Apologia of St John Damascene against those who decry holy images. (Part II)

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[55] I CRAVE your indulgence, my readers (despotai mou), and ask you to receive the true statement of one who is an unprofitable servant, the least of all, in the Church of God. I have not been moved to speak by motives of vainglory, God is my witness, but by zeal for the truth. In this alone is my hope of salvation, and with it I trust and pray to go out to meet Christ our Lord, asking that it may be an expiation for my sins. The man who received five talents from his lord, brought other five which he had gained, and the man with two, other two. The man who received one, and buried it, gave it back without interest, and being pronounced a wicked servant, was banished into external darkness. (Mt. 25.20ff) Lest I should suffer in the same way, I obey God’s commands, and with the talent of eloquence, which is His gift, I put before the wise among you a treasure table, so [56] that when the Lord comes He may find me rich in souls, a faithful servant, whom He may take into that ineffable joy of His, which is my desire. Give me listening ears and willing hearts. Receive my treatise, and ponder well the force of the arguments. This is the second part of my work on images. Certain children of the Church have urged me to do it because the first part was not sufficiently clear to all. Be indulgent with me on this account, for my obedience.
The wicked serpent of old, Beloved, I mean the devil–is wont to wage war in many ways against man, who is made after God’s image, and to work his destruction through opposition. In the very beginning he inspired man with the hope and desire of becoming a god, and through that desire he dragged man down to share the death of the brute creation. He has enticed man also by shameful and brutal pleasures. What a contrast between becoming a god and feeling brutal lust. And again, he led man into infidelity, as the royal (qeopatwr) David says: “The fool said in his heart there is no God.” (Ps. 14.1) At one time he has brought man to worship too many gods, at another not even [57] the true God, sometimes demons, and again, the heavens and the earth, the sun and moon and stars, and the rest of creation, wild beasts and reptiles. It is as bad to refuse due honour where honour is due, as to give it where it is not due. Again, he has taught some to call the uncreated god evil, and has deceived others by making them recognise God, who is good by nature, as the author of evil. Some he has deceived by the misconception of one nature and one substance of the Godhead; some he has induced to honour three natures and three substances; some one substance in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity; some two natures and two substances.

But the truth, taking a middle course, sweeps away these misconceptions and teaches us to acknowledge one God, one nature in three persons (upostasesi) the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Evil is not a being,* but an accident, a certain conception, word, or deed against the law of God, taking [58] its origin in this conception, speech, or doing, and ending with it. The truth proclaims also that in Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity, there are two natures and one person. Now, the devil, the enemy of the truth and of man’s salvation, in suggesting that images of corruptible man and of birds and beasts and reptiles, should be made and worshipped as gods, has often led astray not only heathens but the children of Israel. (Rom. 1.23) In these days he is eager to trouble the peace of Christ’s Church through false and lying tongues, using divine words in favour of what is evil, and striving to disguise his wicked intent, and drawing the unstable away from true and patristic custom. Some have risen up and said that it was wrong to represent and set forth publicly for adoration the saving wounds of Christ, and the combats of the saints against the devil. Who with a knowledge of divine things and a spiritual sense does not perceive in this a deception of the devil? He is unwilling that his shame should be known and that the glory of God and of His saints should be published.

If we made an image of the invisible God, [59] we should in truth do wrong. For it is impossible to make a statue of one who is without body, invisible, boundless, and formless. Again, if we made statues of men, and held them to be gods, worshipping them as such, we should be most impious. But we do neither. For in making the image of God, who became incarnate and visible on earth, a man amongst men through His unspeakable goodness, taking upon Him shape and form and flesh, we are not misled. We long to see what He was like. As the divine apostle says, “We see now in a glass, darkly.” (I Cor. 13.12) The image, too, is a dark glass, according to the denseness of our bodies. The mind, in much travail, cannot rid itself of bodily things. 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 [60] 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.

