Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
December 27th, 2014 by Joel Watts

St. John of Damascus on the Cross as icon

John of Damascus Greek icon.

John of Damascus Greek icon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, then, this same truly precious and august tree, on which Christ hath offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sakes, is to be worshipped as sanctified by contact with His holy body and blood; likewise the nails, the spear, the clothes, His sacred tabernacles which are the manger, the cave, Golgotha, which bringeth salvation, the tomb which giveth life, Sion, the chief stronghold of the churches and the like, are to be worshipped. In the words of David, the father of God, We shall go into His tabernacles, we shall worship at the place where His feet stood. And that it is the Cross that is meant is made clear by what follows, Arise, O Lord, into Thy Rest. For the resurrection comes after the Cross. For if of those things which we love, house and couch and garment, are to be longed after, how much the rather should we long after that which belonged to God, our Saviour, by means of which we are in truth saved….Moreover we worship even the image of the precious and life-giving Cross, although made of another tree, not honouring the tree (God forbid) but the image as a symbol of Christ….1

A few notes (for myself). St. John’s language on the sacrifice is one of free-will. Again, St. John allows (demands?) the use of icons, not as a stand-in for worshiping God, but to draw our attention to God.

Further, I think there is something else there. For St. John, what Christ has touched has been made clean — divine?

  1.  John Damascene, “An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith,” in St. Hilary of Poitiers, John of Damascus (ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace; trans. S. D. F. Salmond; vol. 9b; A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series; New York: Christian Literature Company, 1899), 9b80.
Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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