Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Postures of Prayer: Part 2

You may recall an earlier post in which I responded to Rhology's claim that the postures that Catholics take in reverence of the saints amount to idol worship. Well, he made a follow-up comment on that post, so I would like to respond to that as well.

Dulia is distinct from latria, yes. Nobody is arguing otherwise.
What I am pointing out is that there are certain contexts in which the distinction advanced by RCC and EOC does not hold by what God has said, and religious actions is one of those categories. That's why I keep pointing out the religious worship/non-religious non-worship contexts in your counter-examples.
But, don't you see? It's only in the context of worshipping someone as God that there is no distinction. When you put your examples together with my examples, the message from God becomes this: "When your dulia of someone is akin to latria, it is wrong (cf. your examples). But, when it is simply giving honor where honor is due, it is ok. You are called to give such honor (cf. my examples)."

All your examples lack that which is in question - is it permissible to render acts of religious piety in the context of worship to that which is not God Himself?
First of all, our veneration of the saints (as expressed via our postures/gestures towards images of the saints) does not exist "in the context of worship," if by "worship" you mean, "The supreme act of humility and adoration that the creature gives to his Creator." We don't worship statues and we don't worship the saints portrayed by the statues. Granted, we do use "worshipful actions" in our veneration of them, but that's only b/c there's no other way to honor someone who is no longer in your presence, or even of this realm. Once we are in heaven with the saints, statues and icons and the like will no longer be necessary. But, until then, these things help mediate the presence of the saints to us and our "worshipful actions" towards these things pass on from the things themselves to the saints represented by them (much like how, when someone kisses the picture of a deceased loved one, the expression of love and longing is for the person in the picture, not the picture itself).

Secondly, I've already given you examples of when bowing towards someone or something (a worshipful action) was acceptable. Some of these are even in a religious context:

1 Chron 29:20 Then David said to all the assembly, "Bless the LORD your God." And all the assembly blessed the LORD, the God of their fathers, and bowed their heads, and worshiped the LORD, and did obeisance to the king.

Psa 138:1-2 A Psalm of David. I give thee thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing thy praise; 2 I bow down toward thy holy temple and give thanks to thy name for thy steadfast love and thy faithfulness; for thou hast exalted above everything thy name and thy word.

Also, you may not have noticed this, but, when Lot bowed himself before the two angels (cf. Gen 19:1) and when Saul bowed and did obiesance before Samuel (cf. 1 Sam 28:14) -- who had died a long time ago -- these two men were venerating saints! Will you accuse them of idolatry like you are accusing us?

As for:
But doesn't Scripture (particularly Paul) call us to give honor to other members of the Body?
Sure, so what? Until you tell me that you do ***ALL*** of the following to a living person, this is a non-point:
1) Kiss their image. While they're not there.
2) Burn incense and light candles to their image. While they're not there.
3) Set up that image in church. While they're not there.
4) Pray inaudibly to them and expect them to read your thoughts and carry the prayer to God. While they're not there. And you can't say it audibly to their ears since the dead don't hear with their physical ears.
Well, first of all, my point was not in fact a moot one. "Saint and sinner" said that we aren't supposed to give anyone glory but God. I was pointing out that Scripture says something quite the opposite. Throughout the OT and the NT, men are giving other men honor and this is encouraged, particularly by Paul. Such examples clearly refute the argument that "saint and sinner" was putting forth.

As for your 4-point list, believe it or not, most of these things are in fact done for the living, and even by irreligious people.

Kissing the picture of someone who is far away is very common (#1). During the Mass, we incense the priest and even the entire congregation in order to prepare our hearts and minds for what we are about to participate in (#2). Of course, you can't forget about Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel. Also, candlelight vigils often take place outside the home or hospital of someone who is dying or suffering in some way, as an expression of solidarity and encouragement (#2). As for #3, many Catholic churches contain images of the present pope, as do Catholic schools and homes. Finally, regarding #4, you can't expect us to communicate with people on Earth in that way b/c prayer only works between Earth and Heaven.

The inescapable fact is that whether or not an action is idolatry depends on the intent in performing the action. This is why I've never understood why, even after we clarify our intentions, Protestants still insist that we worship statues, as if the outward appearance alone was enough to condemn a person. Yes, a bow can be an act of worship. But, it can also be an act of respect or reverence, as the examples I cited clearly show. Even the lighting of insence is not exlusive to worship.

In the end, the Protestant, knee-jerk reaction against bowing, kneeling, lighting candles and the like is too short-sighted and artificial.

Pax Christi,


Russ Rentler, M.D. said...

Some protestants indeed have the knee jerk response. I tried in this blog to make a point regarding icons and idol worship and you can see from the com box how incensed (pun intended) some of our protestant brothers became when the idol worship accusation could easily be turned on them.

phatcatholic said...

Good point, bro.

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