St. John of Damascus:
Apologia Against Those Who Decry Holy Images
APOLOGIA OF ST JOHN DAMASCENE AGAINST
THOSE WHO DECRY HOLY IMAGES.
WITH the ever-present conviction of my own unworthiness, I ought to have kept silence
and confessed my shortcomings before God, but all things are good at the right time. I see
the Church which God founded on the Apostles and Prophets, its corner-stone being Christ
His Son, tossed on an angry sea, beaten by rushing waves, shaken and troubled by the
assaults of evil spirits. I see rents in the seamless robe of Christ, which impious men
have sought to part asunder, and His body cut into pieces, that is, the word of God and
the ancient tradition of the Church. Therefore I have judged it unreasonable to keep
silence and to hold my tongue, bearing in mind the Scripture warning:--"If thou
withdrawest thyself, my soul shall not delight in thee," (Heb. 10.38) and "If
thou seest  the sword coming and dost not warn thy brother, I shall require his blood
at thy hand." (cf. Ez. 33.8) Fear, then, compelled me to speak; the truth was
stronger than the majesty of kings. "I bore testimony to Thee before kings," I
heard the royal* David saying,
"and I was not ashamed." (Ps. 119.46) No, I was the more incited to speak. The
King's command is all powerful over his subjects. For few men have hitherto been found
who, whilst recognising the power of the earthly king to come from above, have resisted
his unlawful demands.
In the first place, grasping as a kind of pillar, or foundation, the teaching of the
Church, which is our salvation, I have opened out its meaning, giving, as it were, the
reins to a well caparisoned charger. For I look upon it as a great calamity that the Church, adorned with her great privileges
and the holiest examples of saints in the past, should go back to the first rudiments, and
fear where there is no fear. It is disastrous to suppose that the Church does not know God
as He is, that she degenerates into idolatry, for if she declines from perfection  in a
single iota, it is as an enduring mark on a comely face, destroying by its unsightliness
the beauty of the whole. A small thing is not small when it leads to something great, nor
indeed is it a thing of no matter to give up the ancient tradition of the Church held by
our forefathers, whose conduct we should observe, and whose faith we should imitate.
In the first place, then, before speaking to you, I beseech Almighty God, to whom all
things lie open, who knows my small capacity and my genuine intention, to bless the words
of my mouth, and to enable me to bridle my mind and direct it to Him, to walk in His
presence straightly, not declining to a plausible right hand, nor knowing the left. Then I
ask all God's people, the chosen ones of His royal priesthood, with the holy shepherd of
Christ's orthodox flock, who represents in his own person Christ's priesthood, to receive
my treatise with kindness. They must not dwell on my unworthiness, nor seek for eloquence,
for I am only too conscious of my shortcomings. They must consider the thoughts
themselves. The kingdom of heaven is not in word but in deed. Conquest is not my object. I
 raise a hand which is fighting for the truth--a willing hand under the divine
guidance. Relying, then, upon substantial truth as my auxiliary, I will enter on my
I have taken heed to the words of Truth Himself:- "The Lord thy God is one."
(Deut. 6.4) And "Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and shalt serve Him only, and thou
shalt not have strange, gods." (Deut. 6.13) Again, "Thou shalt not make to
thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or in the
earth beneath" (Ex. 20.4); and "Let them be all confounded that adore graven
things." (Ps. 97.7) Again, "The gods that have not made heaven and earth, let
them perish." (Jer. 10.11) In this way God spoke of old to the patriarchs through the
prophets, and lastly, through His only-begotten Son, on whose account He made the ages. He
says, "This is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus
Christ whom Thou didst send." (Jn 17.3) I believe in one God, the source of all
things, without beginning, uncreated, immortal, everlasting, incomprehensible, bodiless,
invisible, uncircumscribed,* without
form. I believe in one supersubstantial  being, one divine Godhead in three entities,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and I adore Him alone with the worship of
latreia. I adore one God, one Godhead but three Persons, God the Father, God the Son made
flesh, and God the Holy Ghost, one God. I do not adore creation more than the Creator, but
I adore the creature created as I am, adopting creation freely and spontaneously that He
might elevate our nature and make us partakers of His divine nature. Together with my Lord
and King I worship Him clothed in the flesh, not as if it were a garment or He constituted
a fourth person of the Trinity--God forbid. That flesh is divine, and endures after its
assumption. Human nature was not lost in the Godhead, but just as the Word made flesh
remained the Word, so flesh became the Word remaining flesh, becoming, rather, one with
the Word through union (kaq upostasin). Therefore I
venture to draw an image of the invisible God, not as invisible, but as having become
visible for our sakes through flesh and blood. I do not draw an image of the immortal
Godhead. I paint the visible flesh of God, for it is impossible to represent  a spirit
(yuch), how much more God who gives breath to the spirit.
Now adversaries say: God's commands to Moses the law-giver were, "Thou shalt adore
shalt worship him the Lord thy God, and thou alone, and thou shalt not make to thyself a
graven thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath."
They err truly, not knowing the Scriptures, for the letter kills whilst the spirit
quickens--not finding in the letter the hidden meaning. I could say to these people, with
justice, He who taught you this would teach you the following. Listen to the law-giver's
interpretation 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
shortly afterwards: "Keep 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 and female, the
similitude of any beasts that are upon the earth, or of birds that fly under heaven."
(Deut. 4.15-17) And 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 thing to be aimed at is not to adore a created thing more than the
Creator, nor to give the worship of latreia except to Him alone. By worship, consequently,
He always understands the worship of latreia. For, again, He says: "Thou shalt not
have strange gods other than Me. Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor any
similitude. Thou shalt not adore them, and thou shalt not serve them, for I am the Lord
thy God." (Deut. 5.7-9) And again, "Overthrow their altars, and break down their
statues; burn their groves with fire, and break their idols in pieces. For thou shalt not
adore a strange god." (Deut. 12.3) And a little further on: "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 the immeasurable, uncircumscribed, invisible God. You have not seen
the likeness of Him, the Scripture says, and this was St Paul's testimony as he stood in
the midst of the Areopagus: "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, and
device of man." (Acts 17.29)
These injunctions were given to the Jews on account of their proneness to idolatry. Now
we, on the contrary, are no longer in leading strings. Speaking theologically, it is given
to us to avoid superstitious error, to be with God in the knowledge of the truth, to
worship God alone, to enjoy the fulness of His knowledge. We have passed the stage of
infancy, and reached the perfection of manhood. We receive our habit of mind from God, and
know what may be imaged and what may not. The Scripture says, "You have not seen the
likeness of Him." (Ex. 33.20) What wisdom in the law-giver. How depict the invisible?