But say those who do not enter into the mind of Scripture, God said, through Moses the law-giver: “Thou shalt not make to thyself the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath”; (Ex. 20.4) and through the prophet David: “Let them be all confounded that adore graven things, and that glory in their idols,” (Ps. 97.7) and many similar passages. Whatever they have quoted from Holy Scripture and the fathers is to the same intent.

[61] Now, what shall we say to these things? What, if not that which God spoke to the Jews, “Search the Scriptures.” (Jn. 5.39)

It is good to examine the Scriptures, but let your mind be enlightened from the search. It is impossible, Beloved, that God should not speak truth. (Heb. 6.18) There is one God, one Lawgiver of the old and new dispensation, who “spoke of old in many ways to the patriarchs through the prophets, and in these latter times through His only begotten Son.” (Heb. 1.1) Apply your mind with discernment. It is not I who am speaking. The Holy Ghost declared by the holy apostle St Paul that God spoke of old in many different ways to the patriarchs through the prophets. Note, in many different ways. A skilful doctor does not invariably prescribe for all alike, but for each according to his state, taking into consideration climate and complaint, season and age, giving one remedy to a child, another to a grown man, according to his age; one thing to a weak patient, another to a strong; and to each sufferer the right thing for his state and malady: one thing in the summer, another in the winter, another in the spring or autumn, [62] and in each place according to its requirements. So in the same way the good Physician of souls prescribed for those who were still children and inclined to the sickness of idolatry, holding idols to be gods, and worshipping them as such, neglecting the worship of God, and preferring the creature to His glory. He charged them not to do this.

It is impossible to make an image of God, who is a pure spirit, invisible, boundless, having neither form nor circumscription. How can we make an image of what is invisible? “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” (Jn. 1.18) And again, “No one shall see My face and live, saith the Lord.” (Ex. 33.20)

That they did worship idols there is no doubt from what the Scripture says about the going out of the children of Israel, when Moses went up to Mount Sinai, and persevered in prayer to God. Whilst receiving the law, the ungrateful people rose against Aaron, the priest of God, saying: “Make us gods who may go before us. For as to Moses, we know not what has befallen him.” (Ex. 32.1ff) Then, when they [63] had looked over the trinkets of their wives, and brought them together, they ate and drank, and were inebriated with wine and madness, and began to make merry, saying in their foolishness, “These are thy gods, O Israel.” Do you see that they made gods of idols who were demons, and that they worshipped the creature instead of the Creator? As the holy apostle says: “They changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of the image of a corruptible man and of birds, and of four-footed beasts, and of creeping things, and served the creature rather than the Creator.” (Rom. 1.23, 25) On this account God forbade them to make any graven image, as Moses says in Deuteronomy: “And the Lord spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you heard the voice of His words, but you saw not any form at all.” (Deut. 4.12) And a little further on: “Keep therefore your souls carefully; you saw not any similitude in the day that the Lord God spoke to you in Horeb, from the midst of the fire, lest perhaps being deceived you might make you a graven similitude or image of male or female, the similitude of any beasts that are upon the earth, or of birds that fly under heaven.” (Deut. 4.9, 15-17) And [64] again: “Lest perhaps lifting up thy eyes to heaven, thou see the sun and the moon, and all the stars of heaven, and being deceived by error, thou adore and serve them.” (Deut. 4.19) You see the one object in view is that the creature should not be worshipped instead of the Creator, and that the worship of latreia should be given to God alone. Thus in every case when he speaks of worship he means latreia. Again “Thou shalt not have strange gods in my sight; thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing nor any likeness.” (Deut. 5.7) Again: “Thou shalt not make to thyself gods of metal.” (Ex. 34.17) You see that He forbids image-making on account of idolatry, and that it is impossible to make an image of God, who is a Spirit, invisible, and uncircumscribed. “You have not seen His likeness,” (Deut. 4.15) He says; and St Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, says: “Being therefore the offspring of God, we must not suppose the divinity to be like unto gold, or silver, or stone, the graving of art, a device of man.” (Acts 17.29)

