THE WORSHIP OF IMAGES
by William Cathcart, D.D.
DU PIN declares that: "In the first three centuries, yes, and in the beginning of the fourth, images were very scarce among Christians. Towards the end of the fourth century they began, especially in the East, to make pictures and images; and they grew very common in the fifth; they represented in them the conflicts of martyrs and sacred histories to instruct those who could not read. Those of the simpler sort, moved by these representations, could not forbear expressing the esteem, respect, and veneration they had for those represented therein. Thus was image worship established." *
"There is no doubt when paganism was the prevailing religion, but that it would have been dangerous for Christians to have had images, because they might have given occasion of idolatry to those just reclaimed from it; and they might have given the pagans reason to object to Christians, that they had, and worshipped idols as they did; therefore it was fitting that there should be no images in those first ages, especially in churches, and that there should be no worship paid them." *
This statement is truthful, and for a friend of image worship, extremely candid. The practice became general over the East, but was unknown in England, France, and Germany, though in these Western nations the worship of relics was universal.
In A. D. 730, Leo the Isaurian issued an imperial edict ordering images to be removed out of the churches and sacred places, commanding them to be thrown into the fire, and inflicting penalties upon those who ventured to disobey him. The decree was generally executed in the East, though it excited a great amount of indignation.
* Du Pin, vol. ii. p. 42. Dublin, 1724.
Constantine Copronymus, the son and successor of Leo, assembled a council of 338 bishops at Constantinople, A. D. 754, to complete the work of his father.* They showed the sternest opposition to the worship of images of Christ, and of the saints; they denounced it as a taint of heathenism, condemned by the Scriptures, and by such fathers as Chrysostom and Athanasius; and they forbade the use of all images in private houses or churches. The effort of Constantine seemed to be successful, that is, it controlled the public acts of his subjects, but evidently failed to carry their consciences along with it.
The Empress Irene was instrumental in calling a council, which permanently settled the controversy in favor of the worship of images; though quietness did not immediately fall upon the excited passions of men. Her synod met first at Constantinople A. D. 786, but was scattered by military violence; it assembled afterwards A. D. 787, at Nice. It numbered 350 bishops, and passed a number of argumentative and idolatrous decrees in favor of the worship of images. And as this synod gave shape to all subsequent views and conflicts about images, we present a portion of one of its celebrated decrees.
"We therefore as is aforesaid, honor and salute, and honorably worship the holy and venerable images, that is to say, the image of the humanity of our Great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, and of our immaculate lady, and holy Mother of God, of whom he was of our immaculate lady, of whom he was pleased to be made flesh, and to save and turn us away from impious love of idols; and the forms and representations of the holy and incorporeal angels, for they also appeared to the righteous as men; in like manner of the divine apostles, worthy of all praise,
* Perceval, "On the Roman Schism," p. 77. London, 1836.
Id., p. 79.
Conc. vii. 322. Labbe and Cossart. Paris, 1671-2.
and of the inspired prophets, of the victorious martyrs, and of holy men." . . . . .
This was the doctrine of Adrian, then pope, and the decisions of the council were speedily received in Italy; but in France, Charlemagne opposed them with the greatest vehemence, and had a work prepared by the famous Aleuin, and issued in his name, denouncing the adoration of images. He did not object to their presence in churches, but the worship demanded for them by the second synod of Nice was an intolerable iniquity. He sent the book to the pope by Angilbert his embassador; and His holiness replied to the work of Aleuin.
Charlemagne against images.
Whatever ridiculous distinction Rome has tried to recognize between the worship of images and that of God, a distinction which first appears in the decrees of the second Council of Nice, Charlmagne only saw in these idolatrous edicts: "adoration, worship." His book says of the prelates of the second Council of Nice: "The bishops of this synod order images to be adored;" "Whenever they find images spoken of either in the Scriptures or in the writings of the fathers, they conclude from them that they ought to be worshipped." * "Let us," adds he, "adore God alone." He declares that "miracles performed by images are no proof that they should be adored, for then thorn bushes should be adored, because God spake to Moses out of a burning bush; fringes should be adored because Jesus Christ healed the woman who touched the fringe of his garment; and shadows too, because St. Peter's shadow wrought miracles." The whole controversy between Charlemagne and the pope and council was based on the worship of images. He honored them so far as to permit them to remain in the churches. He would not worship them. The pope and second council insisted that they should be adored, and cursed all who did not worship them. And the empire of Charlemagne and the Christian world, in the process of time, followed Irene, Pope Adrian, and the second Synod of Nice.
* Du Pin, vol. ii. pp. 39, 40, 41.
Conc. vii. 318. Labbe and Cossart. Paris 1671-2.
Nothing could be more untruthful or pernicious than the principle upon which the bishops of the Deutero-Nicene Council justified their idolatry. "He, who worships the figure," said the council, "worships the substance of that which is represented by it." * According to this theory every heathen in the world could plead exemption from the charge of idol-worship under the pretence that he adored the great God represented by a statue of Jupiter, or by the shining sun. Myriads have worshipped images in Christian churches without exercising a thought beyond the figure itself. And they have reverenced one image, rather than another representing the same adored one, because of some special virtue supposed to dwell in that particular image.
Other Catholic Authorities copy the exact Spirit, if not the Letter,
of the Deutero-Nicene Synod.
The Council of Trent says: "Moreover the images of Christ, of the Virgin mother of God, and of the other saints are to be had and retained particularly in temples, and that due honor and veneration are to be awarded them; not that any divinity or virtue is in them on account of which they are to be worshipped; or that anything is to be asked of them, or that confidence is to be reposed in images as was of old done by the Gentiles, who place their hope in idols; but because the honor which is shown unto them is referred to the prototype which they represent."
Creed of Pope Pius IV.
"I most firmly assert, that the images of Christ, of the Mother of God, ever virgin, and also of the other saints, ought to be
* Conc. vii. 556. Labbe and Cossart. Paris, 1671-2.
Canones et Decreta Conc. Trid., sess. XXV. p. 174. Lipsiae 1863.
had and retained, and that due honor and veneration are to be given them." *
Catechism of the Council of Trent.
"Moreover it is not only lawful to have images in the Church and to pay them honor and worship." . . . . . .
Such, then, are the fundamental laws for the government of the Papal Church about the worship of images. From the very start, it was not mere honor to the pictures or statues of saints; Charlemagne was willing to render that; it was the veneration, adoration, the burning of incense, worship.
To promote the worship of images, wonderful prodigies were narrated about them.
A Statue of Jesus bleeds.
In A. D. 561, a Jew, by stealth, carried off a statue of Christ, out of a church, and having brought it unobserved to his house, he pierced it with a dart; and, as he was going to burn it in the fire, he found himself bathed in blood which flowed from the wounded image. Greatly terrified, he changed his mind, and concealed the wonderful wood. The Christians sought for it, and found it by means of the traces of blood, and recovered it, stained with gore. They subsequently stoned the Jew for his impiety.
An Image of Jesus speaks.
At a celebrated synod § convened by St. Dunstan, at Winchester, in the heat of a violent discussion, the image of the Lord, in the church, close to the disputants, spoke distinctly: "Expressing such opinions as rendered the secular clergy dumb."
* Canones et Decreta Conc. Trid., sess. XXV. p. 228. Lipsiae, 1863.
Catechismus Conc. Trid., quest. 24, p. 307. Lipsia 1865.
Matt. of Westminster, at A. D. 561.
§ Id. at A. D. 975.
An image of the Virgin works Prodigies.
At Sardenai, * six miles from Damascus, A. D. 1204, there lived a venerable nun, who sadly lamented the fact that she had no image of the Virgin to show her features when she offered up her prayers. A certain monk promised to bring her an image or picture of Mary from Jerusalem. He forgot his promise; and, as he started out of Jerusalem, a voice from heaven said to him: "Where is the image thou didst promise to take to the nun?" He felt rebuked, and immediately returned and procured the image. As he left the holy city again and came to Gith, a fierce lion, accustomed to eat men, came to meet him and licked his feet. Afterwards, robbers came forth to assail him, but the voice of an angel rebuked them, and frightened them away. Seeing the power of the image, he concluded he would keep it; and he went to sea to reach his home, but a violent storm compelled all on board to cast their goods into the sea; and as he was about to throw his baggage into the ocean, an angel forbade him, and said: "Lift the image up towards the Lord;" he obeyed, and immediately there was a calm. He took it quickly as possible to the nun, who erected a suitable house for such a wonderful figure, and forthwith it began to drip oil, and it never ceased sending it forth from that time. Then the image formed breasts of flesh, and below them it was covered with flesh. This image performed great numbers of miracles; and, among other marvels, it gave sight to the blind Sultan of Damascus, who prostrated himself in prayer before it. "The image then began to be greatly revered by all, and every one admired the great and wonderful works of God in it."
The Bambino is an image of the child Jesus carved out of a tree that grew on Mount Olivet, and painted by St. Luke while the artist was asleep; it is an ugly-looking babe. The Church Ara Coeli contains this celebrated image. Its miracles are famous all over Rome, and especially at the birth of children. On these
* Matt. Paris, at A. D. 1204.
"Echoes of Europe," pp. 407, 430. Philada., 1860.
||occasions, it visits mothers in a carriage, and "gets more
fees than any physician." A traveller, writing in 1860, says: "It is
carried about in procession by a company of priests, and attended by a
band of soldiers with music, the people kneeling, and esteeming it a great
happiness to get a glimpse of it. It looks extremely like gross idolatry."
Seymour,* in 1851, says that the Bambino gives an exhibition of detestable idol worship. "When the priest elevates the wooden doll, the thousands which cover the slope and bottom of the mount, fall prostrate, and nothing is heard but the low sounds of prayer addressed to the image."
An Old Statue of Jesus
In the church of St. Salvador, there is an ancient image of Jesus. It has a wig on its head, it face looks black and disfigured, its features are so indistinct that you are not certain which sex it is intended to represent; it is located in a small chapel behind the choir. This image can work great miracles. When any public calamity is threatened it is always ready. And as a consequence it enjoys the devout worship and the warm love of the whole people for many miles around. When rain is needed so badly that the harvest is threatened, a day is fixed to take out the crucifix attended by its friends. The procession is composed of the priests, friars and devout people, with visible marks of penance. The archbishop, viceroy and magistrates assist in robes of mourning. Twelve priests dressed in black, take the crucifix on their shoulders; and wherever the procession moves the crucifix is adored as if its wooden Jesus was the very flesh and blood of the Son of God. It is naοvely added, that "The image is never taken out but when there is a great want of rain, and when there is sure appearance of plenteous rain; so they are never disappointed in having a miracle published after such a procession."
The Image of Our Lady of Pilar
It is said the Apostle James came with seven converts to Saragossa in Spain; and as they were sleeping one night on the river
* Seymour's "Pilgrims to Rome," p. 288. London, 1851.
Gavin's "Master Key to Popery," pp. 205-6. Cincinnati, 1833.
||Ebro, an army of angels awoke them at midnight, and gave them an image of the Virgin Queen of Heaven on a pillar, by whose aid they should conquer the city for the Saviour. They built a chapel for her. This image performs great and continuous prodigies, and enjoys the rapturous admiration of worshipping hosts. It is contrived by having the wall broke backwards that a piece of the pillar as big as two crown pieces is shown, which is set out in gold round about, and kings and other people kneel down to adore, and kiss that part of the stone.|
Images from the book
||There is always so great a crowd of people that many times
they cannot kiss the pillar; in that case they touch it with one of their
fingers, and kiss the part which touched the pillar.
It is said this chapel was never empty since the Apostle James built it. The noble, the sons of toil, the profligate, the devout, alike revere the image of our Lady of Pilar.*
| In the church of St. Mary Maggiore, in
Rome, there is a celebrated picture of the Virgin Mary, [Salus Populi
Romani - Savior of the People of Rome] invested with perpetual power to work miracles. This picture
was carried in procession through the Eternal City to remove the cholera;
and Gregory XVI., the immediate predecessor of Pius IX., walked barefooted
with the idolatrous throng who, forgetting God in their day of calamity,
appealed to the wonder-working picture of a woman.
In Catholic countries image-worship is universal, and whatever theoretical distinctions are made between latria, hyperdulia and dulia, the great body of worshippers know no difference between the worship of an image and the worship of God.