How picture the inconceivable? How give expression to the limitless, the immeasurable, the
invisible? How give a form to immensity? How paint immortality? How localise mystery? It
is clear that when you contemplate God, who is a pure spirit, becoming man for your sake,
you will be able to clothe Him with the human form. When the Invisible One becomes visible
to flesh, you may then draw a likeness of His  form. When He who is a pure spirit,
without form or limit, immeasurable in the boundlessness of His own nature, existing as
God, takes upon Himself the form of a servant in substance and in stature, and a body of
flesh, then you may draw His likeness, and show it to anyone willing to contemplate it.
Depict His ineffable condescension, His virginal birth, His baptism in the Jordan, His
transfiguration on Thabor, His all-powerful sufferings, His death and miracles, the proofs
of His Godhead, the deeds which He worked in the flesh through divine power, His saving
Cross, His Sepulchre, and resurrection, and ascent into heaven. Give to it all the
endurance of engraving and colour. Have no fear or anxiety; worship is not all of the same
kind. Abraham worshipped the sons of Emmor, impious men in ignorance of God, when he
bought the double cave for a tomb. (Gen. 23.7; Acts 7.16) Jacob worshipped his brother
Esau and Pharao, the Egyptian, but on the point of his staff.* (Gen 33.3) He worshipped, he did not
adore. Josue and Daniel worshipped an angel of God; (Jos. 5.14) they did not adore him.
The worship of latreia is one thing, and the worship which is given to merit  another.
Now, as we are talking of images and worship, let us analyse the exact meaning of each. An
image is a likeness of the original with a certain difference, for it is not an exact
reproduction of the original. Thus, the Son is the living, substantial, unchangeable Image
of the invisible God (Col. 1.15), bearing in Himself the whole Father, being in all things
equal to Him, differing only in being begotten by the Father, who is the Begetter; the Son
is begotten. The Father does not proceed from the Son, but the Son from the Father. It is
through the Son, though not after Him, that He is what He is, the Father who generates. In
God, too, there are representations and images of His future acts,-that is to say, His
counsel from all eternity, which is ever unchangeable. That which is divine is immutable;
there is no change in Him, nor shadow of change. (James 1.17) Blessed Denis, (the
Carthusian [i.e., Pseudo-Dionysius]) who has made divine things in God's presence his
study, says that these representations and images are marked out beforehand. In His
counsels, God has noted and settled all that He would do, the unchanging future events
before they came to pass. In the same way, a man who wished to  build a house would
first make and think out a plan. Again, visible things are images of invisible and
intangible things, on which they throw a faint light. Holy Scripture clothes in figure God
and the angels, and the same holy man (Blessed Denis) explains why. When sensible things
sufficiently render what is beyond sense, and give a form to what is intangible, a medium
would be reckoned imperfect according to our standard, if it did not fully represent
material vision, or if it required effort of mind. If, therefore, Holy Scripture,
providing for our need, ever putting before us what is intangible, clothes it in flesh,
does it not make an image of what is thus invested with our nature, and brought to the
level of our desires, yet invisible? A certain conception through the senses thus takes
place in the brain, which was not there before, and is transmitted to the judicial
faculty, and added to the mental store. Gregory, who is so eloquent about God, says that
the mind, which is set upon getting beyond corporeal things, is incapable of doing it. For
the invisible things of God since the creation of the world are made visible through
images. (Rom. 1.20) We see images in  creation which remind us faintly of God, as
when, for instance, we speak of the holy and adorable Trinity, imaged by the sun, or
light, or burning rays, or by a running fountain, or a full river, or by the mind, speech,
or the spirit within us, or by a rose tree, or a sprouting flower, or a sweet fragrance.
Again, an image is expressive of something in the future, mystically shadowing forth
what is to happen. For instance, the ark represents the image of Our Lady, Mother of God,* so does the staff and the earthen jar.
The serpent brings before us Him who vanquished on the Cross the bite of the original
serpent; the sea, water, and the cloud the grace of baptism. (I Cor. 10.1)
Again, things which have taken place are expressed by images for the remembrance either
of a wonder, or an honour, or dishonour, or good or evil, to help those who look upon it
in after times that we may avoid evils and imitate goodness. It is of two kinds, the
written image in books, as when God had the law inscribed on tablets, and when He enjoined
that the lives of holy men should be recorded and sensible memorials be preserved in 
remembrance; as, for instance, the earthen jar and the staff in the ark. (Ex. 34.28; Heb.
9.4) So now we preserve in writing the images and the good deeds of the past. Either,
therefore, take away images altogether and be out of harmony with God, who made these
regulations, or receive them with the language and in the manner which befits them. In
speaking of the manner let us go into the question of worship.
Worship is the symbol of veneration and of honour. Let us understand that there are
different degrees of worship. First of all the worship of latreia, which we show to God,
who alone by nature is worthy of worship. When, for the sake of God who is worshipful by
nature, we honour His saints and servants, as Josue and Daniel worshipped an angel, and
David His holy places, when be says, "Let us go to the place where His feet have
stood." (Ps. 132.7) Again, in His tabernacles, as when all the people of Israel
adored in the tent, and standing round the temple in Jerusalem, fixing their gaze upon it
from all sides, and worshipping from that day to this, or in the rulers established by
Him, as Jacob rendered homage to Esau, his elder brother, (Gen. 33.3) and to Pharaoh, the
 divinely established ruler. (Gen. 47.7) Joseph was worshipped by his brothers. (Gen.
50.18) I am aware that worship was based on honour, as in the case of Abraham and the sons
of Emmor. (Gen. 23.7) Either, then, do away with worship, or receive it altogether
according to its proper measure.
Answer me this question. Is there only one God? You answer, "Yes, there is only
one Law-giver." Why, then, does He command contrary things? The cherubim are not
outside of creation; why, then, does He allow cherubim carved by the hand of man to
overshadow the mercy-scat? Is it not evident that as it is impossible to make an image of
God, who is uncircumscribed and impassible, or of one like to God, creation should not be
worshipped as God. He allows the image of the cherubim who are circumscribed, and
prostrate in adoration before the divine throne, to be made, and thus prostrate to
overshadow the mercy-seat. It was fitting that the image of the heavenly choirs should
overshadow the divine mysteries. Would you say that the ark and staff and mercy-seat were
not made? Are  they not produced by the hand of man? Are they not due to what you call
contemptible matter? What was the tabernacle itself? Was it not an image? Was it not a
type and a figure? Hence the holy Apostle's words concerning the observances of 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" (He says), "that thou
make all things according to the pattern which was shown thee on the Mount." (Heb.
