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

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EVERY one must recognise that a man who attempts to dishonour an image which has been set up for the glory and remembrance of Christ, of His holy Mother, or one of his saints, is an enemy of Christ, of His holy Mother, and the saints. It is also set up to shame the devil and his crew, out of love and zeal for God. The man who refuses to give this image due, though not divine, honour, is an upholder of the devil and his demon host, showing by his act grief that God and the saints are honoured and glorified, and the devil put to shame. The image is a canticle and manifestation and monument to the memory of those who have fought bravely and won the victory to the shame and confusion of the vanquished. I have often seen lovers gazing at the loved [88] one’s garment, and embracing it with eyes and mouth as if it was himself. We must give his due to every man, St Paul says “Honour to whom honour: to the king as excelling: or to governors as sent by him,” (Rom. 13.7) to each according to the measure of his dignity.
Where do you find in the Old Testament or in the Gospel the Trinity, or consubstantiality, or one Godhead, or three persons,* or the one substance of Christ, or His two natures, expressed in so many words? Still, as they are contained in what Scripture does say, and defined by the holy fathers, we receive them and anathematise those who do not. I prove to you that in the old law God commanded images to be made, first of all the tabernacle and everything in it. Then in the gospel our Lord Himself said to those who asked Him, tempting, whether it was lawful to give tribute to Caesar, “Bring me a coin,” and they showed Him a penny. And He asked them whose likeness it was, and they said to Him, Caesar’s; and He said, “Give to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God that which is God’s.” (Mt. 22.17-21) As the coin bears the likeness of Caesar, it is his, [89] and you should give it to Caesar. So the image bears the likeness of Christ, and you should give it Him, for it is His.

Our Lord called His disciples blessed, saying, “Many kings and prophets have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear and have not heard it. Blessed are your eyes which see and your ears which hear.” (Mt. 13.16-17) The apostles saw Christ with their bodily eyes, and His sufferings and wonders, and they listened to His words. We, too, desire to see, and to hear, and to be blessed. They saw Him face to face, as He was present in the body. Now, since he is not present in the body to us, we hear His words from books and are sanctified in spirit by the hearing, and are blessed, and we adore, honouring the books which tell us of His words. So, through the representation of images we look upon His bodily form, and upon His miracles and His sufferings, and are sanctified and satiated, gladdened and blessed. Reverently we worship His bodily form, and contemplating it, we form some notion of His divine glory. For, as we are composed of [90] soul and body, and our soul does not stand alone, but is, as it were, shrouded by a veil, it is impossible for us to arrive at intellectual conceptions without corporeal things. just as we listen with our bodily ears to physical words and understand spiritual things, so, through corporeal vision, we come to the spiritual. On this account Christ took a body and a soul, as man has both one and the other. And baptism likewise is double, of water and the spirit. So is communion and prayer and psalmody; everything has a double signification, a corporeal and a spiritual. Thus again, with lights and incense. The devil has tolerated all these things, raising a storm against images alone. His great jealousy of them may be learnt by what St Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, recounts in his “Spiritual Garden.” Abbot Theodore Aeliotes told of a holy hermit on the Mount of Olives, who was much troubled by the demon of fornication. One day when he was sorely tempted, the old man began to complain bitterly. “When will you let me alone?” he said to the devil “be gone from me! you and I have grown old together.” The devil appeared to him, saying, [91] “Swear to me that you will keep what I am about to tell you to yourself, and I will not trouble you any longer.” And the old man swore it. Then the devil said to him, “Do not worship this image, and I will not harass you.” The image in question represented Our Lady, the holy Mother of God, bearing in her arms our Lord Jesus Christ. You see what those who forbid the worship of images hate in reality, and whose instruments they are. The demon of fornication strove to prevent the worship of Our Lady’s image rather than to tempt the old man to impurity. He knew that the former evil was greater than fornication.

As we are treating of images and their worship, let us draw out the meaning more accurately and say in the first place what an image is; (2) Why the image was made; (3) How many kinds of images there are; (4) What may be expressed by an image, and what may not; (5) Who first made images. Again, as to worship: (1) What is worship; (2) How many kinds of worship there are; (3) What are the things worshipped in Scripture; (4) That all worship is for God, who is worshipful by nature; (5) That [92] honour shown to the image is given to the original.

1st Point.–What is an Image?
An image is a likeness and representation of some one, containing in itself the person who is imaged. The image is not wont to be an exact reproduction of the original. The image is one thing, the person represented another; a difference is generally perceptible, because the subject of each is the same. For instance, the image of a man may give his bodily form, but not his mental powers. It has no life, nor does it speak or feel or move. A son being the natural image of his father is somewhat different from him, for he is a son, not a father.
2nd Point.-For what purpose the Image is made.
Every image is a revelation and representation of something hidden. For instance, man has not a clear knowledge of what is invisible, the spirit being veiled to the body, nor of future things, nor of things apart and distant, because he is circumscribed by place and time. [93] The image was devised for greater knowledge, and for the manifestation and popularising of secret things, as a pure benefit and help to salvation, so that by showing things and making them known, we may arrive at the hidden ones, desire and emulate what is good, shun and hate what is evil.
3rd Point.-How many kinds of Images there are.
Images are of various kinds. First there is the natural image. In everything the natural conception must be the first, then we come to institution according to imitation. The Son is the first natural and unchangeable image of the invisible God, the Father, showing the Father in Himself. “For no man has seen God.” (Jn. 1.18) Again, “Not that any one has seen the Father.” (Jn. 6.46) The apostle says that the Son is the image of the Father: “Who is the image of the invisible God,” (Col. 1.15) and to the Hebrews, “Who being the brightness of His glory, and the figure of His substance.” (Heb. 1.3) In the Gospel of St John we find that He does show the Father in Himself. When Philip said to Him, “Show us the Father and it is enough for us,” [94] our Lord replied, “Have I been so long with you and have you not known Me, Philip? He who sees Me, sees the Father.” (Jn. 14.8-9) For the Son is the natural image of the Father, unchangeable, in everything like to the Father, except that He is begotten, and that He is not the Father. The Father begets, being unbegotten. The Son is begotten, and is not the Father, and the Holy Spirit is the image of the Son. For no one can say the Lord Jesus, except in the Holy Spirit. (I Cor. 12.3) Through the Holy Spirit we know Christ, the Son of God and God, and in the Son we look upon the Father. For in things that are conceived by nature,* language is the interpreter, and spirit is the interpreter of language. The Holy Spirit is the perfect and unchangeable image of the Son, differing only in His procession. The Son is begotten, but does not proceed. And the son of any father is his natural image. Thus, the natural is the first kind of image.
The second kind of image is that foreknowledge which is in God’s mind concerning future events, His eternal and unchanging counsel. God is immutable and His counsel [95] without beginning, and as it has been determined from all eternity, it is carried out at the time preordained by Him. Images and figures of what He is to do in the future, the distinct determination of each, are called predeterminations by holy Dionysius. In His counsels the things predetermined by Him were characterised and imaged and immutably fixed before they took place.

The third sort of image is that by imitation (kata mimhsin) which God made, that is, man. For how can what is created be of the same nature as what is uncreated, except by imitation? As mind, the Father, the Word, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one God, so mind and word and spirit are one man, according to God’s will and sovereign rule.

For God says: “Let us make man according to our own image and likeness,” and He adds, “I and let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea and the birds of the air, and the whole earth, and rule over it.” (Gen. 1.26)

The fourth kind of image are the figures and types set forth by Scripture of invisible and immaterial things in bodily form, for a clearer apprehension of God and the angels, [96] through our incapacity of perceiving immaterial things unless clothed in analogical material form, as Dionysius the Areopagite says, a man skilled in divine things. Anyone would say that our incapacity for reaching the contemplation of intellectual things, and our need of familiar and cognate mediums, make it necessary that immaterial things should be clothed in form and shape. If, then, holy Scripture adapts itself to us in seeking to elevate us above sense, does it not make images of what it clothes in our own medium, and bring within our reach that which we desire but are unable to see? The spiritual* writer, Gregory, says that the mind striving to banish corporeal images reduces itself to incapability. But from the creation of the world the invisible things of God are made clear by the visible creation. We see images in created things, which remind us faintly of divine tokens. For instance, sun and light and brightness, the running waters of a perennial fountain, our own mind and language and spirit, the sweet fragrance of a flowering rose tree, are images of the Holy and Eternal Trinity.

[97] The fifth kind of image is that which is typical of the future, as the bush and the fleece, the rod and the urn, foreshadowing the Virginal Mother of God, and the serpent healing through the Cross those bitten by the serpent of old. Thus, again, the sea, and water and the cloud foreshadow the grace of baptism.

The sixth kind of image is for a remembrance of past events, of a miracle or a good deed, for the honour and glory and abiding memory of the most virtuous, or for the shame and terror of the wicked, for the benefit of succeeding generations who contemplate it, so that we may shun evil and do good. This image is of two kinds, either through the written word in books, for the word represents the thing, as when God ordered the law to be written on tablets, (Deut. 5.22) and the lives of God-fearing men to be recorded, (Ex. 17.14) or through a visible object, as when He commanded the urn and rod to be placed in the ark for a lasting memory, (Ex, 16.33-34; Num. 17.10) and the names of the tribes to be engraved on the stones of the humeral. (Ex. 28.11-12) And also He commanded the twelve stones to be taken from the Jordan as a sacred token. (Jos. 4.20ff) Consider the prodigy, the greatest which befell [98] the faithful people, the taking of the ark, and the parting of the waters. So now we set up the images of valiant men for an example and a remembrance to ourselves. Therefore, either reject all images, and be in opposition to Him who ordered these things, or receive each and all with becoming greeting and manner.

Fourth Chapter. What an Image is, what it is not; and how each Image is to be set forth.
Bodies as having form and shape and colour, may properly be represented in image. Now if nothing physical or material may be attributed to an angel, a spirit, and a devil, yet they may be depicted and circumscribed after their own nature. Being intellectual beings, they are believed to be present and to energise in places known to us intellectually. They are represented materially as Moses made an image of the cherubim who were looked upon by those worthy of the honour, the material image offering them an immaterial and intellectual sight. Only the divine nature is uncircumscribed and incapable of being represented in form or shape, and incomprehensible.
[99] If Holy Scripture clothes God in figures which are apparently material, and can even be seen, they are still immaterial. They were seen by the prophets and those to whom they were revealed, not with bodily but with intellectual eyes. They were not seen by all. In a word it may be said that we can make images of all the forms which we see. We apprehend these as if they were seen. If at times we understand types from reasoning, and also from what we see, and arrive at their comprehension in this way, so with every sense, from what we have smelt, or tasted, or touched, we arrive at apprehension by bringing our reason to bear upon our experience.

We know that it is impossible to look upon God, or a spirit, or a demon, as they are. They are seen in a certain form, divine providence clothing in type and figure what is without substance or material being, for our instruction, and more intimate knowledge, lest we should be in too great ignorance of God, and of the spirit world. For God is a pure Spirit by His nature. The angel, and a soul, and a demon, compared to God, who alone is incomparable, are bodies; but compared to material [100] bodies, they are bodiless. God therefore, not wishing that we should be in ignorance of spirits, clothed them in type and figure, and in images akin to our nature, material forms visible to the mind in mental vision. These we put into form and shape, for how were the cherubim represented and described in image? But Scripture offers forms and images even of God.