The Catholic Church removes the Second Commandment from
some of her Books of Devotion.
This is one of the most extraordinary steps ever taken by any Christian community, one of the most audacious usurpations ever attempted. The Second commandment is: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God."
* Gavin's "Master Key to Popery," p. 208. Cincinnati, 1833.
"Mornings among the Jesuits," p. 38. N. Y., 1849.
This commandment prohibits the manufacture of idols, kneeling to them, and all religious service to them. While the other commandments are received, this one is expunged from the decalogue, and to possess ten commandments, the last one is divided; and its parts form the ninth and tenth, while the third commandment becomes the second. This act is almost incredible; and yet it is sustained by the unbending logic of facts.
The "Mission Book" is a prayer-book of great popularity in the Catholic Church. "It is drawn chiefly from the works of St. Alphonsus Liguori." * It bears the following testimonial and approval from the late Archbishop Hughes: "The Mission Book has received the commendation of many distinguished prelates in Europe, as a work eminently fitted for the instruction of the faithful, and the promotion of solid piety. + John, Archbishop of New York, September 8th, 1853" [that should be1858].
"It has had a wide circulation . . . . particularly in Austria, Bohemia, Belgium, Holland, and France. Thousands of Catholics in this country within a few years past, have found this little book next to the Mission itself a most precious and efficacious means of grace." * With a view to preparation for confession the Mission Book recommends an examination on the ten commandments, and gives questions under each for the penitent. Here are its ten commandments:
"I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not have strange gods before me," etc.
The Second Commandment.
"Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain."
The Third Commandment.
"Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath day."
The Fourth Commandment.
"Honour thy father and thy mother."
* Preface to Mission Book. N.Y., 1866.
Mission Book, pp. 304-14. N.Y., 1866.
The Fifth Commandment.
"Thou shalt not kill."
The Sixth Commandment.
"Thou shalt not commit adultery."
The Seventh Commandment.
"Thou shalt not steal."
The Eighth Commandment.
"Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."
The Ninth Commandment.
"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife.
The Tenth Commandment.
"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods."
After the first commandment is given by the authors of the work, they place "etc." outside the quotation marks, showing that etc. is no part of the first commandment. What it is intended to represent we cannot tell. But no portion of the second commandment in any form is in the Mission Book of St. Alphonsus Liguori. The same prayer-book contains "The little Catechism;" * and it presents another version of the ten commandments;
"1. One God alone, for evermore
By faith, and hope, and love adore.
2. Thou shalt not take his name in vain.
3. The Lord's day thou shalt not profane.
4. Honor thy father, and thy mother.
5. Thou shalt not hurt, nor hate thy brother.
6. Thou shalt do no adultery.
7. Thou shalt not steal.
8. Thou shalt not lie.
* Mission Book, p. 260. N. Y., 1866.
9. Thou shalt have no impure desire.
10. Nor to thy neighbor's goods aspire."
In no way does this prayer-book, "so widely circulated," recognize the second commandment; while it mutilates and divides the tenth to obtain a substitute for the expunged second.
The "Key of Heaven," * another well-known Catholic prayer-book, recommended by Archbishop Hughes, makes precisely the same changes in the decalogue, and utterly ignores the commandment forbidding the manufacture and worship of graven images.
One distinguished writer on the papal controversy says: "In the ordinary catechisms used in Great Britain by Roman Catholics the second commandment is expunged from the decalogue, and the tenth is split into two to preserve the number of ten." Another author, who had made a very extensive examination of catechisms, says: "Here there are twenty-nine catechisms in use in Rome and in Italy, France, Belgium, Austria, Bavaria, Silesia, Poland, Ireland, England, Spain, and Portugal, and in twenty-seven of them the second commandment is totally omitted; in two it is mutilated, and only a portion expressed."
Nor is there any difference between the Vulgate version of this commandment and our own to justify this extraordinary procedure. The Catholic translation into English faithfully renders it: "Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth; thou shalt not adore them, nor serve them." §
But where Roman Catholics have no Bible they are ignorant of any such divine prohibition of image worship. Belcher quotes a missionary of Malta whose teacher, an Italian, observed the ten commandments in a tract on his table one morning, and imme-
* "Key of Heaven," p. 182. N. Y., 1851.