8.5; Ex. 25.40) But the law was not an image. It shrouded the image. In the words of the
same Apostle, "the law contains the shadow of the goods to come, not the image of
those things." (Heb. 10.1) For if the law should forbid images, and yet be itself a
forerunner of images, what should we say? If the tabernacle was a figure, and the type of
a type, why does the law not prohibit image-making? But this is not in the least the case.
There is a time for everything. (Eccl. 3.1)
Of old, God the incorporeal and uncircumscribed was never depicted. Now, however, when
God is seen clothed in flesh, and conversing with men, (Bar. 3.38) I make an image of the
God whom I see. I do not worship matter, I  worship the God of matter, who became
matter for my sake, and deigned to inhabit matter, who worked out my salvation through
matter. I will not cease from honouring that matter which works my salvation. I venerate
it, though not as God. How could God be born out of lifeless things? And if God's body is
God by union (kaq upostasin), it is immutable. The nature of
God remains the same as before, the flesh created in time is quickened by a logical and
reasoning soul. I honour all matter besides, and venerate it. Through it, filled, as it
were, with a divine power and grace, my salvation has come to me. Was not the thrice happy
and thrice blessed wood of the Cross matter? Was not the sacred and holy mountain of
Calvary matter? What of the life-giving rock, the Holy Sepulchre, the source of our
resurrection: was it not matter? Is not the most holy book of the Gospels matter? Is not
the blessed table matter which gives us the Bread of Life? Are not the gold and silver
matter, out of which crosses and altar-plate and chalices are made? And before all these
things, is not the body and blood of our Lord matter? Either do away with the veneration
 and worship due to all these things, or submit to the tradition of the Church in the
worship of images, honouring God and His friends, and following in this the grace of the
Holy Spirit. Do not despise matter, for it is not despicable. Nothing is that which God
has made. This is the Manichean heresy. That alone is despicable which does not come from
God, but is our own invention, the spontaneous choice of will to disregard the natural
law,--that is to say, sin. If, therefore, you dishonour and give up images, because they
are produced by matter, consider what the Scripture says: And the Lord spoke to Moses,
saying, "Behold I have called by name Beseleel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of
the tribe of Juda. And I have filled him with the spirit of God, with wisdom and
understanding, and knowledge in all manner of work. To devise whatsoever may be
artificially made of gold, and silver, and brass, of marble and precious stones, and
variety of wood. And I have given him for his companion, Ooliab, the son of Achisamech, of
the tribe of Dan. And I have put wisdom in the heart of every skilful man, that they may
make all things which I have commanded thee." (Ex. 31.1-6)  And again:
"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
died red and violet, coloured skins, selim-wood, and oil to maintain lights and to make
ointment, and most sweet incense, onyx 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." (Ex. 35.4-10) See you here the glorification of matter which
you make inglorious. What is more insignificant than goat's hair or colours? Are not
scarlet and purple and hyacinth colours? Now, consider the handiwork of man becoming the
likeness of the cherubim. How, then, can you make the law a pretence for giving up what it
orders? If you invoke it against images, you should keep the Sabbath, and practise
circumcision. It is certain that "if you observe the law, Christ will not profit you.
You who are justified in the law, you  are fallen from grace." (Gal. 5.2-4)
Israel of old did not see God, but "we see the Lord's glory face to face."
We proclaim Him also by our senses on all sides, and we sanctify the noblest sense,
which is that of sight. The image is a memorial, just what words are to a listening ear.
What a book is to the literate, that an image is to the illiterate. The image speaks to
the sight as words to the ear; it brings us understanding. Hence God ordered the ark to be
made of imperishable wood, and to be gilded outside and in, and the tablets to be put in
it, and the staff and the golden urn containing the manna, for a remembrance of the past
and a type of the future. Who can say these were not images and far-sounding heralds? And
they did not hang on the walls of the tabernacle; but in sight of all the people who
looked towards them, they were brought forward for the worship and adoration of God, who
made use of them. It is evident that they were not worshipped for themselves, but that the
people were led through them to remember past signs, and to worship the God of wonders.
They were images to serve as recollections, not divine, but leading to divine things by
 And God ordered twelve stones to be taken out of the Jordan, and specified why.
For he says: "When your son asks you the meaning of these stones, tell him how the
water left the Jordan by the divine command, and how the ark was saved and the whole
people." (Jos. 4.21-22) How, then, shall we not record on image the saving pains and
wonders of Christ our Lord, so that when my child asks me, "What is this?" I may
say, that God the Word became man, and that for His sake not Israel alone passed through
the Jordan, but all the human race gained their original happiness. Through Him human
nature rose from the lowest depths of the earth higher than the skies, and in His Person
sat down on the throne His Father had prepared for Him.
But the adversary says: "Make an image of Christ or of His mother who bore Him (thV qeotokou) and let that be sufficient." O what folly this is!
On your own showing, you are absolutely against the saints. For if you make an image of
Christ and not of the saints, it is evident that you do not disown images, but the honour
of the saints. You make statues indeed of Christ as of one glorified, whilst you 
reject the saints as unworthy of honour, and call truth a falsehood. "I live,"
says the Lord, "and I will glorify those who glorify Me." (I Sam. 2.30)
And the divine Apostle: therefore now he is not a servant, but a son. "And if a son,
an heir also through God." (Gal. 4.7) Again, "If we suffer with Him, that we
also may be glorified:" (Rom. 8.17) you are not waging war against images, but
against the saints. St John, who rested on His breast, says, that "we shall be like
to Him" (I Jn. 3.2): just as a man by contact with fire becomes fire, not by nature,
but by contact and by burning and by participation, so is it, I apprehend, with the flesh
of the Crucified Son of God. That flesh, by participation through union (kaq upostasin) with the divine nature, was unchangeably God, not in
virtue of grace from God as was the case with each of the prophets, but by the presence of
the Fountain Head Himself. God, the Scripture says, stood in the synagogue of the gods,
(Ps. 82.1) so that the saints, too, are gods. Holy Gregory takes the words, "God
stands in the midst of the gods," to mean that He discriminates their several merits.
