Distinguishing Between Worship and Veneration Part 1: Icons and Saints

Introduction

This post will not be so much about the legitimacy iconography. But rather an explanation of the theology and context wherein these things are found. And the Orthodox (and Roman Catholics) would not posit that they worship saints and images. Rather they venerate/honour them. And the difference is both nuanced and significant. It is in my opinion recognising the difference between Originator and Participant. Part 1 will have to do with establishing the principle of imaging and the Orthodox “essence/energy” distinction and how it relates to sacraments and iconography. Part 2 which will be posted later, will apply some the ideas from the former in the subject of Mary.

 

The Image and that Which is Imaged

We admire people for their faithfulness, compassion, skill, intelligence, creativity, beauty. In fact whenever we see anything praiseworthy in any part of creation, it triggers a response in us. But think for a second that everything which we find delightful in others and creation, has its ultimate end and origin in God. Everything which we honour people for or find amiable in them, are things that God has supremely. Things we worship Him for. Do we not praise God for his faithfulness and love? His compassion, mercy, wisdom and power? Yes. Do people lack these things? No. The difference is in quality and source. God needs nothing outside himself and is the source and goal of all things. That’s why He is central and deserving of worship. “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created (Revelation 4:11).”

But just as He really has these things by Himself, his creation truly possess these same qualities derivatively by participation. The displaying of God’s love is no less real if it’s found in us. The idea is that we cannot just be morally blameworthy for our actions and not praise worthy too. Some however feel that this honouring or praising of man somehow robs God of the glory due to him. The reason for this has partly to do with a mistaken view of mankind. Which usually begins with a mistaken view of God. The Christological controversies of the Ecumenical Councils were due to trying to articulate the Trinitarian revelation brought by Jesus Christ. That God was both one and three. And that one of the three became man and yet remained God. One in nature or essence, 3 in person. By making the distinction between person and nature, the Fathers of the Church recognised that they were ultimately dealing with a mystery. The idea that persons are not reducible to the sum total of their nature, is a matter of Christian revelation. The key act of Christianity, the incarnation, displayed that it is possible to predicate action to one member of the Trinity, that is not applicable the others. If essence equals person, and God has only one divine essence, then God is truly only ever one divine person (the heresy of Modalism). It would be just as true to say that the Father died on the Cross at it would be to say the Son (the heresy of Patripassianism). And it would mean that at the incarnation, the one we call Christ is two persons, one a divine nature and the other a human nature, working together (the heresy of Nestorianism).

This distinction is important because it shows that both grace and human co-operation are necessary. It shows that praise and honour isn’t and either/or issue. Where either God gets all of it or none. This is simply the nature of how moral character works.

 

Natures (substances/non personal parts) are only good or bad to the degree that they conform to their design. A good car works, a bad car doesn’t, none of which are of moral value. Evil comes about by the deliberate misuses of natural properties. Therefore moral goodness or evil are only predicated of persons. So our natures circumscribe or qualify our choices. But they don’t determine which choice is acted upon. That’s the Person who does that. Thus their choices are not just happenings or events in a long chain of causation, already determined. Rather the agent, determines what direction they will go in. Free will therefore must be agent causation not event causation.

That’s what character is about. Adam and Eve were not created with a moral nature, but a functioning one. They were united to God by grace (God’s power working in them) in order to live as they were meant to. Living virtuously by the proper use of their natures. Being free to enjoy all the goods that God had for them. That’s why sanctification is important. And that’s why creatures are free. Since character is a personal property of a persons use of their will, God cannot make you have it without forfeiting freedom. So since righteousness is an attribute of persons, and thus of the will, Adam couldn’t have been created with a righteous nature, but a functioning one. He was in a state of righteous (justified- right with God) but had to himself become righteous in character, acting in accordance with what is good for his nature, in order to remain in that state of Grace (connected to God).

