Antiochus Strategos part 26

Antiochus Strategos part 26

Soon after he came there, the archbishop St. Boniface, Burchard and Wizo consecrated him and invested him with the sacred authority of the episcopate. He remained there for a week after he was consecrated bishop and then returned once more to the place which had been allotted him. At the time of his consecration Willibald was forty¬one years old; he was consecrated at Salzburg in the autumn, about three weeks before the Feast of St. Martin.

The long course of Willibald’s travels and sightseeing on which he had spent seven long years was now over and gone. We have tried to set down and make known all the facts which have been ascertained and thoroughly investigated.

These facts were not learned from anyone else but heard from Willibald himself; and having received them from his own lips, we have taken them down and written them in the Monastery of Heidenheim, as his deacons and other subordinates can testify. I say this so that no one may afterwards say tha…

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Antiochus Strategos part 25

Antiochus Strategos part 25

The Supreme Pontiff, in whom is vested the highest authority, at once replied that his command was sufficient permission, and he ordered him to set out obediently without any qualm of conscience, saying: “If I am free to transfer the abbot Petronax himself to any other place, then certainly he has no permission or power to oppose my wishes.” And so Willibald replied on the spot that he would willingly carry out his wishes and commands, not only there but anywhere in the world, whereever he had a mind to send him. He then pledged himself to go in accordance with his wishes without any further delay. After this, the discussion being ended, Willibald departed at Easter¬time, reaching his journey’s end on the Feast of St. Andrew. Tidbercht, however, remained behind at St. Benedict’s.

He went to Lucca, where his father was buried, and thence to the city of Pavia, from there to Brescia and thence to a place which is called Garda. Then he came to Duke Odi…

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John of Damascus part 34

John of Damascus part 34

For as often as they are seen in their pictorial representations, people who look at them are ardently lifted up to the memory and love of the originals and induced to give them respect and worshipful honour (aspasmon kaitimetiken proskynesin but not real adoration (alethinen latreian) which according to our faith is due only to the Divine Nature. So that offerings of incense and lights are to be given to these as to the figure of the sacred and lifegiving Cross, to the holy Gospel-books and other sacred objects in order to do them honour, as was the pious custom of ancient times. For honour paid to an image passes on to its prototype; he who worships (ho proskynon) an image worships the reality of him who is painted in it” (Mansi, XIII, pp. 378-9; Harduin, IV, pp. 453-6).

That is still the standpoint of the Catholic Church. The question was settled for us by the Seventh Œcumenical Council; nothing has since been added to that definition. The customs by which we sho…

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John of Damascus part 33

John of Damascus part 33

This reverence will be expressed in signs determined by custom and etiquette. It must be noted that all outward marks of respect are only arbitrary signs, like words, and that signs have no inherent necessary connotation. They mean what it is agreed and understood that they shall mean. It is always impossible to maintain that any sign or word mustnecessarily signify some one idea.

Like flags these things have come to mean what the people who use them intend them to mean. Kneeling in itself means no more than sitting. In regard then to genuflections, kisses, incense and such signs paid to any object or person the only reasonable standard is the understood intention of the people who use them. Their greater or less abundance is a matter of etiquette that may well differ in different countries.Kneeling especially by no means always connotes supreme adoration. People for a long time knelt to kings. The Fathers of Nicaea II further distinguish between absolute and relative wors…

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John of Damascus part 32

John of Damascus part 32

So in the First Commandment we must distinguish the clauses — “Thou shalt not have strange gods before me”, “Thou shall not adore them nor serve them” — which are eternal natural law (prohibitum quia malum), from the clause: “Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image”, etc. In whatever sense the archaeologist may understand this, it is clearly not natural law, nor can anyone prove the inherent wickedness of making a graven thing; therefore it is Divine positive law (malum quia prohibitum) of the Old Dispensation that no more applies to Christians than the law of marrying one’s brother’s widow.

Since there is no Divine positive law in the New Testament on the subject, Christians are bound firstly by the natural law that forbids us to give to any creature the honour due to God alone, and forbids the obvious absurdity of addressing prayers or any sort of absolute worship to a manufactured image; secondly, by whatever e…

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John of Damascus part 31

John of Damascus part 31

The count paid the expenses. Soon after, at his death, by his will (dated 3 July, 1636) he left considerable property to the chapter with the condition that they should spend the revenue on crowning famous pictures and statues of our Lady. They have done so since. The procedure is that a bishop may apply to the chapter to crown an image in his diocese. The canons consider his petition; if they approve it they have a crown made and send one of their number to carry out the ceremony. Sometimes the pope himself has crowned images for the chapter.

In 1815 Pius VII did so at Savona, and again in 1816 at Galloro near Castel Gandolfo. A list of images so crowned down to 1792 was published in that year at Rome (Raccolta delle immagini della btma Vergine ornate della corona d’oro). The chapter has an “Ordo servandus in tradendis coronis aureis quae donantur a Rmo Capitulo S. Petri de Urbe sacris imaginibus B.M.V.” — apparently in manuscript only. The rite is alm…

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John of Damascus part 30

The coronation of images is an example of an old and obvious symbolic sign of honour that has become a fixed rite. The Greek pagans offered golden crowns to their idols as specially worthy gifts. St. Irenæus (d. 202) already notices that certain Christian heretics (the Carpocratian Gnostics) crown their images. He disapproves of the practice, though it seems that part of his dislike at any rate is because they crown statues of Christ alongside of those of Pythagoras, Plato, and Aristotle (“Adv. omn. haer.”, I, xxv).

The offering of crowns to adorn images became a common practice in the Eastern Churches. In itself it would mean no more than adding such additional splendour to the icon as might also be given by a handsome gold frame. Then the affixing of the crown naturally attracted to itself a certain amount of ritual, and the crown itself, like all things dedicated to the use of the Church, was blessed before it was affixed.

At Rome, too, a ceremony…

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John of Damascus part 29

John of Damascus part 29

In both East and West the reverence we pay to images has crystallized into formal ritual. In the Latin Rite the priest is commanded to bow to the cross in the sacristy before he leaves it to say Mass (“Ritus servandus” in the Missal, II, 1); he bows again profoundly “to the altar or the image of the crucifix placed upon it” when he begins Mass (ibid., II, 2); he begins incensing the altar by incensing the crucifix on it (IV, 4), and bows to it every time he passes it (ibid.); he also incenses any relics or images of saints that may be on the altar (ibid.). In the same way many such commands throughout our rubrics show that always a reverence is to be paid to the cross or images of saints whenever we approach them.

The Byzantine Rite shows if possible even more reverence for the holy icons. They must be arranged according to a systematic scheme across the screen between the choir and the altar that from this fact is called iconostasis eikonostasis, &…

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John of Damascus part 28

John of Damascus part 28

But there is a difference not of principle but of practice between East and West, to which we have already alluded. Especially since Iconoclasm, the East dislikes solid statues. Perhaps they are too reminiscent of the old Greek gods. At all events, the Eastern icon (whether Orthodox, Nestorian or Monophysite) is always flat — a painting, mosaic, bas-relief.

Some of the less intelligent Easterns even seem to see a question of principle in this and explain the difference between a holy icon, such as a Christian man should venerate, and a detestable idol, in the simplest and crudest way: “icons are flat, idols are solid.” However, that is a view that has never been suggested by their Church officially, she has never made this a ground of complaint against Latins, but admits it to be (as of course it is) simply a difference of fashion or habit, and she recognizes that we are justified by the Second Council of Nicaea in the honour we pay to our statues just as she…

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John of Damascus part 27

John of Damascus part 27

Epiphanius of Salamis (d. 403) tore down a curtain in a church in Palestine because it had a picture of Christ or a saint. The Arian Philostorgius (fifth century) too was a forerunner of the Iconoclasts (Hist. Eccl., II, 12; VII, 3), as also the Bishop of Marseilles (Serenus), to whom St. Gregory the Great wrote his defence of pictures (see above). Lastly we may mention that in at least one province of the Church (Central Syria) Christian art developed to great perfection while it systematically rejected all representation of the human figure. These exceptions are few compared with the steadily increasing influence of images and their worship all over Christendom, but they serve to show that the holy icons did not win their place entirely without opposition, and they represent a thin stream of opposition as the antecedent of the virulent Iconoclasm of the eighth century.

After the storm of the eighth and ninth centuries (see ICONOCLASM), the Church throughout the world set…

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John of Damascus part 26

John of Damascus part 26

Long before the outbreak in the eighth century there were isolated cases of persons who feared the ever-growing cult of images and saw in it danger of a return to the old idolatry. We need hardly quote in this connection the invectives of the Apostolic Fathers against idols (Athenagoras A Plea for the Christians 15-17; Theophilus, “Ad Autolycum” II; Minucius Felix, “Octavius”, xxvii; Arnobius, “Disp. adv. Gentes”; Tertullian, “De Idololatria”, I; Cyprian, “De idolorum vanitate”), in which they denounce not only the worship but even the manufacture and possession of such images. These texts all regard idols, that is, images made to be adored. But canon xxxvi of the Synod of Elvira is important.

This was a general synod of the Church of Spain held, apparently about the year 300, in a city near Granada. It made many severe laws against Christians who relapsed into idolatry, heresy, or sins against the Sixth Commandme…

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John of Damascus part 25

John of Damascus part 25

A curious story, that illustrates the length to which theworship of images had gone by the eighth century, is told in the “New Garden” ( Neon Paradeision — Pratum Spirituo ale) of a monk of Jerusalem, John Moschus (d. 619). This work was long attributed to Sophronius of Jerusalem. In it the author tells the story of an old monk at Jerusalem who was much tormented by temptations of the flesh. At last the devil promised him peace on condition that he would cease to honour his picture of our Lady He promised, kept his word, and then began to suffer temptations against faith. He consulted his abbot who told him that he had better suffer the former evil (apparently even give way to the temptation) “rather than cease to worship our Lord and God Jesus Christ with His mother”.

A favourite one of St. Gregory the Great

On the other hand, in Rome especially, we find the position of holy images explained soberly and reasonably. They are the books…

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John of Damascus part 24

John of Damascus part 24

The icon seems to have been in some sort the channel through which the saint was approached; it has an almost sacramental virtue in arousing sentiments of faith, love and so on, in those who gazed upon it; through and by the icon God worked miracles, the icon even seems to have had a kind of personality of its own, inasmuch as certain pictures were specially efficacious for certain graces. Icons were crowned with garlands, incensed, kissed. Lamps burned before them, hymns were sung in their honour. They were applied to sick persons by contact, set out in the path of a fire or flood to stop it by a sort of magic. In many prayers of this time the natural inference from the words would be that the actual picture is addressed.

If so much reverence was paid to ordinary images “made with hands”, how much more was given to the miraculous ones “not made with hands” (eikones acheiropoietai). Of these there were many that had descended miraculously from heave…

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John of Damascus part 23

John of Damascus part 23

Long afterwards the Frankish bishops in the eighth century were still unable to understand forms that in the East were natural and obvious, but to Germans seemed degrading and servile (Synod of Frankfort, 794; see ICONOCLASM IV). It is significant too that, although Rome and Constantinople agree entirely as to the principle of honouring holy images with signs of reverence, the descendants of the subjects of the Eastern emperor still go far beyond us in the use of such signs.

The development was then a question of genera fashion rather than of principle. To the Byzantine Christian of the fifth and sixth centuries prostrations, kisses, incense were the natural ways of showing honour to any one; he was used to such things, even applied to his civil and social superiors; he was accustomed to treat symbols in the same way, giving them relative honour that was obviously meant really for their prototypes.

And so he carried his normal habits with him into church. Traditi…

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John of Damascus part 22

John of Damascus part 22

Distinct from the admission of images is the question of the way they are treated. What signs of reverence, if any, did the first Christians give to the images in their catacombs and churches? For the first period we have no information.

There are so few references to images at all in the earliest Christian literature that we should hardly have suspected their ubiquitous presence were they not actually there in the catacombs as the most convincing argument. But these catacomb paintings tell us nothing about how they were treated.

We may take it for granted, on the one hand, that the first Christians understood quite well that paintings may not have any share in the adoration due to God alone. Their monotheism, their insistence on the fact that they serve only one almighty unseen God, their horror of the idolatry of their neighbours, the torture and death that their martyrs suffered rather than lay a grain of incense before the statue of the emperor’s numen…

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John of Damascus part 21

John of Damascus part 21

People prayed with extended arms to represent a cross (Origen, “Hom. in Exod.”, iii, 3, Tertullian, “de Orat.”, 14). So also to make the sign of the cross over a person or thing became the usual gesture of blessing, consecrating, exorcising (Lactantius, Divine Institutes IV:27), actual material crosses adorned the vessels used in the Liturgy, a cross was brought in procession and placed on the altar during Mass. The First Roman Ordo (sixth century) alludes to the cross-bearers (cruces portantes) in a procession.

As soon as people began to represent scenes from the Passion they naturally included the chief event, and so we have the earliest pictures and carvings of the Crucifixion. The first mentions of crucifixes are in the sixth century. A traveller in the reign of Justinian notices one he saw in a church at Gaza in the West, Venantius Fortunatus saw a palla embroidered with a picture of the Crucifixion at Tours, and Gregory of Tours refers to a cr…

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John of Damascus part 20

John of Damascus part 20

Although representations of the Crucifixion do not occur till later, the cross, as the symbol of Christianity, dates from the very beginning. Justin Martyr (d. 165) describes it in a way that already implies its use as a symbol (Dialogue with Trypho 91). He says that the cross is providentially represented in every kind of natural object: the sails of a ship, a plough, tools, even the human body (Apol. I, 55). According to Tertullian (d. about 240), Christians were known as “worshippers of the cross” (Apol., xv). Both simple crosses and the chi-rho monogram are common ornaments of catacombs; combined with palm branches, lambs and other symbols they form an obvious symbol of Christ. After Constantine the cross, made splendid with gold and gems, was set up triumphantly as the standard of the conquering Faith. A late catacomb painting represents a cross richly jewelled and adorned with flowers.

Constantine’s Labarum at the battle of the Milvian Bridge (312),…

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John of Damascus part 19

John of Damascus part 19

We notice, however, in the first centuries a certain reluctance to express the pain and humiliation of the Passion of Christ. Whether to spare the susceptibility of new converts, or as a natural reaction from the condition of a persecuted sect, Christ is generally represented as splendid and triumphant.

There are pictures of His Passion even in the catacombs (e.g., the crowning of thorns in the Catacomb of Praetextatus on the Appian way) but the favourite representation is either the Good Shepherd (by far the most frequent) or Christ showing His power, raising Lazarus, working some other miracle, standing among His Apostles, seated in glory. There are no pictures of the Crucifixion except the mock-crucifix scratched by some pagan soldier in the Palatine barracks. In the first basilicas also the type of the triumphant Christ remains the normal one. The curve of the apse (concha) over the altar is regularly filled with a mosaic representing the reign of Christ in some symbol…

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John of Damascus part 18

John of Damascus part 18

The famous statue of the Good Shepherd in the Lateran Museum was made as early as the beginning of the third century, the statues of Hippolytus and of St. Peter date from the end of the same century. The principle was quite simple. The first Christians were accustomed to see statues of emperors, of pagan gods and heroes, as well as pagan wall-paintings. So they made paintings of their religion, and, as soon as they could afford them, statues of their Lord and of their heroes, without the remotest fear or suspicion of idolatry.

The idea that the Church of the first centuries was in any way prejudiced against pictures and statues is the most impossible fiction. After Constantine (306-37) there was of course an enormous development of every kind. Instead of burrowing catacombs Christians began to build splendid basilicas. They adorned them with costly mosaics, carving, and statues. But there was no new principle. The mosaics represented more artistically and richly the motive…

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John of Damascus part 17

John of Damascus part 17

The old pagan sarcophagi had been carved with figures of gods, garlands of flowers, and symbolic ornament; pagan cemeteries, rooms, and temples had been painted with scenes from mythology. The Christian sarcophagi were ornamented with indifferent or symbolic designs — palms, peacocks, vines, with the chi-rho monogram (long before Constantine), with bas-reliefs of Christ as the Good Shepherd, or seated between figures of saints, and sometimes, as in the famous one of Julius Bassus with elaborate scenes from the New Testament. And the catacombs were covered with paintings. There are other decorations such as garlands, ribands, stars landscapes, vines-no doubt in many cases having a symbolic meaning.

One sees with some surprise motives from mythology now employed in a Christian sense (Psyche, Eros winged Victories, Orpheus), and evidently used as a type of our Lord. Certain scenes from the Old Testament that have an evident application to His life and Church recur constantl…

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