirmed the priesthood of Aaron. (Num. 17.8) Perhaps, O Jew, you will tell me that God prescribed to Moses beforehand all the things of the testimony in the tabernacle. Now, I say to you that Solomon made a great variety of things in the temple in carvings and sculpture, which God had not ordered him to do. (II Chron. 3.1ff) Nor did the tabernacle of the testimony contain  them, nor the temple which God showed to Ezechiel, (Ez. 40.47ff) nor was Solomon to be blamed in this. He had had these sculptured images made for the glory of God as we do. You, too, had many and varied images and signs in the Old Testament to serve as a reminder of God, if you had not lost them through ingratitude. For instance, the rod of Moses, the tablets of the law, the burning bush, the rock giving forth water, the ark containing the manna, the altar set on fire from above (purenqeon), the lamina bearing the divine name, the ephod, the tabernacle overshadowed by God. If you had prepared all these things by day and by night, saying, "Glory be to Thee, O Almighty God, who hast done wonders in Israel through all these things"; if through all these ordinances of the law, carried out of old, you had fallen on your knees to adore God, you would see that worship is given to Him by images."
Even after these admonishments by the Church and Her faithful, we still have those who attack Christ and His incarnation to this very day. Saint John Damascene could have written this to James White 12 centuries ago. Why then does he and other heretics like him continue in their God-hating ways?
APOLOGIA OF ST JOHN DAMASCENE AGAINST
THOSE WHO DECRY HOLY IMAGES.
"Shame upon you, wicked devil, for grudging us the sight of our Lord's likeness and our sanctification through it. You would not have us gaze at His saving sufferings nor wonder at His condescension, neither contemplate His miracles nor praise His almighty power. You grudge the saints the honour God gives to them. You would not have us see their glory put on record, nor allow us to become imitators of their fortitude and faith. We will not  obey your suggestions, wicked and man-hating devil. Listen to me, people of all nations, men, women, and children, all of you who bear the Christian name: If any one preach to you something contrary to what the Catholic Church has received from the holy apostles and fathers and councils, and has kept down to the present day, do not heed him. Do not receive the serpent's counsel, as Eve did, to whom it was death. If an angel or an emperor teaches you anything contrary to what you have received, shut your ears. I have refrained so far from saying, as the holy apostle said, "Let him be anathema," (Gal. 1.8) in the hope of amendment."
Posted by James Bellisario at 8:22 PM