The saints in their lifetime were filled with the Holy Spirit, and when they are  no
more, His grace abides with their spirits and with their bodies in their tombs, and also
with their likenesses and holy images, not by nature, but by grace and divine power.
God charged David to build Him a temple through his son, and to prepare a place of
rest. Solomon, in building the temple, made the cherubim, as the book of Kings says. And
he encompassed the cherubim with gold, and all the walls in a circle, and he had the
cherubim carved, and palms inside and out, in a circle, not from the sides, be it
observed. And there were bulls and lions and pomegranates. (I Kgs. 6.28-29) Is it not more
seemly to decorate all the walls of the Lord's house with holy forms and images rather
than with beasts and plants? Where is the law declaring "thou shalt not make any
graven image"? But Solomon receiving the gift of wisdom, imaging heaven, made the
cherubim, and the likenesses of bulls and lions, which the law forbade. Now if we make a
statue of Christ, and likenesses of the saints, does not their being filled with the Holy
Ghost increase the piety of our homage? As then the people and the temple were purified in
blood and in burnt offerings, (Heb. 9.13) so now the Blood  of Christ giving testimony
under Pontius Pilate, (I Tim. 6.13) and being Himself the first fruits of the martyrs, the
Church is built up on the blood of the saints. Then the signs and forms of lifeless
animals figured forth the human tabernacle, the martyrs themselves whom they were
preparing for God's abode.
We depict Christ as our King and Lord, and do not deprive Him of His army. The saints
constitute the Lord's army. Let the earthly king dismiss his army before he gives up his
King and Lord. Let him put off the purple before he takes honour away from his most
valiant men who have conquered their passions. For if the saints are heirs of God, and
co-heirs of Christ, (Rom. 8.17) they will be also partakers of the divine glory of
sovereignty. If the friends of God have had a part in the sufferings of Christ, how shall
they not receive a share of His glory even on earth? "I call you not
servants," our Lord says, "you are my friends." (Jn. 15.15) Should we then
deprive them of the honour given to them by the Church? What audacity! What boldness of
mind, to fight God and His commands! You, who refuse to worship images, would not worship
the Son of  God, the Living Image of the invisible God, (Col. 1.15) and His unchanging
form. I worship the image of Christ as the Incarnate God; that of Our Lady (thV qeotokou), the Mother of us all, as
the Mother of God's Son; that of the saints as the friends of God. They have withstood sin
unto blood, and followed Christ in shedding their blood for Him, who shed His blood for
them. I put on record the excellencies and the sufferings of those who have walked in His
footsteps, that I may sanctify myself, and be fired with the zeal of imitation. St Basil
says, "Honouring the image leads to the prototype." If you raise churches to the
saints of God, raise also their trophies. The temple of old was not built in the name of
any man. The death of the just was a cause of tears, not of feasting. A man who touched a
corpse was considered unclean, (Num. 19.11) even if the corpse was Moses himself. But now
the memories of the saints are kept with rejoicings. The dead body of Jacob was wept over,
whilst there is joy over the death of Stephen. Therefore, either give up the solemn
commemorations of the saints, which are not according to the old law, or accept images
which are  also against it, as you say. But it is impossible not to keep with
rejoicing the memories of the saints. The Holy Apostles and Fathers are at one in
enjoining them. From the time that God the Word became flesh He is as we are in everything
except sin, and of our nature, without confusion. He has deified our flesh for ever, and
we are in very deed sanctified through His Godhead and the union of His flesh with it. And
from the time that God, the Son of God, impassible by reason of His Godhead, chose to
suffer voluntarily He wiped out our debt, also paying for us a most full and noble ransom.
We are truly free through the sacred blood of the Son pleading for us with the Father. And
we are indeed delivered from corruption since He descended into hell to the souls detained
there through centuries (I Pet. 3.19) and gave the captives their freedom, sight to the
blind, (Mt. 12.29) and chaining the strong one.* He rose in the plenitude of His power,
keeping the flesh of immortality which He had taken for us. And since we have been born
again of water and the Spirit, we are truly sons and heirs of God. Hence St Paul calls the
faithful  holy; (I Cor. 1.2) hence we do not grieve but rejoice over the death of the
saints. We are then no longer under grace, (Rom. 6.14) being justified through faith,
(Rom. 5.1) and knowing the one true God. The just man is not bound by the law. (I. Tim.
1.9) We are not held by the letter of the law, nor do we serve as children, (Gal. 4.1) but
grown into the perfect estate of man we are fed on solid food, not on that which conduces
to idolatry. The law is good as a light shining in a dark place until the day breaks. Your
hearts have already been illuminated, the living water of God's knowledge has run over the
tempestuous seas of heathendom, and we may all know God. The old creation has passed away,
and all things are renovated. The holy Apostle Paul said to St Peter, the chief of the
Apostles:* "If you, being a Jew,
live as a heathen and not a Jew, how will you persuade heathens to do as Jews do?"
(Gal. 2.14) And to the Galatians: "I will bear witness to every circumcised man that
it is salutary to fulfil the whole law." (Gal. 5.3)
Of old they who did not know God, worshipped false gods. But now, knowing God, or
rather being known by Him, how can we  return to bare and naked rudiments? (Gal.
4.8-9) I have looked upon the human form of God, and my soul has been saved. I gaze upon
the image of God, as Jacob did, (Gen. 32.30) though in a different way. Jacob sounded the
note of the future, seeing with immaterial sight, whilst the image of Him who is visible
to flesh is burnt into my soul. The shadow and winding sheet and relics of the apostles
cured sickness, and put demons to flight. (Acts 5.15) How, then, shall not the shadow and
the statues of the saints be glorified? Either do away with the worship of all matter, or
be not an innovator. Do not disturb the boundaries of centuries, put up by your fathers.
It is not in writing only that they have bequeathed to us the tradition of the Church,
but also in certain unwritten examples. In the twenty-seventh book of his work, in thirty
chapters addressed to Amphilochios concerning the Holy Spirit, St Basil says, "In the
cherished teaching and dogmas of the Church, we hold some things by written documents;
others we have received in mystery from the apostolical tradition." Both are of equal
value for the soul's growth. No one will dispute this who has considered even a little the
 discipline of the Church. For if we neglect unwritten customs, as not having much
weight we bury in oblivion the most pertinent facts connected with the Gospel. These are
the great Basil's words. How do we know the Holy place of Calvary, or the Holy Sepulchre?