Listen again that it is so. Thou shalt not make to thyself any brazen thing nor any likeness. These things, he says, they made [65] by God’s commandment a hanging of violet, purple, scarlet, and fine twisted linen in the entrance of the tabernacle, and the cherubim in woven work. (Ex. 26.31) And they made also the propitiatory, that is, the oracle of the purest gold, and the two cherubim. (Ex 37.6-7) What will you say to this, O Moses? You say, thou shalt not make to thyself any graven thing nor any likeness, and you yourself fashion cherubim of woven work, and two cherubim of pure gold. Listen to the answer of God’s servant Moses: “You blind and foolish people, mark the force of what is said, and keep your souls carefully. I said that you had seen no likeness on the day when the Lord spoke to you on Mount Horeb, in the midst of the fire, lest you should sin against the law and make for yourselves a brazen likeness: thou shalt not make any image or gods of metal. I never said thou shalt not make the image of cherubim in adoration before the propitiatory. What I said was: Thou shalt not make to thyself gods of metal, and thou shalt not make any likeness as of God, nor shalt thou adore the creature instead of the Creator, nor any creature whatsoever as God, nor have [66] I served the creature rather than the Creator.”

Note how the object of Scripture becomes clear to those who really search it. You must know, Beloved, that in every business truth and falsehood are distinguished, and the object of the doer, whether it be good or bad. In the gospel we find all things good and evil. God, the angels, man, the heavens, the earth, water and fire and air, the sun and moon and stars, light and darkness, Satan and the devils, the serpent and scorpions, death and hell, virtues and vices. And because everything told about them is true, and the object in view is the glory of God and the saints whom He has honoured, our salvation, and the shame of the devil, we worship and embrace and love these utterances, and receive them with our whole heart as we do the whole of the old and new dispensation, and all the spoken testimony of the holy fathers. Now, we reject the evil, abominable writings of heathens and Manicheans and all other heretics, as containing foolishness and lies, promoting the advantage of Satan and his demons, and giving them pleasure, although they contain the name of God. So with regard [67] to images we must manifest the truth, and take into account the intention of those who make them. If it be in very deed for the glory of God and of His saints to promote goodness, to avoid evil, and save souls, we should receive and honour and worship them as images, and remembrances, likenesses, and the books of the illiterate. We should love and embrace them with hand and heart as reminders of the incarnate God, or His Mother, or of the saints, the participators in the sufferings and the glory of Christ, the conquerors and overthrowers of Satan, and diabolical fraud. If any one should dare to make an image of Almighty God, who is pure Spirit, invisible, uncircumscribed, we reject it as a falsehood. If any one make images for the honour and worship of the Devil and his angels, we abhor them and deliver them to the flames. Or if any one give divine honours to the statues of men, or birds, or reptiles, or any other created thing, we anathematise him. As our forefathers in the faith pulled down the temples of demons, and erected on the same spot churches dedicated to saints whom we honour, so they overturned the statues of demons, and set up instead the [68] images of Christ, of His holy Mother, and the saints. Even in the old dispensation, Israel neither raised temples to human beings, nor held sacred the memory of man. At that time Adam’s race was under a curse, and death was a penalty, therefore a mourning. A corpse was looked upon as unclean, and the man who touched it as contaminated. But since the Godhead has taken to Himself our nature, it has become glorified as a vivifying and efficacious remedy, and has been transformed unto immortality. Thus the death of the saints is a rejoicing, and churches are raised to them, and their images are set up. Be assured that any one wishing to pull down an image erected out of pure zeal for the glory and enduring memory of Christ, or of His holy Mother, or any of the saints, to put the devil and his satellites to shame,–anyone, I say, refusing to honour and worship this image as sacred–it is not to be worshipped as God–is an enemy of Christ, of His blessed Mother, and of the saints, and is an advocate of the devil and his crew, showing grief by his conduct that the saints are honoured and glorified, and the devil put to shame. The image is a hymn of praise, a manifestation, a [69] lasting token of those who have fought and conquered, and of demons humbled and put to flight.

