Join Michael Patton, Tim Kimberley, JJ Seid and Sam Storms as they continue their series on Roman Catholicism by discussing Icons, Images and Relics.

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    6 replies to "Theology Unplugged: Roman Catholicism – Part 15 – Icons, Images and Relics"

    • Irene

      Relics easier to understand?? Not for me the Catholic, anyway. Images and icons are simple to understand. I’ve yet to understand the spirituality behind human relics, like fingertips and skulls. It just seems to contradict the Catholic teaching on the treatment of corpses. But, I won’t say it’s wrong, I’ll just say its above me.
      I do have a 2nd or 3rd class relic of Mother Teresa (a tiny piece of cloth) on a card. I keep it on my kitchen windowsill to think about while I do dishes and work in the kitchen. I don’t believe it has any special powers of its own. What it does is helps me realize the closeness we have with the saints, including her. It’s inspiring and comforting, because it reminds me that the communion of the saints is real. I would call it a holy reminder.

    • theoldadam

      From the latest “Luther” movie that came out in 2003

      Martin Luther: [giving a lecture] When I became a monk I believed the monk’s cowl would make me holy. Was I an arrogant fool?
      Now they have made me a doctor of divinity and I am tempted to believe that this scholar’s robe will make me wise.

      Martin Luther: Well, God once spoke through the mouth of an ass, and…

      Martin Luther: Perhaps he is about to do so again. But…
      [leaves his rostrum and starts walking around in the classroom. The students follow him very interested with their eyes]

      Martin Luther: I will tell you straight what I think. Who here has been to Rome?
      [a student raises his hand]

      Martin Luther: Did you buy an indulgence?

      Student: No.

      Martin Luther: I did. For a silver florin, I freed my grandfather from Purgatory. For twice that I could have sprung grandmother and uncle mothers too, but…

      Martin Luther: I didn’t have the funds, so they had to stay in the hot place. As for myself, the priests assured me that by gazing at sacred relics, I could cut down my time in purgatory. Luckily for me, Rome has enough nails from the holy cross to shoe every horse in Saxony.

      Martin Luther: But there are relics elsewhere in Christendom. Eighteen out of twelve apostles are buried in Spain.

      Martin Luther: And yet here in Wittenberg we have the pick on the crown. Bread from the last supper, milk from the virgins breast, a thorn that pierced Christ’s brow on calvery and nineteen thousand other bits of sacred bone.

      Martin Luther: All authentic, ancient, sacred relics. Even Johann Tetzel himself, inquisitor of Poland and Saxony, seller of indulgences extraordinary, connoisseur of relics, envies our collection.

      Martin Luther: To posses them for a single night he would willingly surrender five years of his earthly life…
      [laughter, returns to his rostrum]

      Martin Luther: Or five hundred years in Purgatory.

    • Irene

      In the discussion, someone said something to the effect that since human relics were from people who had sanctifying grace in them, somehow grace could be transferred to the person venerating the relic. That is not correct. Sanctifying grace comes from the sacraments (Baptism, Penance, Eucharist, etc.), not from veneration of relics.

      The CCC groups relics, as well as medals by the way, under “sacramentals”, not to be confused with “sacraments”.
      CCC #1670 “Sacramentals do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the sacraments do, but by the Church’s prayer, they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it.”

      #1675 “These expressions of piety extend the liturgical life of the Church, but do not replace it. They should be so drawn up that they harmonize with the liturgical seasons, accord with the sacred liturgy, are in some way derived from it and lead the people to it, since in fact the liturgy by its very nature is far superior to any of them.”

      You are correct, though, that there is the potential for sinful misuse.

      #1676 “Pastoral discernment is needed to sustain and support popular piety and, if necessary, to purify and correct the religious sense which underlies these devotions so that the faithful may advance in knowledge of the mystery of Christ. Their exercise is subject to the care and judgment of the bishops and to the general norms of the Church.”

      Needless to say there were abuses, especially at the time of the Reformation. Bishops were not doing their jobs, and I’m sure they’ve had to answer for it.

    • Pete again

      These Protestant guys making podcasts on Roman Catholic practices is like Paula Deen doing a cooking show on soul food: they think the people who partake are misguided at best, they would never practice it themselves, and there is an air of disbelief throughout the show that someone would actually do this crap.

      Of course, would I watch a show like that? Darn straight I would.

      Anyway, some comments:

      Kudos from me for acknowledging right off the bat that the four of you come from an iconoclastic tradition.

      2 Kings 13:21…”So it was, as they were burying a man, that suddenly they spied a band of raiders; and they put the man in the tomb of Elisha; and when the man was let down and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet.” Here is an example of a holy relic producing a miracle, right in the Bible.

      Every bishop’s altar in the early church contained a relic. e.g. 166AD: “We surrounded his (St. Polycarp’s) relics as if they were an heirloom more costly than gold…” Eusebius, Eccl History 4:15.

      “They are treated like talismans”. Well, I knew that this would be a comment from the panel. I mean, if you don’t even believe in a basic like the Real Presence in the Eucharist, then relics are going to be WAY out there.

      As far as icons, they have been used by the church since the 1st century. As for a defense of icons, I would refer folks to the 7th ecumenical council in the 8th century. Note that the root of the problem at the time was the rise of Islam, which is another iconoclastic religious tradition.

      “Want a relic? Go find a Christian!”. AMEN! A famous saying of the eastern church is that “we’re in the relic making business”.

      There were some straw men Catholics and some horrible examples given (the dead wife…what the?), but overall it was a well-informed, entertaining discussion.

    • Pavel (Addai)

      This topic needs to approached with the irenic thoughtful one of most Theologica. As a former Protestant of the Orthodox persuasion, nothing attracts flaming from folks like me like ignorant strawmen etc. From my perspective, the ancient use of iconography can be explained using the basic rules and paradigm of Jewish tabernacle, temple, and synagogue worship (especially the Mezuzah). IF you Hellenize things a little bit in a Dura Europos way then you have the basic essence of Christian Iconography, with no need to rattle any heresy sabers.



    • Cynthia

      I happen to think many icons are beautiful art. Just went to museum of Russian icons and found myself thinking that I would love to have one in my home. For similar reasons I would like to have a stained glass window in my home and I love Gothic arches. As a protestant I get the theological implications of the use of icons, but as someone who is not dogmatic about it, why should it matter if we protestants buy them and display them b/c of their beautiful reminder of Christ and our faith? I mean what wrong message could this possibly send? Would this be an affront to the orthodox and catholic church? or would it offend iconoclastic protestants more? Either way, who cares? It could provide a nice teaching opportunity on the unity within all of
      ‘orthodox’ Christianity if someone has a problem with it.

      As a side, most icons look somewhat cartoonish to me. At this day in time, I don’t see how anyone could confuse the painting with the actual person being depicted (it is a reminder, rather). It really is almost like being a kid and looking at story book pictures and trying to decipher the written story you cant read. Some of the images are wild, especially of the saints. But the basic gospel and jesus icons can be quite nice.

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