Does it not rest on a tradition handed down from father to son? It is written that our
Lord was crucified on Calvary, and buried in a tomb, which Joseph hewed out of the
rock; (Mt. 27.60) but it is unwritten tradition which identifies these spots, and does
more things of the same kind. Whence come the three immersions at baptism, praying with
face turned towards the east, and the tradition of the mysteries?* Hence St Paul says, "Therefore,
brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have learned either by word, or by
our epistle." (II Thess. 2.15) As, then, so much has been handed down in the Church,
and is observed down to the present day, why disparage images?
If you bring forward certain practices, they do not inculpate our worship of images,
but the worship of heathens who make them idols. Because heathens do it foolishly, this
 is no reason for objecting to our pious practice. If the same magicians and sorcerers
use supplication, so does the Church with catechumens; the former invoke devils, but the
Church calls upon God against devils. Heathens have raised up images to demons, whom they
call gods. Now we have raised them to the one Incarnate God, to His servants and friends,
who are proof against the diabolical hosts.
If, again, you object that the great Epiphanius thoroughly rejected images, I would say
in the first place the work in question is fictitious and unauthentic. It bears the name
of some one who did not write it, which used to be commonly done. Secondly, we know that
blessed Athanasius objected to the bodies of saints being put into chests, and that he
preferred their burial in the ground, wishing to set at nought the strange custom of the
Egyptians, who did not bury their dead under ground, but set them upon beds and couches.
Thus, supposing that he really wrote this work, the great Epiphanius, wishing to correct
something of the same kind, ordered that images should not be used. The proof that he did
not object to images, is to be found in his  own church, which is adorned with images
to this day. Thirdly, the exception is not a law to the Church, neither does one swallow
make summer, as it seems to Gregory the theologian, and to the truth. Neither can one
expression overturn the tradition of the whole Church which is spread throughout the
Accept, therefore, the teaching of Scripture and spiritual writers. If the Scripture does call "the idols of heathens silver and gold, and the works of man's
hand," (Ps. 135.15) it does not forbid the adoration of inanimate things, or man's
handiwork, but the adoration of demons.
We have seen that prophets worshipped angels, and men, and kings, and the impious, and
even a staff. David says, "And you adore His footstool." (Ps. 99.5) Isaias,
speaking in God's name, says, "The heavens are my throne, and the earth my
footstool." (Is. 66.1) Now, it is evident to everyone that the heavens and the earth
are created things. Moses, too, and Aaron with all the people adored the work of hands. St
Paul, the golden grasshopper* of the
Church, says in his Epistle to the Hebrews, "But Christ being come, a high priest of
the good  things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by
hand," that is "not of this creation." And, again, "For Jesus is not
entered into the Holies made by hands, the patterns of the true; but into heaven
itself." (Heb. 9.11, 24) Thus the former holy things, the tabernacle, and everything
within it, were made by hands, and no one denies that they were adored.
AUTHENTIC TESTIMONY OF ANCIENT FATHERS IN FAVOUR OF IMAGES.
St Denis the Areopagite. From his Letter to Bishop Titus.
Instead of attaching the common conception to images, we should look upon what they
symbolise, and not despise the divine mark and character which they portray, as sensible
images of mysterious and heavenly visions.
Commentary.-Mark that he cautions us not to despise sacred images.
The Same, "On the Names of God."
We have taken the same line. On the one side, through the veiled language of Scripture
and the help of oral tradition, intellectual things are understood through sensible ones,
and the  things above nature by the things that are. Forms are given to what is
intangible and without shape, and immaterial perfection is clothed and multiplied in a
variety of different symbols.
Commentary.-If it be a good work to clothe with shape and form, according to our
standard, that which is formless, shapeless, and without consistency, how shall we not
make images to ourselves in the same way of things perceived through form and shape, so
that we may bear them in mind, and be moved to imitate what they represent.
The Same, on the "Ecclesiastical Hierarchy."
Now, if the substances (ousiai) and orders above us, of
which we have already made reverent mention, are without bodies, their hierarchy is
intellectual and above sense.
We supply by the variety of sensible symbols the visible order, which is according to
our own measure. Those sensible symbols lead us naturally to intellectual conception, to
God and His divine attributes. Spiritual minds form their own spiritual conceptions, but
we are led to the divine vision by sensible images.
 Commentary.-If, then, it be rational that we are led to the divine vision
by sensible images, and if Divine Providence mercifully clothes in form and image that
which is without either for our benefit, what is there unseemly about imaging, according
to our capacity, Him who graciously disguised Himself for us in shape and form?
A tradition has come down to us that Angaros, King of Edessa, was drawn vehemently to
divine love by hearing of our Lord,* and that he sent envoys to ask for His likeness. If this were refused, they were ordered
to have a likeness painted. Then He, who is all-knowing and all-powerful, is said to have
taken a strip of cloth, and pressing it to His face, to have left His likeness upon the
cloth, which it retains to this day.
St Basil's Sermon on the Martyr St Barlam, beginning, "In the
first place the death of the saints."
Arise, you renowned painters of brave deeds who set forth by your art a faint image of
the General. My praise of the laurel-crowned victor is faint compared to the colours of
your  brush. I will give up writing on the excellencies of the martyr whom you have
crowned. I rejoice at the victory won to-day by your strength. I contemplate the hand put
out to the flames, more powerfully dealt with by you. I see the struggle more clearly
depicted on your statue. Let demons be enraged even now, overcome by the martyr's
excellencies which you reveal. Let the powerful hand be again outstretched to victory. May
Christ our Lord, the supreme judge of the warfare, appear in picture. To Him be glory for
ever and ever. Amen.
From the same, from the Thirty Chapters to Amphilochios, on the Holy
Ghost. Chap. xviii.
The image of the king is also called the king, and there are not two kings in
consequence. Neither is power divided, nor is glory distributed. just as the reigning
power over us is one, so is our homage one, not many, and the honour given to the image
reaches back to the original. What the image is in the one case as a representation, that
the Son is by His humanity, and as in art  likeness is according to form, so in the
divine and incommensurable nature (asunqetoV) union is effected
in the indwelling Godhead.
Commentary.-If the image of the king is the king, the image of Christ is
Christ, and the image of a saint the saint, and if power is not divided nor glory
distributed, honouring the image becomes honouring the one who is set forth in image.