"The Papacy," by J. A. Wylie, p. 360. Edinburgh, 1852.
"Novelties of Romanism," by Charles H. Collet, p. 96. London: Religious Tract Society.
§ Exodus XX. 4, 5, Vulg., edita et recognita iussu Sixt. V. et Clem. VIII. London, 1846.
diately expressed great surprise at the second, and asked if it was a part of the decalogue. Mr. Temple, the missionary, showed him this commandment in Martini's translation of the Vulgate. As he read it in a work authorized by the pope, he exclaimed: "I have lived fifty years; I have been publicly educated in Italy, but till this hour I never knew that such a commandment was written in the pages of the Bible." *
It is in the solemn prohibitions of Sinai, and no earthly authority can remove it from the place assigned it by the Almighty Jehovah. And while it is unrepealed, the worship of any image is an act of forbidden idolatry; more detestable in one claiming to be a Christian than in any devotee of heathenism.
And of its hatefulness to the God of the Bible, the compilers of the "Mission Book" and other "Manuals of Worship," and of various catechisms, are fully aware; and for this reason alone they blot it out of the ten commandments, that it may not condemn the degraded adoration rendered to images, which their worship so constantly exhibits.
* "Facts on Popery," [Joseph] Belcher [D.D.], Philadelphia [American Baptist Publication Society], 1845 [pg. 43].
Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, taught that crosses and images of Christ are to be worshipped as God:
Question 25. The adoration of Christ
Article 3. Whether the image of Christ should be adored with the adoration of "latria"?
... Damascene (De Fide Orth. iv, 16) quotes Basil as saying: "The honor given to an image reaches to the prototype," i.e. the exemplar. But the exemplar itself--namely, Christ--is to be adored with the adoration of "latria"; therefore also His image.
I answer that, As the Philosopher says (De Memor. et Remin. i), there is a twofold movement of the mind towards an image: one indeed towards the image itself as a certain thing; another, towards the image in so far as it is the image of something else. And between these movements there is this difference; that the former, by which one is moved towards an image as a certain thing, is different from the movement towards the thing: whereas the latter movement, which is towards the image as animage, is one and the same as that which is towards the thing. Thus therefore we must say that no reverence is shown to Christ's image, as a thing--for instance, carved or painted wood: because reverence is not due save to a rational creature. It follow therefore that reverence should be shown to it, in so far only as it is an image. Consequently the same reverence should be shown to Christ's image as to Christ Himself. Since, therefore, Christ is adored with the adoration of "latria," it follows that His image should be adored with the adoration of "latria."
Article 4. Whether Christ's cross should be worshipped with the adoration of "latria"?
... We show the worship of "latria" to that in which we place our hope of salvation. But we place our hope in Christ's cross, for the Church sings:
"Dear Cross, best hope o'er all beside,
That cheers the solemn passion-tide:
Give to the just increase of grace,
Give to each contrite sinner peace."
[Hymn Vexilla Regis: translation of Father Aylward, O.P.]
Therefore Christ's cross should be worshiped with the adoration of "latria."
I answer that, As stated above (Article 3), honor or reverence is due to a rational creature only; while to an insensible creature, no honor or reverence is due save by reason of a rational nature. And this in two ways. First, inasmuch as it represents a rational nature: secondly, inasmuch as it is united to it in any way whatsoever. In the first way men are wont to venerate the king's image; in the second way, his robe. And both are venerated by men with the same veneration as they show to the king. If, therefore, we speak of the cross itself on which Christ was crucified, it is to be venerated by us in both ways--namely, in one way in so far as it represents to us the figure of Christ extended thereon; in the other way, from its contact with the limbs of Christ, and from its being saturated with His blood. Wherefore in each way it is worshiped with the same adoration as Christ, viz. the adoration of "latria." And for this reason also we speak to the cross and pray to it, as to the Crucified Himself. But if we speak of the effigy of Christ's cross in any other material whatever--for instance, in stone or wood, silver or gold--thus we venerate the cross merely as Christ's image, which we worship with the adoration of "latria," as stated above (Article 3).
Source:of St. Thomas Aquinas, Second and Revised Edition, 1920