John of Damascus… Veneration of Images

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...
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In former times God, who is without form or body, could never be depicted. But now when God is seen in the flesh conversing with men, I make an image of the God whom I see. I do not worship matter; I worship the Creator of matter who became matter for my sake, who willed to take His abode in matter; who worked out my salvation through matter. Never will I cease honoring the matter which wrought my salvation! I honor it, but not as God. How could God be born out of things which have no existence in themselves? God’s body is God because it is joined to His person by a union which shall never pass away. The divine nature remains the same; the flesh created in time is quickened by a reason endowed soul. Because of this I salute all remaining matter with reverence, because God has filled it with His grace and power. Through it my salvation has come to me. Was not the thrice-happy and thrice blessed wood of the Cross matter? What of the life bearing rock, the holy and life-giving tomb, the fountain of our resurrection, was it not matter? Is not the ink in the most holy Gospel-book matter? Is not the life-giving altar made of matter? From it we receive the bread of life! Are not gold and silver matter? From them we make crosses, patens, chalices! And over and above all these things, is not the Body and Blood of our Lord matter? Either do away with the honor and veneration these things deserve, or accept the tradition of the Church and the veneration of images…

You can and should read the entire thing here.

I would never venerate images… but on my iPad is the Icon of Christ as well as the Apostle’s Creed, which I look at as I pray it in the morning while holding the rosary.

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5 Replies to “John of Damascus… Veneration of Images”

  1. Good stuff. JofD FTW. It’s a very powerful argument. I would add that God’s people are holier still on account of being indwelt by the Spirit.

    I really like the stained glass image in this post, too.

    1. It is one of my favorites.

      Next week, in Sunday School class, we are going to get to Wesley’s distaste for icons, but I guess for me, these things are to call attention, to focus our attention perhaps, and with all of the things that are going on in this world (technology, our business, etc…) we just may need these things to focus out attention.

  2. I’ll be teaching an adult Sunday School class on Roman Catholic theology at my (Presbyterian) church in the fall. I’m thinking about devoting one of the sessions to icons. It always makes for interesting discussion. Maybe I’ll take a cue from you and use Wesley as the interlocutor.

    1. Wesley made no bones about it:

      The Romish doctrine concerning purgatory, pardon, worshiping, and adoration, as well of images as of relics, and also invocation of saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warrant of Scripture, but repugnant to the Word of God.

      Current ecumenical allowances have been made, however and a good thing too.

      Speaking of Sunday School class, it looks as if I’ll be teaching the next module (? – not sure if that is what we’ll call it or not, but it sounds pleasant enough) on Scripture. We were discussing Scripture from the view point of the Book of Discipline this past Sunday and several mentioned that they would like to know more about it. If only we had some sort of theological summary of each book … 😉

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