Who first made an Image.
In the beginning God begot His only begotten Son, His word, the living image of Himself, the natural and unchangeable image of His eternity. And He made man after His own image and likeness. (Gen. 1.26) And Adam saw God, and heard the sound of His feet as He walked at even, and he hid in paradise. (Gen. 3.8) And Jacob saw and struggled with God. It is evident that God appeared to him in the form of a man. (Gen. 32.24ff) And Moses saw as it were the back of a man, (Ex. 33.24ff) and Isaias saw Him as a man seated on a throne. (Is. 6.1) And Daniel saw the likeness of a man, and as the Son of Man coming to the ancient of days. (Dan. 7.9, 13) No one saw the nature of God, but the type and image of what, was to be. For the Son and Word of [101] the invisible God, was to become man in truth, that He might be united to our nature, and be seen upon earth. Now all who looked upon the type and image of the future, worshipped it, as St Paul says in his epistle to the Hebrews: “All these died according to faith, not having received the promises, but beholding them afar off, and saluting them.” (Heb. 11.13) Shall I not make an image of Him who took the nature of flesh for me? Shall I not reverence and worship Him, through the honour and worship of His image? Abraham saw not the nature of God, for no man ever saw God, but the image of God, and falling down he adored. (Gen. 18.2) Josue saw the image of an angel, (Jos. 5.14) not as he is, for an angel is not visible to bodily eyes, and falling down he adored, and so did Daniel. Yet an angel is a creature, and servant, and minister of God, not God. And he worshipped the angel not as God, but as God’s ministering spirit. And shall not I make images of Christ’s friends? And shall I not worship them as the images of God’s friends, not as gods? Neither Josue nor Daniel worshipped the angels they saw as gods. Neither do I worship the image as God, but through [102] the image of the saints too, show my worship to God, because I honour His friends, and do them reverence. God did not unite Himself to the angelic nature, but to the human. He did not become an angel: He became a man in nature, and in truth. It is indeed Abraham’s seed which He embraces, not the angel’s. (Heb. 2.16)
The Son of God in person did not take the nature of the angels: He took the nature of man. The angels did not participate in the divine nature, but in working and in grace. Now, men do participate, and become partakers of the divine nature when they receive the holy Body of Christ and drink His Blood. For He is united in person to the Godhead,* and two natures in the Body of Christ shared by us are united indissolubly in person, and we partake of the two natures, of the body bodily, and of the Godhead in spirit, or, rather, of each in both. We are made one, not in person, for first we have a person and then we are [103] united by blending together the body and the blood. How are we not greater than the angels, if through fidelity to the commandments we keep this perfect union? In itself our nature is far removed from the angels, on account of death and the heaviness of the body, but through God’s goodness and its union with Him it has become higher than the angels. For angels stand by that nature with fear and trembling, as, in the person of Christ, it sits upon a throne of glory, and they will stand by in trembling at the judgment. According to Scripture they are not partakers of the divine glory. For they are all ministering spirits, being sent to minister because of those who are to be heirs of salvation, (Heb. 1.14) not that they shall reign together, nor that they shall be together glorified, nor that they shall sit at the table of the Father. The saints, on the contrary, are the children of God, the children of the kingdom, heirs of God, and co-heirs of Christ. (Rom. 8.17) Therefore, I honour the saints, and glorify the servants and friends and co-heirs of Christ servants by nature, friends by their choice friends and co-heirs by divine grace, as our Lord said in speaking to the Father. (Jn. 17)

[104] As we are peaking of images, let us speak of worship also, and in the first place determine what it is.

On Adoration. What is Adoration?
Adoration is a token of subjection,–that is of submission and humiliation. There are many kinds of adoration.
On the kinds of Adoration.
The first kind is the worship of latreia, which we give to God, who alone is adorable by nature, and this worship is shown in several ways, and first by the worship of servants. All created things worship Him, as servants their master. “All things serve Thee,” (Ps. 119.91) the psalm says. Some serve willingly, others unwillingly; some with full knowledge, willingly, as in the case of the devout, others knowing, but not willing, against their will, as the devil’s. Others, again, not knowing the true God, worship in spite of themselves Him whom they do not know.
The second kind is the worship of admiration and desire which we give to God on account of His essential glory. He alone is worthy of praise, who receives it from no one, being Himself the cause of all glory and all good, [105] He is light, incomprehensible sweetness, incomparable, immeasurable perfection, an ocean of goodness, boundless wisdom, and power, who alone is worthy of Himself to excite admiration, to be worshipped, glorified, and desired.

The third kind of worship is that of thanksgiving for the goods we have received. We must thank God for all created things, and show Him perpetual worship, as from Him and through Him all creation takes its being and subsists. (Col. 1.16-17) He gives lavishly of His gifts to all, and without being asked. He wishes all to be saved, (I Tim. 2.4) and to partake of His goodness. He is long-suffering with us sinners. He allows His sun to shine upon the just and unjust, and His rain to fall upon the wicked and the good alike. (Mt. 5.45) And being the Son of God, He became one of us for our sakes, and made us partakers of His divine nature, so that “we shall be like unto Him,” (I Jn. 3.2) as St John says in his Catholic epistle.

The fourth kind is suggested by the need and hope of benefits. Recognising that without Him we can neither do nor possess anything good, we worship Him, asking Him to satisfy [106] our needs and desires, that we may be preserved from evil and arrive at good.

The fifth kind is the worship of contrition and confession. As sinners we worship God, and prostrate ourselves before Him, needing His forgiveness, as it becomes servants. This happens in three ways. A man may be sorry out of love, or lest he should lose God’s benefits, or for fear of chastisement. The first is prompted by goodness and desire for God himself, and the condition of a son: the second is interested, the third is slavish.

