‘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’.
from the Apologia Against Those who Decry Holy Images by St John Damascene, 676-749
Almighty and everlasting God, who, for the defence of the veneration of sacred images, didst endue blessed John Damascene with heavenly doctrine and wondrous strength of spirit: grant unto us, by his intercession and example; that we may imitate the virtues and perceive the advocacy of those images we honour; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon