Hi, guys —
I am a practicing Catholic. I don't mean to cut
down my own faith; I am just asking for a clarification.
- Do we not go against the engraved image commandment
with the Rosary, crucifixes, statues of saints, etc?
It seems to be spelled out very well in the Bible as to
worshiping God as a spirit.
Do Catholics go against 'the engraved image' commandment in the Bible (e.g. the Rosary)? }
Two of my colleagues, Bob and Eric, answered your question in other off-line e-mail dialogues.
The dialogues were pretty long, so I'm just giving
you the important portion of their replies that pertains
to your question.
- The question in one dialogue was:
- Why did the Catholic Church take away the second
commandment and break the tenth commandment into
the ninth and tenth?
With respect to the breaking down of the commandments.
The "ten" commandments are listed in
both, the books of Exodus 20:2-5 and Deuteronomy
5:6-9 and have slightly different lists in each
place. There actually is no numerical distinction
in the books to indicate what the ten consist of.
Jewish sources have traditionally broken the list
down in different ways according to whichever Rabbinic
school they were associated with. Likewise, Protestant
and Catholics have also broken them down differently,
but neither has done it with malice. They are merely
drawing from different ancient traditions.
(There have been anti-Catholic sects that
try to break the list down to condemn particularly
Catholic religious practices and art.)
There is no omission of the second commandment
(here I am assuming that you are referring to the
" ' you shall carve no image..' verse" that
comes from Deuteronomy 5:8.) This is directly condemning
a practice of idol worship that is referred to
in the first part of the verse "no other gods." There
was an ancient practice of worshiping these things
as though they were in fact, gods, but even the
Lord himself instructed the Jews to fabricate what
would be considered "graven images" in
several places, most notably in the construction
of the Ark of the Covenant, the central reliquary
in Jewish worship.
"Make two cherubim of beaten gold for the
two ends of the propitiatory, fastening them
so that one cherub springs direct for each end.
The cherubim shall have their wings spread out
above, over in the propitiatory with them; they
shall be turned toward each other, but with their
faces looking toward the propitiatory"
(Exodus 25: 18ff).
These images that adorned the most holy object
of Jewish veneration would be damnable according
to the interpretation of the fundamentalists that
condemn Catholic art. To be consistent, they would
have to condemn God as well.
Catholics do not worship images, but use them as
means to instruct and remind us of the events and
saints they represent, to inspire us to imitate
and reflect on God's grace and heroic accomplishments
in his faithful. Holy music is meant to do the
same. They lift our senses and imagination, but
can in no way take the place of God, who is infinite
and glorious. Lastly, the breaking down of the
final two commandments has to do with the emphasis
taken from the Early Church with respect for purity
as something unique, and singled out by Christ:
"every one who looks at a woman lustfully
has already committed adultery with her in his
Thus the two commandments each focus on two important,
but distinct, areas of human concupiscence:
- freedom from lust, and
- freedom from greed or avarice with respect
to others goods.
While interrelated, the distinction brings the
necessary focus on maintaining an inward control
with respect to carnal desires.
|The question in another dialogue was:
- Since icons,
statues, etc. are all supposed to
depict things that reside in heaven
or earth, aren't they against biblical
- Eric replied:
No. Biblical teaching forbids worshipping images or otherwise making them idols (which
we don't do). This is demonstrated
by the fact that God actually commanded
the Israelites to make certain images
of creatures and use them in worship
(Numbers 21:6-9, Exodus 25:18-19).
A longer argument, which I can state
only briefly and probably can't do
justice, goes along the following
lines. God forbade images because
God had no image but when God became
incarnate in Christ, he took upon
himself an image — he took
the form of man. He joined himself
to creation, and united God and man.
In fact, he made us partakers of
the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) and
filled us with all the fullness of
God (Ephesians 3:19). Consequently,
since God took the form of man, and
himself became a living icon, it
is legitimate for us to make a representation
of God in material form. Moreover,
since the saints have a share in
the divine nature and the fullness
of God (and reflect the divinity
of Christ), it is legitimate to make
images of them as well. We would
contend, therefore, that something
substantial happened at the Incarnation,
that the God who had no form prior
to that, is now in material form;
and to reflect that awesome truth,
we make images of Christ and those
he has glorified. These images we
venerate, (never worship).
Hope this helps,