What we find worshipped in Scripture, and in how many ways we show worship to creatures
First, those places in which God, who alone is holy, has rested, and His resting-place in the saints, as in the holy Mother of God and in all the saints. These are they who are made like to God as far as possible, of their own free will, and by God’s indwelling, and by His abiding grace. They are truly called gods, not by nature, but by participation; just as red-hot iron is called fire, not by nature, but by participation in the fire’s action. He says: [107] “Be ye holy because I am holy.” (Lev. 19.2) The first thing is the free choice of the will. Then, in the case of a good choice, God helps it on and confirms it. “I will take up my abode in them,” (Lev. 26.12) He says. “We are the temples of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in us.” (I Cor. 3.16) Again, “He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of diseases, and all manner of infirmities.” (Mt. 10.1) And again, “That which I do you shall do, and greater things.” (Jn. 14.12) Again: “As I live, God says, whosoever shall glorify Me, him will I glorify.” (I Sam. 2.30) Again: “If we suffer with Him that we may be also glorified with Him. (Rom. 8.17) And “God stood in the synagogue of the gods; in the midst of it He points out the gods.” (Ps. 82.1) As, then, they are truly gods, not by nature, but as partakers of God’s nature, so they are to be worshipped, not as worshipful on their own account, but as possessing in themselves Him who is worshipful by nature. Just in the same way iron when ignited is not by nature hot and burning to the touch, it is the fire which makes it so. They are worshipped as exalted by God, as through Him inspiring fear to His enemies, and becoming benefactors to the faithful. It is love [108] of God which gives them their free access to Him, not as gods or benefactors by nature, but as servants and ministers of God. We worship them, then, as the king is honoured through the honour given to a loved servant. He is honoured as a minister in attendance upon his master–as a valued friend, not as king. The prayers of those who approach with faith are heard, whether through the servant’s intercession with the king, or whether through the king’s acceptance of the honour and faith shown by the servant’s petitioner, for it was in his name that the petition was made. Thus, those who approached through the apostles obtained their cures. Thus the shadow, and winding-sheets, and girdles of the apostles worked healings. (Acts 5.15) Those who perversely and profanely wish them to be adored as gods are themselves damnable, and deserve eternal fire. And those who in the false pride of their hearts disdain to worship God’s servants are convicted of impiety towards God. The children who derided and laughed to scorn Elisseus bear witness to this, inasmuch as they were devoured by bears. (II Kgs. 2.23)
Secondly, we worship creatures by [109] honouring those places or persons whom God has associated with the work of our salvation, whether before our Lord’s coming or since the dispensation of His incarnation. For instance, I venerate Mount Sinai, Nazareth, the stable at Bethlehem, and the cave, the sacred mount of Golgotha, the wood of the Cross, the nails and sponge and reed, the sacred and saving lance, the dress and tunic, the linen cloths, the swathing clothes, the holy tomb, the source of our resurrection, the sepulchre, the holy mountain of Sion and the mountain of Olives, the Pool of Bethsaida and the sacred garden of Gethsemane, and all similar spots. I cherish them and every holy temple of God, and everything connected with God’s name, not on their own account but because they show forth the divine power, and through them and in them it pleased God to bring about our salvation. I venerate and worship angels and men, and all matter participating in divine power and ministering to our salvation through it. I do not worship the Jews. They are not participators in divine power, nor have they contributed to my salvation. They crucified my God, the King of [110] Glory, moved rather by envy and hatred against God their Benefactor. “Lord, I have loved the beauty of Thy house,” (Ps. 26.8) says David, “we will adore in the place where his feet stood. And adore at His holy mountain.” (Ps. 132.7; 99.9) The holy Mother of God is the living holy mountain of God. The apostles are the teaching mountains of God. “The mountains skipped like rams, and the hills like the lambs of the flock.” (I Cor. 10.11)

The third kind of worship is directed to objects dedicated to God, as, for instance, the holy Gospels and other sacred books. They were written for our instruction who live in these latter days. Sacred vessels, again, chalices, thuribles, candelabra, and altars (trapezai) belong to this category. It is evident that respect is due to them all. Consider how Baltassar made the people use the sacred vessels, and how God took away his kingdom from him. (Dan. 5.2ff)

The fourth kind of worship is that of images seen by the prophets. They saw God in sensible vision, and images of future things, as Aaron’s rod, the figure of Our Lady’s virginity, the urn, and the table. And Jacob worshipped [111] on the point (epi to akron) of his rod. (Gen. 47.31) He was a type of our Lord. Images of past events recall their remembrance. The tabernacle was an image of the whole world. “See,” God said to Moses, “the type which was shown to thee on the mountain, and the golden cherubim, the work of sculpturers, and the cherubim within the veil of woven work.” (Ex. 25.40) Thus we adore the sacred figure of the Cross, the likeness of our God’s bodily features, the likeness of her who bore Him, and all belonging to Him.

The fifth manner is in the worship of each other as having upon us the mark of God and being made after His image, humbling ourselves mutually, (Eph. 5.21) and so fulfilling the law of charity.

The sixth manner is the worship of those in power who have authority. “Give to all men their dues,” the apostle says; “give honour where it is due.” (Rom. 13.7) This Jacob did in worshipping Esau as his elder brother, and Pharao the ruler established by God.

In the seventh place, the worship of servants towards their masters and benefactors, and of petitioners towards those who grant their favours, as in the case of Abraham when he [112] bought the double cave from the sons of Emmor. (Gen. 23.7, 12)

It is needless to say that fear, desire, and honour are tokens of worship, as also submission and humiliation. No one should be worshipped as God except the one true God. Whatever is due to all the rest is for God’s sake.

You see what great strength and divine zeal are given to those who venerate the images of the saints with faith and a pure conscience. Therefore, brethren, let us take our stand on the rock of the faith, and on the tradition of the Church, neither removing the boundaries laid down by our holy fathers of old, (Prov. 22.28) nor listening to those who would introduce innovation and destroy the economy of the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of God. If any man is to have his foolish way, in a short time the whole Organisation of the Church will be reduced to nothing. Brethren and beloved children of the Church do not put your mother to shame, do not rend her to pieces. Receive her teaching through me. Listen to what God says of her: “Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee.” (Cant. 4.7) Let us worship and adore our [113] God and Creator as alone worthy of worship by nature, and let us worship the holy Mother of God, not as God, but as God’s Mother according to the flesh. Let us worship the saints also, as the chosen friends of God, and as possessing access to Him. If men worship kings subject to corruption, who are often bad and impious, and those ruling or deputed in their name, as the holy apostle says, “Be subject to princes and powers,” (Tit. 3.1) and again, “Give to all their due, to one honour, to another fear,” (Rom. 13.7) and our Lord, “Give to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God that which is God’s,” (Mt. 22.21) how much more should we worship the King of Kings? He alone is God by nature; and we should worship His servants and friends who reign over their passions and are constituted rulers of the whole earth. “Thou shalt make them princes over all the earth,” (Ps. 45.16) says David. They receive power against demons and against disease, (Lk. 9.1) and with Christ they reign over an incorruptible and unchangeable kingdom. Their shadow alone has put forth disease and demons. (Acts 5.16) Should we not deem a shadow a slighter and weaker thing than an image? Yet it is a true outline of the [114] original. Brethren, the Christian is faith.* He who walks by faith gains many things. The doubter, on the contrary, is as a wave of the sea torn and tossed; he profits nothing. (Jam. 1.6) All the saints pleased God by faith. Let us then receive the teaching of the Church in simplicity of heart without questioning. God made man sane and sound. It was man who was over curious. (Eccl. 7.30) Let us not seek to learn a new faith, destructive of ancient tradition, St Paul says, “If a man teach any other Gospel than what he has been taught, let him be anathema.” (Gal. 1.9) Thus, we worship images, and it is not a worship of matter, but of those whom matter represents. The honour given to the image is referred to the original, as holy Basil rightly says.

And may Christ fill you with the joy of His resurrection, most holy flock of Christ, Christian people, chosen race, body of the Church, and make you worthy to walk in the footsteps of the saints, of the shepherds and teachers of the Church, leading you to enjoy His glory in the brightness of the saints. May you gain His glory for eternity, with the [115] Uncreated Father, to whom be praise for ever. Amen.

Speaking on the distinction between images and idols, and defining what images are, it is time to give proofs in question, according to our promise.*


St Denis, Bishop of Athens, from his letter to St John the Apostle and Evangelist.
Sensible images do indeed show forth invisible things.
The same, from his Homily on the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy.
The substances and orders to which we have already alluded with reverence, are spirits, and they are set forth in spiritual and immaterial array. We can see it when brought down to [117] our medium, symbolised in various forms, by which we are led up to the mental contemplation of God and divine goodness. Spirits think of Him as spirits according to their nature, but we are led as far as may be by sensible images to the divine contemplation.
Commentary.-If, then, we are led by the medium of sensible images to divine contemplation, what unseemliness is there in making an image of Him Who was seen in the form, and habit, and nature of man for our sakes?

St Basil, from his Homily on the Forty Martyrs.
The fortunes of war are wont to supply matter both for orators and painters. Orators describe them in glowing language, painters depict them on their canvas, and both have led many on to deeds of fortitude. That which words are to the ear, that the silent picture points out for imitation.
The same, on the Thirty Chapters on the Holy Ghost to Amphilochios, 18th Answer.
The image of the king is also called the king, and there are not two kings. Neither power [118] is broken, nor is glory divided. As we are ruled by one government and authority, so our homage is one, not many. Thus the honour given to the image is referred to the original. That which the image represents by imitation on earth, that the Son is by nature in Heaven.
Commentary.-Just, then, as “he who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent Him,” (Jn. 5.23) as our Lord says, so he who does not honour the image does not honour the original. Still some one says, “We cannot refuse to honour the image of Christ, but we will not have the saints.” What folly! Listen to what our Lord says to His disciples: “He who receives you receives Me,” (Mt. 10.40) so that the man who does not honour the saints does not honour Christ either.

St John Chrysostom, from his “Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews.”
How can what precedes be an image of what follows, as, for instance, Melchisedech of Christ? just in the same way as a sketch would be an outline of the picture. On this account the old law is called a shadow, and the new-the truth and what is to come-certainties. Thus [119] Melchisedech, who represents the law, is a foreshadowing of the picture. The new dispensation is the truth; the picture fully completed shows forth eternity. We might call the old dispensation a type of a type, and the new a type of the things themselves.
From the Spiritual History of Theodore, Bishop of Cyrus. From the “Life of St Simon Stylites.”
It is superfluous to speak of Italy. They say that this man became so well known in the great city of Rome, that small statues were erected to him in all the porticos of workshops, as a certain protection to them, and a guarantee of security.
St Basil, from his “Commentary on Isaias.”
When the devil saw man made after God’s image and likeness, as he could not fight against God, he vented his wickedness on the image of God. In the same way an angry man might stone the King’s image, because he cannot stone the King, striking the wood which bears his likeness.
Commentary.-Thus, every man who honours the image must necessarily honour the original.

[120] The same.
Just as the man who shows contempt for the royal image is held to show it for the King himself, so is he convicted of sin who shows contempt for man made after an image.
St Athanasius, from the Hundred Chapters addressed to Antiochus, the Prefect, according to Question and Answer.–Chap. xxxviii.
Answer.-We, who are of the faithful, do not worship images as gods, as the heathens did, God forbid, but we mark our loving desire alone to see the face of the person represented in image. Hence, when it is obliterated, we are wont to throw the image as so much wood into the fire. Jacob, when he was about to die, worshipped on the point of Joseph’s staff, not honouring the staff but its owner. just in the same way do we greet images as we should embrace our children and parents to signify our affection. Thus the Jew, too, worshipped the tablets of the law, and the two golden cherubim in carved work, not [121] because he honoured gold or stone for itself, but the Lord who had ordered them to be made.
St John Chrysostom, on the “Third Psalm, on David, and Absalom.”
Kings put victorious trophies before their conquering generals; rulers erect proud monuments to their charioteers, and brave men, and with the epitaph as a crown, use matter for their triumph. Others, again, write the praises of conquerors in books, wishing to show that their own gift in praising is greater than those praised. And orators and painters, sculpturers and people, rulers, and cities, and places acclaim the victorious. No one ever made images of the deserter or the coward.
St Cyril of A1exandria, from his “Address to the Emperor Theodosius.”
If images represent the originals, they should call forth the same reverence.
The same, from his “Treasures.”
Images are ever the likenesses of their originals.
[122] The same, from his Poem, on the “Revelation of Christ being signified through all the Teaching of Moses. On Abraham and Melchisedech.”–Chap. vi.
Images should be made after their originals.
St Gregory of Nazianzen, from His Sermon on the “Son,” ii.
An image is essentially a representation of its original.
St Chrysostom, from his Third “Commentary on the Colossians.”
The image of what is invisible, were it also invisible, would cease to be an image. An image, as far as it is an image, should be kept inviolably by us, owing to the likeness it represents.
The same, from his “Commentary on the Hebrews.”-Chap. xvii.
As in images the image presents the form of a man, though not his strength, so the original and the likeness have much in common, for the likeness is the man.
[123] Eusebius Pamphilius, from the Fifth Book of his Gospel Proofs, on “God appeared to Abraham by the Oak of Mambre.”
Hence, even now the inhabitants cherish the place where visions appeared to Abraham, (Gen 18.1) as divinely consecrated. The turpentine tree is still to be seen, and those who received Abraham’s hospitality are painted in picture, one on each side, and the stranger of greatest dignity in the middle. He would be an image of our Lord and Saviour, whom even rude men reverence, Whose divine words they believe. It was He who, through Abraham, sowed the seeds of piety in men. In the likeness and habit of an ordinary man He presented himself to Abraham,* and gave him knowledge of His Father.
John of Antioch, also called Malala, from his Chronography concerning the “Woman with the Issue of Blood, who erected a Monument to Christ.”
From that time John the Baptist became known to men, and Herod, toparcha of the [124] Trachonitis region beheaded him in the city of Sebaste, on the eighth day of the kalends of June, Flaccus and Ruffinus being consuls. King Herod, Philip’s son, in grief at this event, left Judea. A rich woman, Berenice by name, who was also living at Paneada, sought him out wishing as she had been cured by Jesus, to erect a monument to Him. Not daring to do it without the king’s consent, she presented a petition to King Herod, asking to be allowed to erect a golden monument in that city to our Lord. The petition ran thus:–
To the august Herod, toparcha, law-giver of Jews and Greeks, King of Trachonitis, a suppliant petition from Berenice, an inhabitant of Paneada. You are crowned with justice and mercy and all other virtues. Knowing this and in good hope of success, I am writing to you. If you read my beginning you will soon be instructed as to facts. From child hood I suffered with an issue of blood, and spent my time and my substance on doctors, and was not cured. Hearing of the wonderworking Christ, how He raised the dead to life again, put forth devils, and cured the sick by one word, I also went to Him as to [125] God. And approaching the crowd which surrounded Him fearing lest He should turn me away in anger on account of my complaint, and that I should feel it more, I said to myself, “If I could only touch the border of His garment, I should be cured.” I had no sooner touched it than the hemorrhage stopped, and I was cured on the spot. And He, as if He had read my heart’s desire, said aloud, “Who has touched Me? Power has gone out of Me!” And I pale and trembling, thinking to throw off my sickness the sooner, prostrated myself at His feet, bathing the ground with my tears, and confessed my action. He in His goodness compassionating me, assured me of my cure, saying: “Be of good heart, daughter, thy faith has healed thee. Go in peace!” Do you now, august ruler, grant my righteous petition. King Herod receiving this petition, was struck with wonder and in awe at the cure, replied: “The cure wrought for you, O woman, deserves a splendid monument. Go then and put up any memorial you like to Him, in praise of the Healer.” And immediately Berenice the sick woman of yore, set up in the midst of her own city of Paneada a monument in bronze, [126] adorned with gold and silver. It is still standing in the city of Paneada. Not long ago it was taken from the place where it stood to the middle of the city, and placed in a house of prayer. One, Batho, a converted Jew, found it mentioned in a book which contained an account of all those who had reigned over Judea.

From the “Ecclesiastical History of Socrates,” Book 1. Chap. xviii., on the Emperor Constantine.
After this the Emperor Constantine, being most zealous for the Christian religion, destroyed heathen observances, and prohibited single combats, whilst he set up his images in the temples.
Stephen Bostrenus, against the Jews.–Chap. iv.
We have made the images of the saints for a remembrance of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Elias and Zachary, and of other prophets and holy martyrs, who gave their life for Him. Every one who looks at their images may thus be reminded of them and glorify Him who glorifies them.
[127] The same.
As to images let us take courage that every work done in God’s name is good and holy. Now as to idols and statues, beware, they are all bad, both the things and their makers. An image of a holy prophet is one thing, a statue or carved figure of Saturn or Venus, the sun or the moon, quite another. As man was made after God’s image, he is worshipped; but the serpent as the image of the devil, is unclean and execrable. Tell me, O Jew, if you reject man’s handiwork, what is left on earth to be worshipped which is not the work of his hand? Was not the ark made by hands, and the altar, the propitiatory and the cherubim, the golden urn containing the manna, the table and the inner tabernacle, and all that God ordered to be put in the holy of Holies? Were not the cherubim the images of angels made by hands? Do you call them idols? What do you say to Moses who worshipped them and to Israel? Worship is symbolical of honour, and we sinners worship God, and glorify Him by the divine worship of latreia which is due to Him, and we tremble before Him as our [128] Creator. We worship the angels and servants of God for His sake, as creatures and servants of God. An image is a name and likeness of him it represents. Thus both by writing and by engraving we are ever mindful of our Lord’s sufferings, and of the holy prophets in the old law and in the new.
St Leontius of Naples, in Cyprus, against the Jews-Book v.
Enter then heartily into our apology for the making of sacred images, so that the mouths of foolish people speaking injustice may be closed. This tradition comes from the old law, not from us. Listen to God’s command to Moses that he should make two cherubim wrought in metal to overshadow the propitiatory. And again, God showed the temple to Ezechiel, with its carved faces of lions, forms of palms and men from floor to ceiling. The command is truly awe-inspiring. God, who enjoins Israel not to make any graven thing, likeness or image of anything in heaven or on earth, also orders Moses to make carved cherubim. God shows the temple to [129] Ezechiel, full of images and sculptured likenesses of lions, palms, and men. And Solomon, in conformity to the law, filled the temple with metal figures of oxen, palms, and men, and God did not reproach him for it. Now, if you wish to reproach me concerning images, you condemn God, who ordered these things to be made that they might remind us of Himself.
The same, from the 3rd Book.
Again, atheists mock at us concerning the Holy Cross and the worship of divine images, calling us idolators and worshippers of wooden gods. Now, if I am a worshipper of wood, as you say, I am a worshipper of many, and, if so, I should swear by many, and say, “By the gods,” just as you at the sight of one calf said, “These are thy gods, O Israel.” You could not maintain that Christian lips had used the expression, but the adulterous and unbelieving synagogue is wont ever to cast infamy upon the all-wise Church of Christ.
The same.
We do not adore as gods the figures and [130] images of the saints. For if it was the mere wood of the image that we adored as God, we should likewise adore all wood, and not, as often happens, when the form grows faint, throw the image into the fire. And again, as long as the wood remains in the form of a cross, I adore it on account of Christ who was crucified upon it. When it falls to pieces, I throw them into the fire. just as the man who receives the sealed orders of the king and embraces the seal, looks upon the dust and paper and wax as honourable in their reference to the king’s service, so we Christians, in worshipping the Cross, do not worship the wood for itself, but seeing in it the impress and seal and figure of Christ Himself, crucified through it and on it, we fall down and adore.
The same.
On this account I depict Christ and His sufferings in churches, and houses, and public places, and images, on clothes, and store-houses, and in every available place, so that ever before me, I may bear them in lasting memory, and not be unmindful, as you are, of my Lord God. In worshipping the book of the [131] law, you are not worshipping parchment or colour, but God’s words contained in it. So do I worship the image of Christ, neither wood nor colouring for themselves. Adoring an inanimate figure of Christ through the Cross, I seem to possess and to adore Christ. Jacob received Joseph’s cloak of many colours from his brothers who had sold him, (Gen. 37.32ff) and he caressed it with tears as he gazed at it. He did not weep over the cloak, but considered it a way of showing his love for Joseph and of embracing , him. Thus do we Christians embrace with our lips the image of Christ, or the apostles, or the martyrs, whilst in spirit we deem that we are embracing Christ Himself or His martyr. As I have often said, the end in view must always be considered in all greeting and worship. If you upbraid me because I worship the wood of the Cross, why do you not upbraid Jacob for worshipping on the point of Joseph’s staff? (epi to akron thV rabdou). It is evident that it was not the wood he honoured by his worship, but Joseph, as we adore Christ through the Cross. Abraham worshipped impious men who sold him the cave, and bent [132] his knee to the ground, yet he did not worship them as gods. And again, Jacob magnified impious Pharao and idolatrous Esau seven times, yet not as God. How many salutations and worshippings I have put before you, both natural and scriptural, which are not to be condemned, and you no sooner see any one worshipping the image of Christ or His Immaculate (panagiaV) Mother or a saint than you are angry and blaspheme and call me an idolator. Have you no shame, seeing me as you do day by day pulling down the temples of idols in the whole world and raising churches to martyrs? If I worship idols, why do I honour martyrs, their destroyers? If I glorify wood, as you say, why do I honour the saints who have pulled down the wooden statues of demons? If I glorify stones, how can I glorify the apostles who broke the stone idols? If I honour the images of false gods, how can I praise and glorify and keep the feast of the three children at Babylon who would not worship the golden statue? How greatly foolish people err, and how blind they are! What shamelessness is yours, 0 -Jew! what impiety! You sin indeed against the [133] truth. Arise, O God, and justify Thy cause. judge and justify us from people, not all people, but from senseless and hostile people who constantly provoke Thee.
The same.
If, as I have often said, I worshipped wood and stone as God, I too, should say to each, “Thou hast brought me forth.” (Jer. 2.27) If I worship the images of the saints, or rather the saints, and worship and reverence the combats of the holy martyrs, how can you call these idols, senseless man? For idols are likenesses of false gods and adulterers, murderers and luxurious men, not of prophets or apostles. Listen whilst I take a telling and most true example of Christian and heathen images. The Chaldeans in Babylon had all sorts of musical instruments for the worship of idols who were devils, and the children of Israel had brought musical instruments from Jerusalem, which they hung upon the willow trees, and the instruments of both lutes and stringed instruments and flutes gave forth their music, these for the glory of God, the others for the service of devils. So must you look upon images and [134] idols of heathens and Christians. Heathen idols were for the glory and remembrance of the devil; Christian images are for the glory of Christ, and of His apostles and martyrs and saints.
The same.
When, then, you see a Christian worshipping the Cross, know that his adoration is not given to the wood, but to Christ Crucified. We might as well worship all wood, as Israel worshipped woods and trees, saying, “Thou art my God, and Thou hast brought me forth.” It is not so with us. We keep in churches and in our houses a remembrance and a representation of our Lord’s sufferings and of those who fought for Him, doing everything for our Lord’s sake.
Once more. Tell me, O Jew, what law authorised Moses to worship Jethor, his brother-in-law, and an idolator? Or Jacob to worship Pharao, and Abraham the sons of Emmor? They were just men and prophets. Again, Daniel worshipped the impious Nabuchodonosor. For if they so acted on account of life in this world, why do you reproach [135] me for worshipping the holy memories of the saints, whether in books or pictures, their combats and sufferings, which arc a daily source of good to me, and will help me to lasting and eternal life?

Saint Athanasius against the Arians.–Book iii.
The Son being of the same substance as the Father, He can justly say that He has what the Father has. Hence it was fitting and proper that after the words “I and the Father are one,” (Jn. 10.30) he should add, “that you may know that I am in the Father and the Father in Me.” (Jn. 14.11) He had already said the same thing. “He who sees Me sees the Father.” (Jn. 14.9) There is one and the same mind in these three sayings. To know that the Father and the Son are one is to know that he is in the Father and the Father in the Son. The Godhead of the Son is the Godhead of the Father. The man who receives this understands “that he who sees the Son sees the Father.” For the Godhead of the Father is seen in the Son. This will be easier to understand from the example of the king’s image which shows [136] forth his form and likeness. The king is the likeness of his image. The likeness of the king is indelibly impressed upon the image, so that any one looking at the image sees the king, and again, any one looking at the king recognises that the image is his likeness. Being an indelible likeness, the image might answer a man, who expressed the wish to see the king after contemplating it, by saying, “The king and I are one. I am in him and he is in me. That which you see in me you see in him, and the man who looks upon him looks at the same in me.” He who worships the image worships the king in it. The image is his form and likeness.
The same, to Antiochus the Ruler.
What do our adversaries say to these things, they who maintain that we should not worship the effigies of the saints, which are preserved amongst us for a remembrance of them.
St Ambrose of Milan, to the Emperor Gratian concerning the Incarnation of God the Word.
God before flesh was made, and God in the [137] flesh. There is a fear lest, abstracting the double principle of action and wisdom from Christ, we should glorify a mutilated Christ. Now, is it possible to divide Christ whilst we adore His Godhead and His flesh? Do we divide Him when we adore at once the image of God and the Cross? God forbid.
St Cyril of Jerusalem, twelfth Instruction.
If you seek the cause of Christ’s presence, go back to the first chapter of Scripture. God made the world in six days, but the world was made for man. The most brilliant sun glowing with light was made for man. And all living things were created for our service, trees and flowers for our enjoyment. All created things were beautiful, yet only man was the image of God. The sun arose by command alone: man was moulded by the Divine Hand. “Let us make man to our image and likeness.” The wooden image of an earthly king is honoured, how much more the rational image of God?
St John Chrysostom, on the Machabees.
The royal effigies are shown forth not only on [138] gold and silver, and the most costly materials, but the royal form itself, even on copper. The difference of matter does not affect the dignity of the character impressed, nor does a viler material diminish the honour of what is great. The royal figure is always a consecration; not lessened by matter, it exalts matter.
The same, against Julian the Apostate.–1st Book.
What does this new Nabuchodonosor want? He has not shown himself kinder to us than Nabuchodonosor of old, whose furnace still pierces us through, although we have escaped from its flames. Do not the shrines of saints in churches, inviting the worship of the faithful, show forth the destruction of the body?*
The same, on the Piscina.
Just as when the royal effigy and image is sent or carried into the city, rulers and people go out to meet it with respect and reverence, not honouring the wooden receptacle, or the waxen representation, but the person of the king; so is it with created things.
[139] Severianus of the Gabali, on the Cross.
Fourth Homily.-“Moses struck the rock twice.” Why twice? If he was obeying God’s commands, what need was there of striking a second time? If without, not two, or ten, or a hundred strikings would have unlocked nature: if it was simply God’s work without the mystery of the Cross, one striking, or nod, or word would have sufficed. But it is meant to be an image of the Cross. Moses, the Scripture says, struck once and then again, in the sign of the Cross, not for actual necessity, so that inanimate nature might reverence the symbol. If in the king’s absence his image supplies his place, rulers worship, and festivals are held, and princes go out to meet it, and people prostrate themselves, not looking at the material, but at the figure of the king shown forth in representation not seen in nature, how much more shall the image of the Eternal King break open the heavens and the whole universe, not the rock alone.
[140] Jerome, Priest of Jerusalem, On The Holy Trinity.
As the Scripture nowhere enjoins you to worship the Cross, what makes you adore it? Tell us, Jews and heathens, and all inquiring people.
Answer.-On this account, O slow and foolish of heart, God allowed the people, who revered Him, to worship what was on earth, the handiwork of man, so that they should not be able to reproach Christians concerning the Cross and the worship of images. Now just as the Jew adored the ark of the covenant, and the two carved cherubim of gold, and the two tablets of Moses, although there is nowhere an order from God to worship or revere them, so is it with Christians. We do not revere the Cross as God; we show through it what we truly feel about the Crucified One.

Simeon of Mount Thaumastus on Images.
Possibly a contentious unbeliever will maintain that we worshipping images in our churches are convicted of praying to lifeless idols. Far [141] be it from us to do this. Faith* makes Christians, and God, who cannot deceive, works miracles. We do not rest contented with mere colouring. With the material picture before our eyes we see the invisible God through the visible representation, and glorify Him as if present, not as a God without reality, but as God who is the essence of being. Nor are the saints whom we glorify fictitious. They are in being, and are living with God; and their spirits being holy, they help, by the power of God, those who deserve and need their assistance.
Athanasius, Archbishop of Antioch, to Simeon, Bishop of the Bostri, on the Sabbath.
Just as in the king’s absence his image is worshipped, so in his presence it is extravagant to leave the original to pay homage to the image. It is disregarded, because the original on whose account it is honoured is present, but that is no reason for dishonouring it. It is much the same, I think, with the shadow or letter of the law. The apostle [142] calls it a figure. In so far as grace anticipated the reign of truth, the saints were types, contemplating the truth as in a glass. When the promises were fulfilled, it was no longer desirable to live according to types, nor to follow them. In the presence of the realisation the type vanishes into insignificance. Still they did not dishonour nor deride types; they honoured them, and judged those who treated them with contumely impious, and deserving of death and severe chastisement.
The same–3rd Homily.
A man worships the king’s image for the honour due to the king, the image itself being mere wax and paint.
St Athanasius of Mount Sinai on the New Sabbath, and on St Thomas the Apostle.
Those who saw Christ in the flesh looked upon Him as a prophet. We, who have not seen Him, have confessed Him from our childhood to be the great and Almighty God Himself, the Creator of eternity, and splendour of the Father. We listen with faith to His Gospel, as if we saw Christ Himself speaking. [143] And receiving the pure treasure of His body, we believe that Christ Himself is acting in us. And if we see only the image of His divine form, as if looking down upon us from heaven, we prostrate and adore. Great is now the faith of Christ.
From the Life of the Abbot Daniel, on Eulogius the Quarryman.
Then he went away dejected, and threw himself before an image of Our Lady, and crying out, he said: “Lord, enable me to pay what I promised this man.”
From the Life of St Mary of Egypt.
As I was weeping, I lifted up my eyes and saw the image of Our Lady, and I said to her :–
“O Virgin, Mother of God (qeotoke despoina), who didst give birth to God the Word, I know that it is neither fitting nor seemly that one so defiled and so covered with guilt as I should look up to thy image, O ever Virgin. It is fitting that I should be hated and shunned by thy purity. Yet as He who was born of thee became man on purpose to call sinners to [144] repentance, help me, for I have no other succour. Let me also find an entrance. Do not refuse me a sight of the wood on which God the Word, thy Son, suffered according to the flesh, who shed His own precious blood for me. Grant, O Queen, that I may be admitted to worship the sacred Cross, and I will promise thee as surety to the God whom thou didst bring forth that I will keep myself ever undefiled, When I see the Cross of thy Son, I will at once renounce the world and the things of the world, and forthwith follow wherever thou shalt lead.”

Saying this, taking faith’s token as a conviction, encouraged by Our Lady’s clemency, I left that place where I had made my petition, and returned again to join those who were entering the edifice. No one thrust me aside, and no one prevented me from going into the church. Then I was seized with horror and fear and trembling in all my limbs. Throwing myself on the ground, and worshipping that holy floor, I came out, and went to her who had promised to be my security. When I came to the place in which the agreement had been signed, I knelt down before the [145] blessed Virgin, Mother of God, and addressed her in these words :-

“O loving Queen (filagaqe despoina), thou hast shown me thy goodness; thou didst not despise the petition of my unworthiness. have seen glory which sinners do not see. Praise be to God who receives the repentance of sinners through thee.”

St Methodius, Bishop of the Patari (patarwn), on the Resurrection.
The images of earthly kings, even if they are not made of finest gold and silver, command at once honour from all. As men are not honouring matter, they do not choose the most precious from the less precious; they honour the image, whether made of putty or of copper. A derider of either, whether he shows contempt to the image of plaster or of gold, will be held to show contempt to his lord and king. We make golden images of His angels, principalities, or powers, for His honour and glory.

Apologia of St John Damascene against those who decry Holy images

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