Kings have no call to make laws in the Church. What does the holy apostle say? “And God, indeed, hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly doctors and shepherds for the training of the Church.” (I Cor. 12.28) He does not say “kings.” And again: “Obey your prelates, and be subject to them. For they watch as being to render an account of your souls.” (Heb. 13.17) Again: “Remember your prelates who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the end of your conversation.” (13.7) Kings have not spoken the word to you, but apostles and prophets, pastors and doctors. When God was speaking to David about building a house for Him, He said: “Thou shalt not build me a house, for thou art a man of blood.” (I Chron. 28.3) “Render, therefore, to all men their dues,” St Paul exclaimed; “tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour.” (Rom. 13.7) The political prosperity is the king’s business* the ecclesiastical organisation [70] belongs to pastors and doctors, and to take it out of their hands is to commit an act of robbery. Saul rent Samuel’s cloak, and what was the consequence? God took from him his royalty, and gave it to the meek David. (I Sam. 15.27-28) Jezabel pursued Elias, pigs and dogs licked up her blood, (I Kgs. 19.2-3; II Kgs. 9.33ff) and harlots were bathed in it. Herod removed John, and was consumed by worms. (Acts 12.23) And now holy Germanus, shining by word and example, has been punished and become an exile, and many more bishops and fathers, whose names are unknown to us. Is not this a persecution? When the Pharisees and the learned surrounded our Lord, ostensibly to listen to His teaching, and when they asked Him if it was lawful to pay tribute to Caesar, He answered them “Bring me a coin.” And when they had brought it, He said: “Whose image is this?” Upon their reply, “Caesar’s,” He said, “Give to Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s.” (Mt. 22.17ff) We are obedient to you, O King, in things concerning our daily life, in tributes, taxes, and payments, which are your due; but in ecclesiastical government we have our pastors, preachers of the word, and exponents of ecclesiastical law. [71] We do not change the boundaries marked out by our fathers (Prov. 22.28): we keep the tradition we have received. If we begin to lay down the law to the Church, even in the smallest thing, the whole edifice will fall to the ground in no short time.

You look down upon matter and call it contemptible. This is what the Manicheans did, but holy Scripture pronounces it to be good for it says, “And God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.” (Gen. 2.31) I say matter is God’s creation and a good thing. Now, if you say it is bad, you say either that it is not from God, or you make Him a cause of evil. Listen to the words of Scripture concerning matter, which you despise: “And Moses said to all the assembly of the children of Israel: This is the word the Lord hath commanded, saying: Set aside with you first fruits to the Lord; let every one that is willing and hath a ready heart, offer them to the Lord: gold, and silver, and brass, violet and purple, and scarlet twice dyed, and fine linen, goat’s hair, and ram’s skins dyed red, and violet, and coloured skins, selimwood, and oil to maintain lights, and to make ointment, and most sweet incense, onyx [72] stones and precious stones for the adorning of the ephod and the rational: Whosoever of you is wise let him come and make that which the Lord hath commanded: to wit, the tabernacle,” etc.(Ex. 35.4-10)

