Since we opened up the cyber floor for some interaction, we’ve had great questions, recipe ideas, and even some prayer requests. I feel like a priest for a cyber parish! I truly want to be able to touch people’s hearts and minds, even if I have to go through your stomachs. This “ministry” of Grace Before Meals constantly affirms my conclusion: our lofty Faith and (at times “difficult”) teachings have to be made bite-sized!
I received a question from Rose. I don’t know where Rose is from, so may I suggest that future questioners also include your home state? Thanks!
Rose asked a question about “praying to an image” (example, paintings or statues of Mary) as being against God’s First Commandment: I am the LORD your God… you shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them.
It’s a very good question, and one that I often hear from non-Catholics who may not have the practice of venerating icons. I realize that Christians may differ on various practices, and this response could hopefully provide a different angle on a practice that has endured from the time the Scriptures were written.
Yes, venerating icons is “scriptural.” For example, God told Moses to put an image of a seraph serpent on a pole to heal people bit by the snakes. God also instructed Moses to build the ark adorned with angels as an image of our veneration. God wasn’t “breaking” His own Commandment, but instead was trying to help people know the difference between Adoration (Latria in Greek), which belongs to God alone, and Veneration (Dulia in Greek), which must be given to those people and objects that remind us of God and the sacred.
The word “venerate” shares the same root as “reverend” i.e. “revere,” which is what we should do if we are going to follow the Fourth Commandment: honor/revere your mother and father.
Since Jesus became man at Christmas, almost every Christian puts out a nativity scene in December, or at least sends greeting cards with holy images. It’s not that we “worship” the figurines or cards, but these images visually remind us that Jesus was so real you could take His picture, paint Him, or sculpt His image as “proof” that He was and is Alive!
There is, however, a negative sense of “image” worshiping–idolizing movie stars; spending too much time gazing at false images on the Internet; and the almost “worship” status we give to cars, name brand clothes, and titles of self-importance. We may actually spend time worshiping the person we see in a mirror, and that only makes us vain. These are examples of the worship of images that God warns us about in the First Commandment.
Pictures of the Holy Mother of God, Angels, statues of St. Francis in our gardens, or Crosses or Crucifixes in our homes or around our necks don’t offend God. It helps us remember that God is real. And let’s face it, we can use all the help we can get, especially in a world where images of God seem to be challenged by people who don’t want “reminders” of God in our courthouses or schools, and even want to eliminate Crosses in our National Cemeteries.
Finally, if we can have pictures of our families in our homes, why can’t we have pictures of Jesus and the saints – who are also part of our family? The image of The Last Supper, for example, reminds families of Jesus’ invitation to His Supper.
Hopefully my response to this very good question can provide a deeper understanding of God’s First Commandment. God doesn’t bar sacred images in our culture or homes, but instead almost encourages us to represent our Faith with devotion for the whole world to see!
The image of hospitality, great food, and wonderful fellowship is still in my mind! If you recall, a few months ago I was in North Dakota giving a conference to a local Catholic High School. While I was there my host took me to the home of Dr. & Mrs. Lunardi, where Sonia Lunardi made a most wonderful meal. At the time it was snowing (the middle of April), and she prepared a menu beginning with a wonderful soup called Ribollita, which doesn’t have to be saved for the winter. In fact, it’s a great meal for cool summer nights on the deck near the ocean, bay, or lake, using the fresh produce from your summer gardens. Thanks Sonia, for sending this great recipe! For the recipe [click here].
Consider putting up an image of The Last Supper near your kitchen table or dining room. Then consider composing a family prayer, putting it on nice parchment, and framing it with a picture of your family near the image of Jesus. Also consider meditating on these two images and seeing you and your family as being part of Jesus’ banquet. After all, if the Scriptures are correct, Heaven will be like an eternal banquet with Jesus at the head of the table.
Loving Father, You gave us the perfect image of Your love when Jesus was seen healing the sick, teaching from the seashore, eating in the upper room, and dying on the Cross. These images remind us of Your goodness to us— the meditation of the Saints, our brothers and sisters in Christ. Like the Holy Ones, help us to imagine Your love in our lives, so that when people see us, they see Your love working in and through us. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Ask Fr. Leo for fatherly advice.