APOLOGETICS
Copyrightę 1998 by "morphogenesis"



The First Commandment clarified



Exodus 20:2-6
"I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides me. You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them. For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their fathers' wickedness on the children of those who hate Me, down to the third and fourth generation; but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation, on the children of those who love Me and keep My commandments."

CCC 1159:
The sacred image, the liturgical icon, principally represents Christ. It cannot represent the invisible and incomprehensible God, but the incarnation of the Son of God has ushered in a new "economy" of images:

Previously God, who has neither a body nor a face, absolutely could not be represented by an image. But now that He has made Himself visible in the flesh and has lived with men, I can make an image of what I have seen of God...and contemplate the glory of the Lord, His face revealed.


Commentary:

  1. The Catholic Church has had plenty of icons and images of no other gods than Jesus Christ, Who is our God, in our churches and even at homes. When these images of Christ Our Lord and God are carved, these icons do not represent any other gods but the Only God who became flesh and dwelt amongst us.
  2. Icons of Mary, saints and angels are neither representations of other gods to adore, nor idols. Rather, these icons are no different than what God instructed Moses to "accompany" the Ark of the Covenant which were the images of 2 cherubim:
    Exodus 25:17-22
    "You shall then make a propitiatory of pure gold, two cubits and a half long, and one and a half cubits wide. Make two cherubim of beaten gold for the two ends of the propitiatory, fastening them so that one cherub springs direct from each end. The cherubim shall have their wings spread out above, covering the propitiatory with them; they shall be turned toward each other, but their faces looking toward the propitiatory... There I will meet you and there, from above the propitiatory, between the two cherubim on the ark of the commandments, I will tell you all the commands..."
  3. Thus, other icons at our altars together with the icon of Jesus Christ our God, are not there to idolize. These icons serve as "representation" of "company of saints and angels" who stand with God just as what God instructed Moses to build together with the Ark of the Old Covenant.
  4. The Old Covenant was the 10 commandments of God and His Word to His people.
  5. Jesus Christ is the NEW Covenant (at the beginning was the Word and the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us).
  6. As there was the Ark of the OLD Covenant instructed to Moses by God to build, there is also the Ark of the NEW Covenant which was made by God Himself. You guess it right as to what/who is the Ark of the New Covenant. Mary, the Immaculate Conception.
  7. Thus, as God instructed for His Old Covenant be written and put on the image of stone tablets (icon), and as God instructed Moses that an Ark be built to hold the Old Covenant (another icon), and as God also told Moses to put images of cherubim together with the Ark, therefore, at the altars of Catholic churches and homes, we have maintained such tradition of keeping the icon of the Covenant (Jesus Christ) - the icons of Jesus, our Lord and God, accompanied by the icons of the Ark of the New Covenant (Mary) which is not for idolization (as people did not idolize the Ark of the Old Covenant but knew it was holy because the Covenant dwelt in it), and so we also have images and icons of saints and angels together with these, just as there were cherubim icons which were not treated as "gods" whatsoever.
  8. This whole "configuration" of the "New Covenant (Jesus) together with the Ark (Mary) and accompanied by icons of saints and angels" is the expanded variation to the "old setup" which was instructed by God to Moses to build. This whole setup completed the representation of the "Holy of holies" dwelling place of God. And really, as stated in Exodus, God actually dwelt upon that Holy of holies Dwelling Place where all these icons, the Ark, cherubim and other constructs were situated.
  9. Thus, "outsiders" looking in the Catholic altars in our churches and homes and finding all these many icons of Mary, saints and angels together with our only God's, the New Covenant, Jesus Christ should not miscontrue this whole configuration to be about idolatry.
  10. The only One Who is idolized at our altars is God. The rest of the accompanying images of Mary, saints and angels is similar to the setup of the "Holy of holies" Dwelling, where the Old Covenant was set inside the Ark, accompanied by images of angels/cherubim. And these other images are not idolized by Catholics whatsoever. Rather, they are there to provide the visual representation of God's Holy Altar where Mary, saints and angels gather together together with us here on earth, to adore our one and only one God.
  11. Definitely, therefore, the altars of the Catholic Church serve to provide an almost complete representation of God's "Holy of holies" where He dwells and where His angels and saints gather to adore Him. And that is something definitely NOT FROM EARTH but from heaven above and it is definitely different in other churches' where no such "Holy of holies" Dwelling Place of God is represented.
  12. And thus, there is no idolatry towards other gods being committed in Catholic churches by Catholics in keeping our "Holy of holies" intact. Just like angels and saints in heaven gather around God's tabernacle, so are the icons and images of Mary, saints and angels around at Catholic altars together with Christ's image. Not to be adored since we only adore Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God. Rather there for us, just as the Ark of the Old Covenant was there for the covenant and just as the images of the cherubim where put beside the Ark of the Covenant by Moses as instructed by God. Thus, completing the "Holy of holies" configuration for God's dwelling place.
  13. And so indeed, our Catholic churches are the temple of God, or as how Jesus Christ put it, "My Father's House".
  14. The Church follows "divine instructions" in building our altars just as Moses took God's instructions in building the Holy of holies. This is so because all of Catholic churches' altars are CONSECRATED to God and therefore are blessed. (Read Exodus 40 and related passages on consecrating altars, for insight on how HOLY our altars are.) They may be meager representations of God's altar and tabernacle in heaven but our Catholic altars are definitely holy representations nevertheless where Holy oblations/offerings can be set before our God because indeed He dwells upon them.
  15. Other Churches's church are empty and they could not even come close to becoming a holy dwelling place for God because they are not fit; there were no "divine instructions taken" just as how Moses was instructed by God to do for the Holy of holies. Holiness and divinity do not exist upon them and so they are missing very much the Holy Presence of God, together with His company of saints and angels.
  16. It is easy to make-believe and tell ourselves that God is with us through our fellowmen, but such belief would be man-made only and serves only for the purposes of comfort in our existence on earth. God's altar, like the Holy of holies are works of God and are GOD-MADE which no man can achieve or even try to make-believe because only God can make a place holy and worthy to be His dwelling place to provide for our eternal holiness. And our consecrated altars, with Christ's Real Presence (Eucharist) being there, with Christ's image (icon) being there, accompanied by Mary, saints and angel icons are holy places where we can serve and ADORE OUR ONLY God, just as how angels and saints gather in heaven above before His altar.
  17. With the existence of the holy Catholic churches' altars, no man need to imagine or tell himself or look for the feeling of "God is with me" because it is the truth and divine reality that God is here with us, right there in His "Holy of holies" dwelling place and the soonest we come to His altar to adore Him in the Most Blessed Sacrament, where His Real Presence rests, we become united with Mary, saints and angels in adoration of our one and only one God.