Devils have feared the saints, and have fled from their shadow. The shadow is an image,
and I make an image that I may scare demons. If you say that only intellectual worship
befits God, take away all corporeal things, light, and fragrance, prayer itself through
the physical voice, the very divine mysteries which are offered through matter, bread, and
wine, the oil of chrism, the sign of the Cross, for all this is matter. Take away the
Cross, and the sponge of the Crucifixion, and the spear which pierced the life-giving
side. Either give up honouring these things as impossible, or do not reject the veneration
of images. Matter is endued with a divine power through prayer made to those who are
depicted in image. Purple by itself is simple, and so is silk, and the cloak which is made
of  both. But if the king put it on, the cloak receives honour from the honour due to
the wearer. So is it with matter. By itself it is of no account, but if the one presented
in image be full of grace, men become partakers of his grace according to their faith. The
apostles knew our Lord with their bodily eyes; others knew the apostles, others the
martyrs. I, too, desire to see them in the spirit and in the flesh, and to possess a
saving remedy as I am a composite being. I see with my eyes, and revere that which
represents what I honour, though I do not worship it as God. Now you, perhaps, are
superior to me, and are lifted up above bodily things, and being, as it were, not of
flesh, you make light of what is visible, but as I am human and clothed with a body, I
desire to see and to be corporeally with the saints. Condescend to my humble wish that you
may be secure on your heights. God accepts my longing for Him and for His saints. For He
rejoices at the praises of His servant, according to the great St Basil in his panegyric
of the Forty Martyrs. Listen to the words which he uttered in honour of the martyr St
 From St Basil's Sermon on St Gordion
The mere memory of just deeds is a source of spiritual joy to the whole world; people
are moved to imitate the holiness of which they hear. The life of holy men is as a light
illuminating the way for those who would see it. And again, when we recount the story of
holy lives we glorify in the first place the Lord of those servants, and we give praise to
the servants on account of their testimony, which is known to us. We rejoice the world
through good report.
Commentary.-The remembrance of the saints is thus, you see, a glory to God,
praise of the saints, joy and salvation to the whole world. Why, then, would you destroy
it? This remembrance is kept by preaching and by images, says the same great St Basil.
The same, on the Martyr St Gordion
Just as burning follows naturally on fire, and fragrance on sweet ointment, so must
good arise from holy actions. For it is no small thing to represent past events according
to life. Is it a dim memory of the man's wrestlings  which has come down to us, and
does not the painter's picture tally with our present conflict? Now, as painters draw
images from images, they frequently depart from the original as much as the image itself
does, and as we did not see what they represent, there is no little fear that we may
injure the truth.
The same, at the end.
The sun fills us with perpetual wonder, though always before us, so the memory of this
man is ever fresh.
Commentary.-It is evident that it is fresh through sermon and image.
Testimony of the same, from his Sermon on the Forty Martyrs.
Can the lover of the martyrs have too much of their memory? For the honour shown to the
just, our fellow-men, is a testimony to the goodness of our common Lord.
And again --
Recognise the blessedness of the martyr heartily, that you may be a martyr in will;
thus, without persecutor, or fire, or blows, found worthy of the same reward.
Commentary.-How, then, would you dissuade me from honouring the saints, and be
envious of my salvation? Listen to what he says a little further on to show that he united
the painter's art to oratory.
See, then, that setting them before us in representation, we are making them helpful to
the living, exhibiting their holiness to us all as if in a picture.
Commentary.-Do you understand that both image and sermon teach one lesson? He
says: "Let us show them forth in a sermon as if in a picture." And again:
Writers and painters point out the struggles of war; the first by the art of style, the
second with their brush, and each induce many to be brave. That which a spoken account
presents to the hearing, a silent picture portrays for imitation.
Commentary.-What better proof have we that images are the books of the
illiterate, the ever-speaking heralds of honouring the saints, teaching those who gaze
upon them without words, and sanctifying the spectacle. I have not many books nor time for
study, and I go  into a church, the common refuge of souls, my mind wearied with
conflicting thoughts. I see before me a beautiful picture and the sight refreshes me, and
induces me to glorify God. I marvel at the martyr's endurance, at his reward, and fired
with burning zeal, I fall down to adore God through His martyr, and receive a grace of
salvation. Have you not heard the same holy father in his homily on the beginning of the
Psalms, say that the Holy Spirit, knowing the human race were obstinate and hard to lead,
mixed honey with the psalm-singing? What do you say to this? Shall I not perpetuate the
martyr's testimony both by word and paint brush? Shall I not embrace with my eyes that
which is a wonder to the angels and to the whole world, formidable to the devil, a terror
to demons, as the same great Father says? Again, towards the end of his homily on the
forty martyrs, he exclaims, "O sainted band! O sacred fraternity! O invincible army!
protectors of the human race, solace of the troubled, hope of your petitioners, most
powerful intercessors, light of the world, bloom both intellectual and material of the
Churches! The earth has  not hidden you from sight, heaven has received you. May its
gates be opened to you. The spectacle is worthy of angels and patriarchs, prophets, and
Commentary.-- How shall I not desire to see what the angels
desire? St Basil's brother, who is one with him in thought, St Gregory of Nyssa, shares
St Gregory of Nyssa, from the "Structure of Man"
Supplementary.-Just as in human fashion the image makers of the powerful
grasp the character of the form and set forth the royal dignity with the insignia of the
purple, and their handiwork is called image or king, so is it with human nature. As it was
created to rule over other creations, it was made as an animated type or image, partaking
of the original in dignity and name.
The same, Fifth Chapter
The divine beauty is not set forth either in form or comeliness of design or colouring,
but is contemplated in speechless blessedness, according to its virtue. So do painters
 transfer human forms to canvas through certain colours, laying on suitable and
harmonious tints to the picture, so as to transfer the beauty of the original to the
Commentary.--You see that the divine beauty is not set forth in form or shape,
and on this account it cannot be conveyed by an image (ouk eikonizetai)
it is the human form which is transferred to canvas by the artist's brush. If, therefore,
the Son of God became man, taking the form of a servant, and appearing in man's nature, a
perfect man, why should His image not be made? If, in common parlance, the king's
image is called the king, and the honour shown to the image redounds to the original, as
holy Basil says, why should the image not be honoured and worshipped, not as God, but as
the image of God Incarnate?
The same, from his Sermon at Constantinople on the Godhead of the
Son and of the Spirit, and on Abraham.
Then the father proceeds to bind his son. I have often seen paintings of this touching
scene, and could not look at it with dry eyes, art setting it forth so vividly. Isaac is
lying  before the altar, his legs bound, his hands tied behind his back. The father
approaching the victim, clasping his hair with the left hand, stoops over the face so
piteously turned towards him, and holds in his right hand the sword, ready to strike.
Already the point of the sword is on the body when the divine voice is heard, forbidding
Leo,* Bishop of Neapolis in Cyprus. From his book against the Jews, on the Adoration of the
Cross, and the Statues Of the Saints, and on Relics.
If you, O Jew, reproach me saying that I adore the wood of the Cross as God, why do you
not reproach Jacob, who worshipped on the point of his staff (epi to
akron thV rabdou)? Now it is evident that he was not worshipping wood. So with us;
we are worshipping Christ through the Cross, not the wood of the Cross.
Commentary.-If we adore the Cross, made of whatever wood it may be, how shall we
not adore the image of the Crucified?
 From the same.
Abraham worshipped the impious men who sold him the cave, and bent his knee to the
ground, yet did not worship them as gods. Jacob praised Pharao, an impious idolator, yet
not as God, and he fell down at the feet of Esau, yet did not worship him as God. And
again, How does God order us to worship the earth and mountains? "Exalt the Lord your
God and worship Him upon His holy mountain, and adore His footstool," (Ps. 99.9, 5)
that is, the earth. For "heaven is My throne," He says, "and the earth My
footstool." (Is. 66.1) How was it that Moses worshipped Jothor, an idolator,
(Ex. 18.7) and Daniel, Nabuchodonosor? How can you reproach me because I honour those who
honour God and show Him service? Tell me, is it not fitting to worship the saints, rather
than to throw stones at them as you do? Is it not right to worship them, rather than to
attack them, and to fling your benefactors into the mire? If you loved God, you would be
ready to honour His servants also. And if the bones of the just are unclean, why were the
bones of Jacob and  Joseph brought with all honour from Egypt? (Gen. 50.5ff, Ex.
13.19) How was it that a dead man arose again on touching the bones of Eliseus? (II Kgs.
13.21) If God works wonders through bones, it is evident that He can work them through
images, and stones, and many other things, as in the case of Eliseus, who gave his staff
to his servant, saying, "With this go and raise from the dead the son of the
Sunamitess." (II Kgs. 4.29) With his staff Moses chastised Pharao, parted the waters,
struck the rock, and drew forth the stream. And Solomon said, "Blessed is the wood by
which justice cometh." (Wis. 14.7) Eliseus took iron out of the Jordan with a piece
of wood. (II Kgs. 6.4-7) And again, the wood is the wood of life, and the wood of Sabec,
that is, of remission. Moses humbled the serpent with wood and saved the people. (Num.
21.9) The blossoming rod in the tabernacle confirmed the priesthood of Aaron. (Num. 17.8)
Perhaps, O Jew, you will tell me that God prescribed to Moses beforehand all the things of
the testimony in the tabernacle. Now, I say to you that Solomon made a great variety of
things in the temple in carvings and sculpture, which God had not ordered him to do. (II
Chron. 3.1ff) Nor did the tabernacle of the testimony contain  them, nor the temple
which God showed to Ezechiel, (Ez. 40.47ff) nor was Solomon to be blamed in this. He had
had these sculptured images made for the glory of God as we do. You, too, had many and
varied images and signs in the Old Testament to serve as a reminder of God, if you had not
lost them through ingratitude. For instance, the rod of Moses, the tablets of the law, the
burning bush, the rock giving forth water, the ark containing the manna, the altar set on
fire from above (purenqeon), the lamina bearing the divine
name, the ephod, the tabernacle overshadowed by God. If you had prepared all these things
by day and by night, saying, "Glory be to Thee, O Almighty God, who hast done wonders
in Israel through all these things"; if through all these ordinances of the law,
carried out of old, you had fallen on your knees to adore God, you would see that worship
is given to Him by images.
And further on :-
He who truly loves a friend or the king, and especially his benefactor, if he sees that
benefactor's son, or his staff, or his chair, or  his crown, or his house, or his
servant, he holds them fast in his embrace, and if he honours his benefactor, the king,
how much more God. Again I repeat it, would that you had made images according to the law
of Moses and the prophets, and that day by day you had worshipped the God of images.
Whenever, then, you see Christians adoring the Cross, know that they are adoring the
Crucified Christ, not the mere wood.* If, indeed, they honoured wood as wood, they would be bound to worship trees of whatever
kind, as you, O Israel, worshipped them of old, saying to the tree and to the stone,
"Thou art my God and didst bring me forth." (Jer. 2.27) We do not speak either
to the Cross or to the representations of the saints in this way. They are not our gods,
but books which lie open and are venerated in churches in order to remind us of God and to
lead us to worship Him. He who honours the martyr  honours God, to whom the martyr
bore testimony. He who worships the apostle of Christ worships Him who sent the apostle.
He who falls at the feet of Christ's mother most certainly shows honour to her Son.
There is no God but one, He who is known and adored in the Trinity.
Commentary. - Who is the faithful interpreter of blessed Epiphanius--Leontius,
whose teaching adorned the island of Cyprus, or those who spoke according to their own
conceits? Listen to the testimony of Severianus, Bishop of the Gabali.
Severianus, Bishop of the Gabali, on the Dedication of the Cross.
How was it that the image of the enemy gave life to our progenitors? . . .
How was it that the image of the serpent worked salvation to the people in distress?
Would it not have been more reasonable to say, "If any of you be bitten, let him look
up to heaven, to God, and he shall be saved, or let him look towards the tabernacle
of God"? Passing over this, he set up the image of the Cross alone. Why
did Moses do this, who  said to the people, "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"? (Ex. 20.4)
However, why do I speak to unworthy people? Tell me, devout servant of God, will you do
what is forbidden, and disregard what you are told to do? He who said, "Thou shalt
not make to thyself a graven thing," condemned the golden calf, and you make a brazen
serpent, and this not secretly, but most openly, so that it is known to all. Moses
answers, I laid down that commandment in order to root out impiety, and to withdraw the
people from all apostasy and idolatry; now, I have the serpent cast for a good purpose--as
a figure of the truth. And just as I have put up a tabernacle, and everything in it, and
cherubim, the likeness of the invisible powers, over the holy of holies, as a sign and
figure of the future, so I have set up a serpent for the salvation of the people, to serve
as a preliminary to the image of the Cross, and the redemption contained in it. As a
confirmation of this, listen to the Lord saying, "As Moses exalted the serpent in the
desert, so  must you exalt the Son of Man, that every one believing in Him may not be
lost, but may have eternal life." (Jn. 3.14)
Commentary.-Notice that His commandment not to make any graven thing was given
to draw the people from idolatry, to which they were prone, and that the brazen serpent
was an image of our Lord's suffering.
Listen to what I am going to say as a proof that images are no new invention. It is an
ancient practice well known to the best and foremost of the fathers. Elladios, the
disciple of blessed Basil and his successor, says in his Life of Basil that the holy man
was standing by the image of Our Lady, on which was painted also the likeness of
Mercurius, the renowned martyr. He was standing by it asking for the removal of the
impious apostate Julian, and he received this revelation from the statue. He saw the
martyr vanish for a time, and then reappear, holding a bloody spear.
Taken word for word from the Life of St John Chrysostom.
Blessed John loved the epistles of St Paul exceedingly. . . . He had an image of the
 apostle in a place where he was wont to retire now and then on account of his
physical weakness, for he outdid nature in watchings and vigils. As he read through St
Paul's epistles, he had the image before him, and spoke to the apostle as if he had been
present, praising him, and directing all his thoughts to him. . . .
When Proclus had finished speaking, gazing intently at the image of the apostle, and
recognising the likeness to the man he had seen, saluting John, he said, pointing to the
image: "Forgive me, father; the man I saw talking to you is very like this statue. In
fact, I should say he is the same."
In the life of St Eupraxia we are told that her Superior showed her the likeness of our
We read in the life of St Mary of Egypt that she prayed before the statue of Our Lady
and besought her intercession, and so obtained leave to enter the Church.*
In all the past array of Christian priests and kings, wise and pious, conspicuous by
teaching and example, in so many councils of holy and inspired fathers, how is it that no
one has  pointed out these things? We are not advocating a new faith. "The law
shall come out of Sion," the Holy Ghost said prophetically, "and the word of the
Lord from Jerusalem." (Is. 2.3) We do not advocate one thing at one time, and another
at another, nor that the faith should become a laughing-stock to those outside. We will
not allow the king's commands to overturn the tradition handed down from the fathers. It
is not for pious kings to overturn ecclesiastical boundaries. These are not patristic
ways. Things done by force are impositions, and do not carry persuasion. A proof of this
was given in the 2nd Council of Ephesus, when a decree, which has never been recognised as
valid, was enforced by the emperor's hand, and blessed Flavian was put to death. Councils
do not belong to kings, as the Lord says: "Wherever one or two are gathered together
in My name, there I am in the midst of them." (Mt. 18.20) Christ did not give to
kings the power to bind and to loose, but to the apostles, (Mt. 18.18) and to their
successors and pastors and teachers. "If an angel were to teach you a different
gospel to what you have received," (Gal. 1.8) St Paul says--but we will be silent
about what follows, in the hope of  their conversion. And if we find the warning
disregarded, which may God avert, we will then add the rest. Let us hope it will not be
If any one should enter a house and should see on the walls a history in painting of
Moses and Aaron, perchance he might ask about the people who are walking across the sea as
if it were dry land. "Who are they?" he asks. What would you say? "Are they
not the sons of Israel?" "Who is dividing the sea with his rod?" Would you
not say "Moses"? So if a man makes an image of Christ crucified, and you are
asked who he is, you reply, "It is Christ our Lord, who became incarnate for
us." Yes, O Lord, we adore all that belongs to Thee, and we take to our hearts Thy
Godhead, Thy power and goodness, Thy mercy towards us, Thy condescension and Thy
Incarnation. And as men fear touching red-hot iron, not because of the iron but because of
the heat, so do we worship Thy flesh, not for the nature of flesh, but through the Godhead
united to that flesh according to substance. We worship Thy sufferings. Who has ever known
death worshipped, or suffering venerated? Yet we  truly worship the physical death of
our God and His saving sufferings. We adore Thy image and all that is Thine; Thy servants,
Thy friends, and most of all Thy Mother, the Mother of God.
We beseech, therefore, the people of God, the faithful flock, to hold fast
to the ecclesiastical traditions. The gradual taking away of what has been handed down to
us would be undermining the foundation stones, and would in no short time overthrow the
whole structure. May we prove steadfast, unflinching, immovable, founded on the solid Rock
which is Christ, to whom be praise, glory, and worship, with the Father and the Holy
Ghost, now and for ever. Amen.
APOLOGIA OF ST JOHN DAMASCENE AGAINST
THOSE WHO DECRY HOLY IMAGES.
 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  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  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  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,  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  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
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.
 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,  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  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  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  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  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  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
 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  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  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.  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  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  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!  "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
 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
 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  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.  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  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  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  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  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 
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
TESTIMONY OF ANCIENT AND LEARNED FATHERS TO IMAGES.*
St John Chrysostom. From His "Commentary on the Parable of the
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
What took place was most edifying, and  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.
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  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,  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  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,  "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  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.  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,"  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  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
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
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,
 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.
 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  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.
 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  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  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
 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  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)
 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,  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
 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:  "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  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  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  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.
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  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
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  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  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  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
 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.*
 TESTIMONY OF ANCIENT AND LEARNED FATHERS CONCERNING IMAGES.
St Denis, Bishop of Athens, from his letter to St John the Apostle
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  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
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,
The image of the king is also called the king, and there are not two kings. Neither
power  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
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  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
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.
 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
Josephs 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  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
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
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.
 The same, from his Poem, on the "Revelation of Christ
being signified through all the Teaching of Moses. On Abraham and
Images should be made after their originals.
St Gregory of Nazianzen, from His Sermon on the
An image is essentially a representation of its original.
St Chrysostom, from his Third "Commentary on the
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
The same, from his "Commentary on the Hebrews."-Chap.
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.
 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
From that time John the Baptist became known to men, and Herod, toparcha of the 
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  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,  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
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.
 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 
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  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
We do not adore as gods the figures and  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
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  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  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  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.
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  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.
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
 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  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
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
St Ambrose of Milan, to the Emperor Gratian concerning the
Incarnation of God the Word.
God before flesh was made, and God in the  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  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.
 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.
 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  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  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
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.  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  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  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
St Methodius, Bishop of the Patari (patarwn), on
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.
Index | Part I | Part II
From St. John Damascene. On Holy Images. Translated by Mary H. Allies. London:
Thomas Baker, 1898.
Scanned by Gabriel Caswell and Dr. Stephen J. Shoemaker. Prepared
for HTML by Dr. Stephen J. Shoemaker.
This text is part of the Internet
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© Paul Halsall, October 1998