Behold, then, matter is honoured, and you dishonour it. What is more insignificant than goat’s hair, or colours, and are not violet and purple and scarlet colours? And the likeness of the cherubim are the work of man’s hand, and the tabernacle itself from first to last was an image. “Look,” said God to Moses, “and make it according to the pattern that was shown thee in the Mount,” (Ex. 25.40) and it was adored by the people of Israel in a circle. And, as to the cherubim, were they not in sight of the people? And did not the people look at the ark, and the lamps, and the table, the golden urn and the staff, and adore? It is not matter which I adore; it is the Lord of matter, becoming matter for my sake, taking up His abode in matter and working out my salvation through matter. For “the Word was made Flesh, and dwelt amongst us.” (Jn. 1.14) It is evident to all that flesh is matter, and that it is created. I reverence and honour matter, and worship that which has brought about my salvation. I [73] honour it, not as God, but as a channel of divine strength and grace. Was not the thrice blessed wood of the Cross matter? and the sacred and holy mountain of Calvary? Was not the holy sepulchre matter, the life-giving stone the source of our resurrection? Was not the book of the Gospels matter, and the holy table which gives us the bread of life? Are not gold and silver matter, of which crosses, and holy pictures, and chalices are made? And above all, is not the Lord’s Body and Blood composed of matter? Either reject the honor and worship of all these things, or conform to ecclesiastical tradition, sanctifying the worship of images in the name of God and of God’s friends, and so obeying the grace of the Divine Spirit. If you give up images on account of the law, you should also keep the Sabbath and be circumcised, for these are severely inculcated by it. You should observe all the law, and not celebrate the Lord’s Passover out of Jerusalem. But you must know that if you observe the law, Christ will profit you nothing. (Gal. 5.2) You are ordered to marry your brother’s wife, and so carry on his name, (Deut. 25.5ff) and not to sing the song of the Lord in a strange land. (Ps. 137.4) Enough of this! [74] “Those who have been justified by the law have fallen from grace.” (Gal. 5.4)

Let us set forth Christ, our King and Lord, not depriving Him of His army. The saints are His army. Let the earthly king strip himself of his army, and then of his own dignity. Let him put off the purple and the diadem before he take honour away from his most valiant men who have conquered their passions.* For if the friends of Christ are heirs of God and co-heirs of Christ, and are to be partakers of the divine glory and kingdom, is not even earthly glory due to them? I call you not servants, our Lord says; you are my friends. Shall we, then, withhold from them the honour which the Church gives them? You are a bold and venturesome man to fight against God and His ordinances. If you do not worship images, you do not worship the Son of God, who is the living image of the invisible God, and the immutable figure of His substance. The temple which Solomon built was consecrated by the blood of animals, and [75] decorated by images of lions, oxen, and the palms and pomegranates. Now, the Church is consecrated by the blood of Christ and of His saints, and it is adorned with the image of Christ and of His saints. Either take away the worship of images altogether, or be not an innovator, and pass not beyond the ancient boundaries which thy fathers have set. (Prov. 22.28) I am not speaking of boundaries prior to the incarnation of Christ our Lord, but since His coming. God spoke to them, depreciating the traditions of the old law, saying, “I also gave them statutes that were not good,” (Ez. 20.25) on account of their hardness of heart. “Consequently on the change of priesthood the law of necessity was also changed.” (Heb. 7.12)

The eye-witnesses and ministers of the word handed down the teaching of the Church, not only by writing, but also by unwritten tradition. Whence comes our knowledge of the sacred spot, Mount Calvary, of the holy sepulchre? Has it not been handed down to us from father to son? It is written that our Lord was crucified on Calvary, and buried in the tomb which Joseph hewed out of the rock, but it is unwritten tradition that teaches us we are adoring [76] the right places, and many other things of the same kind. Why do we believe in three baptisms, that is, in three immersions? Why do we adore the Cross? Is it not through tradition? Therefore the holy apostle says: “Brethren, stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle.” (II Thess. 2.15) Many things, therefore, being handed down to the Church by unwritten tradition and kept up to the present day, why do you speak slightingly of images? The Manicheans followed a gospel according to Thomas, and you will follow that of Leo. I do not admit an emperor’s tyrannical action in domineering over the Church. The emperor has not received the power to bind and loose. I know of the Emperor Valens, a Christian in name, who persecuted the true faith, Zeno and Anastasius, Heraclius and Constantine of Sicily, and Bardaniskus, called Philip (filippikon). I am not to be persuaded that the Church is set in order by imperial edicts, but by patristic traditions, written and unwritten. As the written Gospel has been preached in the whole world, so has it been an unwritten tradition in the whole world to represent in [77] image Christ, the incarnate God, and the saints, to adore the Cross, and to pray towards the east.

The customs which you bring forward do not incriminate our worship of images, but that of the heathens who make idols of them. The pious practice of the Church is not to be rejected because of heathen abuse. Sorcerers and magicians exorcise; the Church exorcises catechumens. The former invoke demons, the Church calls upon God against demons. Heathens sacrificed to demons; Israel offered to God both holocausts and victims. The Church, too, offers an unbloody sacrifice to God. Heathens set up images to demons, and Israel made idols of them in the words, “These are thy gods, O Israel, who brought thee out of Egypt.” (Ex. 32.4) Now we have set up images to the true God incarnate, to His servants and friends, who have put the demon host to flight. If you say to this that blessed Epiphanius clearly rejected our use of images, you must know that the work in question is spurious and written by some one else in the name of Epiphanius, as often happens. A father does not fight his own children. All have become participators in the one Spirit. [78] The Church is a witness of this in adorning images, until some men rose up against her and disturbed the peace of Christ’s fold, putting poisoned food before the people of God.

If I venerate and worship, as the instruments of salvation, the Cross and lance, and reed and sponge, by means of which the Jews (qeoktonoi) scorned and put to death my Lord, shall I not also worship images that Christians make with a good intention for the glory and remembrance of Christ? If I worship the image of the Cross, made of whatever wood it may be, shall I not worship the image which shows me the Crucified and my salvation through the Cross? Oh, inhumanity of man! It is evident that I do not worship matter, for supposing the Cross, if it be made of wood, should fall to pieces, I should throw them into the fire, and the same with images.

Receive the united testimony of Scripture and the fathers to show you that images and their worship are no new invention, but the ancient tradition of the Church. In the holy Gospel of St Matthew our Lord called His disciples blessed, and with them all those who followed their example and walked in their [79] footsteps in these words: “Blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. For, amen I say to you, many prophets and just men have desired to see the things that you see, and have not seen them, and to bear the things that you hear, and have not heard them.” (Mt. 13.16-17) We also desire to see as much as we may. “We see now in a glass, darkly,” (I Cor. 13.12) and in image, and are blessed. God Himself first made an image, and showed forth images. For He “made the first man after His own image.” (Gen. 1.27) And Abraham, Moses, and Isaias, and all the prophets saw images of God, not the substance of God. The burning bush was an image of God’s Mother, and as Moses was about to approach it, God said: “Put off the shoes from thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” (Ex. 3.5) Now if the spot on which Moses saw an image of Our Lady was holy, how much more the image itself? And not only is it holy, but I venture to say it is the holy of holies (agiwn agia). When the Pharisees asked our Lord why Moses had allowed a bill of divorce, He answered: “On account of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wife, but in the [80] beginning it was not so.” (Mt. 19.8) And I say to you that Moses, through the children of Israel’s hardness of heart, and knowing their proclivity to idolatry, forbade them to make images. We are not in the same case. We have taken a firm footing on the rock of faith, being enriched with the light of God’s friendship.

