Sacred Imagery: A
by Pauly Fongemie, Web Master
All around us images abound, now more powerful than the written
word in the age of fast-paced technology. It is the impression that
counts in these last days, and yet, never before has an assault on
sacred imagery, those pertaining to the Holy Trinity, Angels and
Saints, been more concerted and unrelenting. The age that worships the
image as the sine qua non,
simultaneously disparages the very images that can penetrate the heart
and soul and move one to seek the grace of salvation. Perhaps you know
of thing I refer to: a public domain image of the Sacred Heart,
cropped, with the face of Elvis Presley, "King of Rock n' Roll"
replacing the splendor of the image of Christ our King; the magnificent
image of one of the world's great Madonnas violated by "photoshopping"
--- implanting an obscene image within the holy one, so that the
Blessed Virgin Mary is stripped of her everlasting virginity, so to
speak. It is perpetual winter, with so many souls deadened to the
ideal of purity in word and image, body and soul. This little treatise
is less a denouncement of this debauchery, which I indeed deplore, than
that of the moral licitness of the use of sacred art itself.
From time to time we receive e-mail taking us to task for
displaying images of Jesus and Mary at all. The complaints are from
"Sola Scriptura" Protestants, who usually cite the following Biblical
passage from the Old Testament:
I, the Lord, am thy God, Who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out
of the house of bondage . . . Thou shall not have strange gods
Me. Thou shall 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. [Exodus 20: 2-5]
They neglect to go further in the
same book, for if they did do so, they would be confounded to learn
that God tells Moses:
shalt make also two cherubims of beaten gold on the two sides of the
[Exodus 25: 18]
Now we know that God does not
contradict Himself. The first passage is very clear, we are forbidden
from making false idols to worship, for God is Supreme and alone to be
The second is also as clear: we are commanded to make and erect sacred symbols or images, in this case, Angels, to adorn the sanctuary wherein we adore the God Who has created all such creatures. Sacred images, then, as directed by God are both pleasing to Him and us, for religion is more than an intellectual endeavor, it involves our whole being.The Second Council of Nicaea, a dogmatic, infallible council, teaches:
"We, continuing in the regal path, and
divinely inspired teaching of our Holy Fathers, and the tradition of
the Catholic Church, for we know that this is of the Holy Spirit Who
certainly dwells in it, define in all certitude and diligence that as
the figure of the honored and life-giving Cross, so the venerable and
holy images, the ones from tinted materials and from marble as those
from other material, must be suitably placed in the holy churches of
God, both on sacred vessels and vestments, and on the walls and on the
altars, at home and on the streets, namely such images of our Lord
Jesus Christ, God and Savior, and of our undefiled Lady, or holy Mother
of God, and of the honorable Angels, and, at the same time, of all the
Saints and of holy men. For, how much more frequently through the
imaginal formation they are seen, so much more quickly are those who
contemplate these, raised to the memory and desire of the originals of
these, to kiss and to render honorable adoration to them, not however,
to grant true latria
according to our faith, which is proper to Divine nature alone; but
just as to the figure of the revered and life-giving Cross and to the
holy Gospels, and to the other sacred monuments, let an oblation of
incense and lights be made to give honor to these as was the pious
custom with the ancients. "For the honor of the image passes to the
and he who shows reverence
to the image, shows reverence to the substance of Him depicted in it." [COUNCIL
OF NICAEA II, 787] For a fuller excerpt, click HERE.
The people who contact us in outrage
are most likely well-intended, if not as versed in Scripture as they
might think, relying as they do on private interpretation, either their
own or those they have entrusted the matter to. But St. Peter was
instructed by Our Lord to feed His sheep, three times, for emphasis,
and also promised that He would strengthen the faith of the First
Pontiff so that he would in turn strengthen the faith of the other
Apostles. It was to Peter and the Apostles that Our Lord confided
everything to be taught. Scripture itself testifies that not all that
was taught to be handed down is written there, hence, Tradition. In
fact Tradition, the oral teachings of Christ through the Apostles
and their successors, was for the first few centuries the only source
of the Divine mandate because the canon of the Bible, until Luther,
accepted by all those who at the time became Protestants, was yet to be
adopted and confirmed through the power of the Holy Spirit enlightening
the early Church fathers.
As with the Bible, Luther exerted his
vile influence and pernicious doctrines as to sacred imagery.
destruction of images was revived by Luther and the other Reformers of
the sixteenth century. The churches and monasteries were the great
of the art of the Middle Ages. Many priceless paintings and statues
demolished, frescoed walls were whitewashed; and gorgeous stained glass
windows with figures of Christ and His Saints were ruthlessly smashed.
The iconoclastic campaign was especially vehement in Germany, Holland
the British Isles. A traveler to these countries, visiting some of the
desecrated Catholic churches which are now being used as Protestant
of worship can scarcely fail to note the mutilated statues of Christ
the Saints still standing in their niches. [O'Brien,
John A., THE FAITH OF MILLIONS]
Puritans who colonized early America in the Northeast went even further
as history attests. Much of modern Protestantism is imbued with their
"puritanical" ideas. As Louis Kaczmarek, author of THE WONDERS SHE
The material senses of man's body fuel the faculties of his soul-----his intellect, his will, his memory. The early Church understood the value of images using them to teach the truths of the faith. Today, the need for symbols and images continues; we need to return to our churches, our statues, our pictures, our traditional Stations of the Cross. The most effective media today-----television-----makes vital use of these truths. The mentors of Madison Avenue know that a picture is worth a thousand words.
Catholicism, the heart and soul of
Christian practice embodies the Incarnation of Christ in all its
devotions and pious works, much of it conducted with the aid of holy
iconography, in keeping with the counsel of the Second Council of
Nicaea and God's command to Moses.
To do so is not to worship Mary,
the Angels and the Saints, but venerate them so as to give Glory to God.
There is an old saying in the
Church, [paraphrased by me] that when a person ceases to gaze
upon the Mother, he soon ceases possessing her Son.
In this regard I quote the following
authors of sacred works:
Catholics who have honored the Mother still worship the Son; while those who have now ceased to confess the Son, began by scoffing at the Mother. [Newman, quoted in the preface to St. Louis De Montfort, TRUE DEVOTION TO MARY, Montfort Publications, Bay Shore, N. Y., 11706, p. 11]
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Here in England Mary is not half enough preached. Devotion to her is low and thin and poor. It is frightened out of its wit by the sneers of heresy. It is always invoking human respect and carnal prudence, wishing to make Mary so little of a Mary that Protestants may feel at ease about her. Its ignorance of theology makes it insubstantial and unworthy. It is not the prominent characteristic of our religion which it ought to be. It has no faith in itself. Hence it is that Jesus is not loved. . . .
Why the image of Our Lady of Fatima and not that of a famous Madonna?
Because we are in the times foretold by Our Lady of Fatima and because the Consecration of Russia is still to be done. Until this is accomplished we will suffer one chastisement after another. One of the effects of the loss of grace is a loathing for authentic holy things and the crass substitution of the profane in their place. The despoliation of Catholic sacred imagery demoralizes and taints all that it touches because a picture is, indeed, a thousand words, even more. Our Lady of Fatima is still calling us to Heaven's Peace Plan, the Five Saturdays of Reparation, the Brown Scapular, and the Consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart, whereby she will triumph over all the heresies embedded in the proliferation of the errors of Russia that have infected western societies. The Pilgrim Statue of Fatima travels the globe as a symbol of that call. I can think of no more fitting banner image than that of this statue. We selected yellow roses, a sign of friendship, that we will all be reminded to remain within the state of grace, the very friendship of God, and the white peony for prosperity: not the prosperity of financial gain and luxury, but the prosperity of peace. All things can be accomplished with God and perseverance in prayer. In the dead of winter the most fragrant flowers have been known to bloom, miraculously!
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