 

So we see that the relationship between God and Man was always synergistic to begin with. Hence why after the fall, natures didn’t change (we are still humans), nor become evil but rather corrupted (functioned out of order- this view is often called Ancestral sin). This is due to the lacking the original grace that Adam lost for all. But the image of God wasn’t lost, just marred. And Jesus is the image and glory of God (John 1:14, Hebrews 1:3). And came to restore that in us. Everything he did on earth, he did as a man. We worship him for the glory and honour he earned as a man. And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. (Rev 5:9).” In his divinity he could not die. In his divinity he could not struggle. It is by his perfect obedience as a human, that he saves us.

The works he did were human works and worthy of great honour. But the fact that it was divine person, elevates the status from honour, to worship. Even so, Christ perfectly mediated the glory of God in his humanity. Nothing was lost in mirroring God by become incarnate. As Jesus himself said “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father ‘?” (John 14:9). Think of his obedience as a man, and how much God honours Christ for his human work “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name (Philippians 2:8-9).

We worship Jesus for all of this as originator. Yet at the same time, he was showing the very height of human life. And thus we honour more so those who are Christ like. It is to his image and glory that we shall be transformed. And of Jesus being the Son and image of the Father it is said “Whoever does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent him (John 5:23).” In this is also established humanities connection to God, “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind (Genesis 9:6).”

 “On the contrary, we make icons of created men, of the holy embodied servants of God, to mark their memory and honour them, and we do nothing unreasonable in painting them as they were created…And when we venerate, we glorify not the icons but the personages indicated in this way by pictorial means. And we do not glorify them as gods — God forbid. I refer to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as he was seen on earth and described by men who met him, and not as God by nature as he is conceived to be; for what likeness or what form belongs to the incorporeal and formless Logos of the Father? (Mansi 13, 164D, 256C. Cf. 188 )

Then consider “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen (1 John 4:20).” Since as a human, Christ’s works were worthy of great admiration. And as God, worship. Then so too, us who are being conformed to his image by the Spirit, do works that please God (Romans 8:4) and are worthy of honour (Romans 13:7). And those saints who are most conformed to Christ’s image, the more honour they deserve. If Christ is the perfect image of humanity, then nothing that can be said of him qua human, can’t be said of glorified saints or those who are being sanctified. So David is righteous. David is holy. David is majestic. Glorious, praiseworthy and honourable.
And all humans who live according to Christ, are accurately depicting the Glory of God. A glory which is rightly attributed to the human person, albeit by virtue of participation in God’s grace. As Paul says “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philliphians 2:12-13).

So while God is worshipped for his deeds and goodness as the source of all things, humans are honoured, even greatly honoured (venerated) for those same things, except they have them by grace, the things God has as source.

Thus here is a principle of Man’s relationship to God that is carried over in the orthodox understanding of iconography: When you honour the image, you honour the one who is being imaged. The honour shown to one, passes over to the other.
“Who does not know that when the image is dishonoured, the dishonour is inflicted on him whose image it is? This is not only a truth which is self-evident but is also taught by the nature of things. The holy Fathers, moreover, concur with this. St Basil says: ‘The honour paid to an image ascends to the prototype’; and Athanasius remarks: ‘Therefore he who venerates the image, venerates the emperor it represents’. Chrysostom says similarly: ‘Do you not know that if you insult an image of the emperor, you convey the insult to the prototype’? And these Fathers simply followed the nature of things”. (Mansi 13, 325D; Cf. Mansi 13, 273AB; Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit 18, 45, PG 32, 149CD; Athanasius, Against the Arians III, 5, PG 26, 332A; John Chrysostom, cited by John Damascene, Imag.II, 61 (Kotter, p. 163)).

 God is not scared about this taking the attention away from himself. Rather he often truly praises those who love him. The Davidic Psalm 2, is often applied to Christ in full. But it was applied to the king of Israel first. King was seen as “God’s Son.” And what does God say “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way.” Even bowing is not seen as wrong or idolatrous. “Then David said to all the assembly, “Bless the LORD your God.” And all the assembly blessed the LORD, the God of their fathers, and bowed their heads and paid homage to the LORD and to the king. (1 Chronicles 29:20). In fact in Hebrew the word used for worship or bowing are the same. Showing that even in the language, the issue is not so much the action, but intent.