Listen to our Lord’s words: “Ye foolish and blind, whosoever shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth in it; and he that sweareth by heaven sweareth by the throne of God, and by Him that sitteth thereon.” (Mt. 23.21-22) And he who swears by an image swears by the one whom it represents. It has been sufficiently proved that the tabernacle, and the veil, the ark and the table, and everything within the tabernacle, were images and types, and the works of man’s hand, which were worshipped by all Israel, and also that the cherubim in carving were made by God’s order. For God said to Moses, “See that thou doest all things according to the pattern shown to thee on the mount.” (Ex. 25.40) Listen, too, to the apostle’s testimony that Israel worshipped images and the handiwork of man in obedience to God: If, then, he were on earth he [81] would not be a priest; seeing that there would be others to offer gifts according. to the law, who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as it was answered to Moses, when he was to finish the tabernacle: See (says he) that thou make all things according to the pattern which was shown thee on the mount. But now he hath obtained a better ministry, by how much also he is a mediator of a better testament, which is established on better promises. For if that former had been faultless, there should not indeed a place have been sought for a second. For finding fault with them, he saith: “Behold the day shall come, saith the Lord: and I will perfect unto the house of Israel, and unto the house of Juda, a New Testament: not according to the Testament which I made to their fathers, on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt.” (Heb. 8.4-9) And a little further on: “Now in saying a New, he hath made the former Old. And that which decayeth and groweth old, is near its end. For there was a tabernacle made the first, wherein were the candlesticks, and the table, and the setting forth of loaves, which [82] is called the Holy. And after the second veil, the tabernacle, which is called the Holy of Holies; having a golden censer, and the ark of the testament covered about on every part with gold, in which was a golden pot that had manna, and the rod of Aaron that had blossomed, and the tables of the testament. And over it were the cherubims of glory overshadowing the propitiatory.” (Heb. 8.13; 9.2-5) And again: “For Jesus is not entered into the Holies made with hands, the patterns of the true; but into heaven itself.” (Heb. 9.24) And again “For the law having a shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of the things.” (Heb. 10.1)

You see that the law and everything it ordained and all our own worship consist in the consecration of what is made by hands, leading us through matter to the invisible God. Now the law and all its ordinances were a foreshadowing of the image in the future, that is, of our worship. And our worship is an image of the eternal reward. As to the thing itself, the heavenly Jerusalem, it is invisible and immaterial, as the same divine apostle says: “We have not here an abiding city, but we seek for the one above, the heavenly [83] Jerusalem, of which God is Lord and Architect.” (Heb. 13.14; 11.10) All ordinances of the law and of our worship have been directed for that heavenly city. To God be praise for ever. Amen.


St John Chrysostom. From His “Commentary on the Parable of the Sower.”
If you despise the royal garment, do you not despise the king himself? Do you not see that if you despise the image of the king, you despise the original? Do you not know that if a man shows contempt for an image of wood or a statue of metal, he is not judged as if he had vented himself or lifeless matter, but as showing contempt for the king? Dishonour shown to an image of the king is dishonour shown to the king.
The same, from his Sermon to St Meletius, Bishop of Antioch, and on the zeal of his hearers, beginning, “Casting his eyes everywhere on this holy flock.”
What took place was most edifying, and [84] we ought always to bear this consolation in mind, and to have this saint before our eyes, whose name was invoked against every bad passion and specious argument. This was so much the case that streets, market-place, fields, every nook and corner rang with his name. Not only have you longed to invoke him, but to look upon his bodily form. As with his name so with his image. Many people have put it on their rings and goblets and cups and on their bedroom walls, so as not only to hear his history but to look upon his physical likeness, and to have a double consolation in his loss.*

St Maximus, Philosopher and Confessor. From his “Acts” and those of Bishop Theodosius.
And after this all rose with tears of devotion, and kneeling down, prayed. And every one kissed the holy Gospels, and the sacred Cross, and the image of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and of Our Lady, His Immaculate Mother (panagiaV qeotokou), putting their hands to it in confirmation of what had been said.

Blessed Anastasius, Archbishop of Theopolis, on the Sabbath, to Simeon, Bishop of Bostris.
As in the king’s absence his image is honoured instead of himself, so in his presence it would be unseemly to leave the original for the image. This is not to say that what is passed over in his presence should be dishonoured. . . . As the man who shows disrespect to the king’s image is punished as if he had shown it to the king in very deed, although the image is composed merely of wood and paint moulded together, so one who shows disrespect to the likeness of a man means it for the original of the likeness.

Apologia of St John Damascene against those who decry holy images. (Part III)

Biography of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla