Statues can make a big difference in helping keep our Faith present in our daily lives, especially for kids as they grow up. But, sometimes religious statues make people uncomfortable. Jeff describes how statues are not idols, but rather tools to remind us of our salvation and the virtues we need to cultivate to attain it.
Snippet from the Show
Religious statues point to the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. A statue of Jesus points to salvation. We do not worship the statue, but rather use it as a tool to inspire our prayer and growth in virtue.
Jesus is the Ultimate Icon
When we meditate on Colossians 1:15, we are reminded that Jesus made religious images possible: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”
Jesus is the ultimate icon, the image of the invisible God. Suddenly, after years of God being invisible, God is visible. Now we can have statues that draw us to him. It’s not about the statue itself, it’s about God.
Statues in the Old Testament
The Church has long used art to tell the story of salvation history. It helped tell the stories of salvation before people could read.
But, there are verses in the Old Testament that cause people to be concerned about using statues and images:
“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.” Exodus 20:4–5
You have to understand the context. The Israelites just came out of 400 years of bondage and they are worshipping statues. This is why God gives the law that if he’s going to bring them out of bondage to be his People and his representatives to the public, they have to represent him well. His concern is not with the creation of images, but rather their past and what they became accustomed to before he rescued them.
“Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves molten gods: I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:4
When it did serve the purpose of proper worship, God actually asked them to create images. For example:
“And you shall make two cherubim of gold i.e., two gold statues of angels; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end; of one piece of the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be” Exodus 25:18–20
“In the Old Testament, God ordained or permitted the making of images that pointed symbolically toward salvation by the incarnate Word: so it was with the bronze serpent, the ark of the covenant, and the cherubim.”
—The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2130
Statues Point to the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ
Statues symbolically point to something, the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. A statue of Jesus points to salvation through the Incarnate Word.
“The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, “the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype,” and “whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it.” The honor paid to sacred images is a “respectful veneration,” not the adoration due to God alone.”
—The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2132
Like Images and Pictures, Statues Tell a Story
We all have a tendency to keep photos in our homes of our loved ones and each other. We don’t worship the photos, we enjoy seeing them and the memories. The photos fill our lives with a sense of love. We have statues of famous people all over Washington DC to honor the words and deeds of the influential people. These preserve the memory of their contribution to society, and express a sense of gratitude for the work they have done.
Protestants do not take issue with those statues, but they do have an issue with Catholic statues. However, they serve the same purpose: to preserve the memory of incredible people in the Church and their contribution to our lives.
The Nativity scene is the same thing! It tells the story of salvation.
Worship vs. Venerate
“Latria” – to worship God. Worshipping is reserved for God alone.
The statue reminds us, represents Jesus. Now that God has revealed himself in Jesus, we can depict him. We have seen his face
“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” John 14:9
Statues are reference points, tools, like sacramentals. They point to something beyond themselves.
“Dulia” – to venerate. Different from latria. To give great honor to something.
Why Statues are Important:
1. They are a reminder of our faith, which is incarnational.
2. They are inspiring
3. They are a way of catechizing or teaching.
4. They are a tool to evangelize
5. Reminders of what we can become.
6. Reminder of where we are going. Heaven
7. A Reminder of what should and should not come into our home. Like Jewish tassels, Tzit Tzit.
Jeff Cavin’s Saint Posse:
- St. Joseph
- St. Augustine
- St. Francis
- St. Teresa of Calcutta
- St. John Paul II
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Jeff Cavins is passionate about helping people understand Scripture and become disciples of Jesus Christ. Though he was born Catholic, Jeff went to Bible school and served as a protestant minister for twelve years before reverting to the Catholic Faith. Jeff then received his MA in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. Since then, he has become a leading Catholic evangelist and author.
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