 

God’s Essence and Energies

This theology of God’s glory is very important to orthodoxy and the sacramental worldview. It goes deeper than a mere mirroring. It’s more than just a moral glory or issue of character. God’s glory is a real and distinct manifestation of himself, in an almost tangible manner, such that it can be transferred to matter. To understand this we will first take a look at what is known in Orthodoxy as the essence/energies distinction. And then examine some passages in light of this idea.

There is a threefold distinction of a person, their essence and their activities/energies (or energia in Greek). And all things predicated of God, will fall under one of those categories. Only that which is essence or energy is common to the persons of the Trinity. While that which is hypostatic/person cannot be shared. The person-hypostasis is a mystery, not reducible to their content or nature. Nor really definable by a positive statement. In fact all accurate positive statements on what a person is are at best borders to negate what they are not. Thus persons are inexhaustible and unknowable completely, except by personal communion. Not by their essence but their activities.

This irreducible nature of personhood, is the foundation for the “mystical” aspect often attached with Orthodoxy. Orthodox “mysticism” as it were is not a rejection of logic and reasoning. Rather it is the realization that a person is more than a set of propositions and can only be truly known by direct experience. Thus in Orthodoxy, one can only truly know God personally not in a propositional way, but by direct participation in his energies/divine glory. In fact, the divine essence in Orthodoxy is beyond being. Beyond our manner of existence and comprehension. Wholly other and unknowable. Whilst the energies of the Persons are being itself and the very foundation of our existence. “For in him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).”

 

We can become what God is in his energies by participation, while still remaining creatures since we do not partake of the essence. The process is called sanctification and the end result is Glorification. This is the Orthodox doctrine of Theosis (Deification). In fact when God’s energy comes to us to help us in this process it’s called grace:

Colossians 1:29: For this I [Paul] toil, struggling with all His energy (energia) that He powerfully works (energizes) within me.

Ephesians 3:7: Of this gospel I [Paul] was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working (energia) of His power.

The energies are not created effects of God, for then there would be no participation in God himself. But a creature. Rather the energies are Trinitarian usage of the essence. His eternal Glory and self-manifestations in being, of who he is by the power inherent to his divine essence. Which exists beyond being. And since God is fully and indivisibly present in each of his works, to participate in his energies, is to participate in God. That is why our highest good as human beings is to be in communion the Trinity. To share in their own divine life. By partaking not in their divine essence, but energies (divine activities). And though the activities are external to the essence, they are of the divine nature. Uncreated and thus divine. “Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires (2 Peter 1:4).”

 

One key passage of scripture used by the Church Fathers in order to understand this difference is found in Exodus 34. Here we see Moses wanting a deeper revelation of who God. He asks the Lord if He can see His face. God however does not allow this but tells Moses that He will pass in front of Him and show Moses His Glory. That which is unknowable of God is the divine essence. But what is infinite and participatory are God’s energies.

“Is it not ridiculous to say that the creative power is an essence, and similarly, that providence is an essence, and foreknowledge, simply taking every energy as essence?” Basil the Great, Contra Eunomius, I.8, PG 29, 528B

“The energies are various, and the essence simple, but we say that we know our God from His energies, but do not undertake to approach near to His essence.  His energies come down to us, but His essence remains beyond our reach.” Basil the Great, Epistle 234

“The man divinized by grace will be everything that God is, apart from identity of essence.” Maximus the Confessor Ad Thalassium 22, PG 90:320a

 

God’s Glory could not be identical to his essence otherwise we couldn’t partake in it without becoming God. But Jesus makes it very clear that we are not only to see his divine Glory, but to partake in it as well.

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world (John 17:20-24).”

Each member of the Trinity is fully and completely in each energy. So it is true to say God is love. But they are more than their energies. Thus there can be real union without violating Creator/creature. This doctrine protects God’s radical transcendence, while at the same time affirming that God is truly present in all his creation. Since it is by his power that it exists and is sustained, it exists only by virtue of participating in God’s energies. Which is nothing more than participating in God Himself. So there can be no radical independence between creation and God. God and… matter. Already the sacramental implications are clear. Since we are matter and spirit, God uses both in order to effect salvation in our lives. And since his divine energies permeate creation anyways, it is only natural for God to bring about a spiritual change or reality in us, by using the material.

As Terutllian (160-220AD) writes about the early Christian view of Baptism

‘All waters, therefore, in virtue of the pristine privilege of their origin, do, after invocation of God, attain the sacramental power of sanctification; for the Spirit immediately supervenes from the heavens, and rests over the waters, sanctifying them from Himself; and being thus sanctified, they imbibe at the same time the power of sanctifying. Albeit the similitude may be admitted to be suitable to the simple act; that, since we are defiled by sins, as it were by dirt, we should be washed from those stains in waters. But as sins do not show themselves in our flesh (inasmuch as no one carries on his skin the spot of idolatry, or fornication, or fraud), so persons of that kind are foul in the spirit, which is the author of the sin; for the spirit is lord, the flesh servant. Yet they each mutually share the guilt: the spirit, on the ground of command; the flesh, of subservience. Therefore, after the waters have been in a manner endued with medicinal virtue through the intervention of the angel, the spirit is corporeally washed in the waters, and the flesh is in the same spiritually cleansed.” http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0321.htm

 

The physical and material world working as one, under humanities’ headship, has always been the plan. “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth (Genesis 1:26).”

And this process which was halted when the first Adam fell, is started back up again by the Second Adam; Jesus Christ. The future world won’t just be this natural creation running smoothly. It will be matter defied by God’s power and presence. In other words, God’s glory will literally fill all creation. The physical and spiritual realities will merge, each retaining its fundamental identity, but operating together in a new way. The sacraments of the Church are thus this new future reality, being brought forward and manifest into the present. Because Christ is the beginning of this new creation, this new humanity. So being united to Christ in baptism and being renewed by partaking of his flesh and blood in the Eucharist, we are participating in this new creation reality. And are by virtue of this mystical union, one with Christ, and one with each other. And thus one body. Baptism, is where a physical element is used by God to bring about a spiritual good, because in the future, nature and spirit will always work as one.

 

This idea of deified matter is shown by the Transfiguration of Christ on the mountain. A foretaste of which is seen also in Moses when he came down from the mountain from spending time with God. The light of God’s Glory isn’t just there for aesthetics. It’s not there to look pretty. God is in that light as he is in all his energies. And it is by that very same light and Glory which comes to us as grace and transforms us. The very same light and grace which can be imbued in matter.

Exodus 34:29-35
“When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai. When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.”

 

Matthew 17:1-8

“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

 

2 Corinthians 3:12-18

Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

 

2 Corinthians 4:5-6

For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.  For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

It is clear that this is a spiritual glory and light which can transform matter. And when our spiritual eyes are opened, we can see it too. That’s why the Fathers teach that had strangers or an animal approached Jesus and the disciples, they would not have seen what was happening. Nevertheless it was very real. The soul and body then work together and what affects one part of it, affects the other. When the Holy Spirit/God’s grace is present in our souls and we walk according to the Spirit, being filled by Him, we sanctify and hallow our bodies as well as our souls. Just as when the Spirit filled the temple with God’s Glory (his divine energies) the temple itself became sacred. Or when God appeared to Moses by the burning bush, the ground was sacred. So too, our bodies being the temple of the Holy Spirit are sanctified and participate in the divine energies, as we grow in virtue and Christ likeness. This is the idea behind relics. Death has been defeated. It is no longer the scary “bogey-man”. The “dead” in Christ are not really “dead”. And God still considers their bodies after death to be hallowed and an important part of who they are. That’s why there is a future resurrection. Not do-over. So there is no doubt that our bodies are still holy and sanctified unto God even in the grave. However, thee Church has long gone so far as to say that God blesses certain saints by still having his energies strongly present with their bodies even at passing. The best example of this is found in the Old Testament.

“Elisha died and was buried. Now Moabite raiders used to enter the country every spring. Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet (2 Kings 13:20-21).”

 

Consider also the example of where an item that belonged to a prophet carried God’s divine energies with it.

“Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground. When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.”

As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.

Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over. The company of the prophets from Jericho, who were watching, said, “The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha.” And they went to meet him and bowed to the ground before him (2 Kings 2:7-15).”

Here we see not only the passing on of the God’s energies by the leaving behind of Elijah’s cloak. But also the men bowing in reverence to Elisha. Keep in mind God could have brought about the transfer of power too by any means. But as Elijah was taken up, he didn’t hand the cloak over. Rather it was left behind purposely by God. This isn’t the only time such things have happened. In the New Testament a woman suffered for twelve long years with an illness that no one could cure. But when she saw Jesus, an idea came to mind. “She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed (Matthew 9:21).” She snuck up by Him and sneakily touched the cloak, not wanting to draw attention to her embarrassing problem. Nevertheless God’s divine energies were at work and Jesus could feel it. “And Jesus said, “Who is the one who touched Me?” And while they were all denying it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing in on You.” But Jesus said, “Someone did touch Me, for I was aware that power had gone out of Me (Luke 8:45-46).” However in responding to her, what did Jesus say? “Your faith has made you well.” In response to her act of faith, God responded by his divine energies working through matter to heal her. Here we see they synergy of human faith moved to action and sacramentally meeting God’s power.

 

This then carries over to iconography. Icons are not just nice images used for decoration. Each icon used in the Liturgy is blessed and prayed over. And it is the belief of the Church that they now become a means of grace. God’s energies work through them to give grace to the hearts of the faithful. Since Christ is alive, those who are united to him as part of his bodies are living too. Death has been defeated. It cannot separate from someone from Christ or His bod. And as we are united to Christ’s body, we are united to the Saints as well. Just as we would ask one another for prayer, we can ask them for prayer. The honour given by kissing or bowing before an icon, passes from the image, to the one imaged. All of this works by God’s grace and power which unites and connects us all. The incarnation shows that God is determined to unite to creation and fill it with Himself. No part of creation can escape his deifying presence. Matter can be made Holy. Matter can be sanctified and used a means of grace. And God will be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:8).

 

Conclusion

Ultimately worship is of the heart. Not divorced from actions, but not reducible to them. “’These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Singing songs to people or about people, kissing, bowing, none of these constitute worship in and of themselves. Just because it’s in a Church or Liturgical context doesn’t change this fact. Even kissing pictures doesn’t constitute worship. Consider how in funerals the image of the deceased is usually placed where all can see. If someone were to spit at the image or flip off the picture, it would be seen as an assault to that person’s memory and honour. Or burning an effigy of some important leader is insulting because of who it represents. Consider even how soldiers in battle keep cherished images of their loved ones that they kiss. Or parents carrying baby pictures in their wallets and feeling strong emotions when looking at the image. Are they all deluded or idolaters? No. The principle of imaging remains in tack. The only difference with iconography is that Orthodoxy teaches the union is not mental only. But truly and really by God’s grace, His divine energies.

Hymns and songs to or about the Saints shouldn’t bother us either. Remember that in Christ, no one is truly dead. And consider Psalm 103:20 has us addressing Angels in our singing. Neither should the lofty words scare us. Love songs are filled with high language of great honour and veneration for the beloved. Just take a look as Songs of Solomon. God is not challenged by having his creation venerated. We are in awe of God’s creation and therefore worship Him. Idolatry comes when we divorce creation from God. The problem of idolatry isn’t the great awe. But in mistaking creation as Originator, stopping too soon and not seeing the one to whom it points.

“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made… they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen (Romans 1:20;25).”

 

C.S Lewis, in Chapter 2 of his book the Four Loves, has an interesting way of describing creations role: “Many people – I am one myself – would never, but for what nature does to us, have had any content to put into the words we must use in confessing our faith. Nature never taught me that there exists a God of glory and of infinite majesty. I had to learn that in other ways. But nature gave the word glory a meaning for me. I still do not know where else I could have found one. I do not see how the “fear” of God could have ever meant to me anything but the lowest prudential efforts to be safe, if I had never seen certain ominous ravines and unapproachable crags. And if nature had never awakened certain longings in me, huge areas of what I can now mean by the “love” of God would never, so far as I can see, have existed.”

2 thoughts on “Distinguishing Between Worship and Veneration Part 1: Icons and Saints

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