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ICONS



CCC 1160:
Christian iconography expresses in images the same Gospel message that Scripture communicates by words. Image and word illuminate each other:
We declare that we preserve intact all the written and unwritten traditions of the Church which have been entrusted to us. One of these traditions consists in the production of representational artwork, which accords with the history of the preaching of the Gospel. For it confirms that the incarnation of the Word of God was real and not imaginary, and to our benefit as well, for realities that illustrate each other undoubtedly reflect each other's meaning.
CCC 1161:
All the signs in the liturgical celebrations are related to Christ: as are sacred images of the holy Mother of God and of the saints as well. They truly signify Christ, who is glorified in them. They make manifest the "cloud of witness" who continue to participate in the salvation of the world and to whom we are united, above all in sacramental celebrations. Through their icons, it is man "in the image of God," finally transfigured "into His likeness", who is revealed to our faith. So too are the angels, who also are recapitulated in Christ:
Following the divinely inspired teaching of our holy Fathers and the tradition of the Catholic Church (for we know that this tradition comes from the Holy Spirit who dwells in her) we rightly define with full certainty and correctness that, like the figure of the precious and life-giving cross, venerable and holy images of our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ, our inviolate Lady, the holy Mother of God, and the venerated angels, all the saints and the just, whether painted or made of mosaic or another suitable material, are to be exhibited in the holy churches of God, on sacred vessels and vestments walls and panels, in houses and on streets.
CCC 1162:
"The beauty of the images moves me to contemplation, as a meadow delights the eyes and subtly infuses the soul with the glory of God." Similarly, the contemplation of sacred icons, united with meditation on the Word of God and the singing of liturgical hymns, enters into the harmony of the signs of celebration so that the mystery celebrated is imprinted in the heart's memory and is then expreseed in the new life of the faithful.

Commentary:
  • Icons of Jesus Christ, Who is the Incarnate Word, Who is the Incarnate God, are there for our veneration as we adore our one and only one God. They serve as reminders of the reality that God indeed became man and still kept His divinity for our adoration.
  • Icons of Mary, saints and angels, are there for our veneration but not for adoration because they are not representations of "other gods" but rather as those whom Jesus Christ redeemed and saved. Thus, being in the Catholic Church, just as our Creed says, we indeed believe in the "communion of saints" as accomplished by Christ as they are brought to heaven by Him. This reality and great accomplishment by Christ of being "saints", canonized by the Church as so, are reminded to us by their icons and representations, passed on from one generation to the next.
  • Thus, just as God required Moses to make the image of the cherubim to "accompany" the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of holies dwelling place, which proves the reality of the existence of angels, so do the icons of Mary and saints prove the existence of those who are redeemed and saved by Christ and so are now in heaven.
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    Relationship with Jesus Christ



    Someone might ask, "what is your relationship with Christ?" In the first place, the question should be, "do you have a relationship with Christ?" And for the even more curious about the Roman Catholic Church, "does a Catholic have a relationship with Christ?" and "what kind of relationship is it?"

    In general, I shall say, I have a relationship with Christ for being a member of the Roman Catholic Church which is His Mystical Body.
    Ephesians 1:19-23
    "...And He put all things beneath His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the CHURCH, which is HIS BODY, THE FULLNESS of the One who fills all things in every way."
    And indeed the Roman Catholic Church has the fullness and completeness of Jesus Christ who is the Head of this Church. And just as Jesus Christ is:
    John 14:6
    "...the Way and the Truth and the Life..."
    so does His Mystical Body, the Church, embody and follow His Way, Truth and Life.

    Thus, even though Jesus Christ ascended to heaven to be at His Father's right hand, He left us His Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, which is "ensouled" by the Holy Spirit as Christ promised He would send the Advocate upon the early Church.

    This "mystical" relationship with Christ through His Body, the Church is confirmed to be taken "personally" by Christ considering when Saul was persecuting the early Church:
    Acts 9:1-5
    "Now Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains. On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting ME?' He said, 'Who are you, sir?' The reply came, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting'..."
    Thus, whenever a Catholic is persecuted, or whenever the Roman Catholic Church (which embodies the Way, the Truth and Life of Christ) is being persecuted, Jesus Christ takes that to be direct personal persecution towards Himself; see how He stated "ME" when Saul was coming after His early Church disciples.

    Yes, I myself take it personally whenever the Roman Catholic Church is persecuted because I belong to this Church, the Mystical Body of Christ.

    Someone might say, "O, I go directly to Christ without any need of Church-belongingness attitude in my life".

    Then that is very opposite and even contradictory to what Christ founded for His Church to be ONE WHOLE (His Bride-to-be) community/family, to be one Body and one Faith, just as He and His Father are one.

    When we were baptized, the whole Church acted as witness. When a couple gets married, the priest and the Church act as witness. Every "act" we do which is comprised of the sign of God's grace coming down upon us is not without a witness in the Church because all of them are done within the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church.

    Christ's foundation for the Church was not ala-Cain's "to each, his own", and such "I am not my brother's keeper" attitude, which is almost individualistically self-centered and selfish.

    It is through the Church, where we belong, that we go about living the CHRISTian life as guided by her in her teachings which are from God because just as Christ obeyed His Father, the Roman Catholic Church obeys the commandment of God as she has been sustained by the Holy Spirit to do so ever since the beginning, then, now and forever.

    Thus, as a whole Church we obey Jesus Christ's simple request:
    John 15:5-10
    "I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit (good works), because without Me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit (good works) and become My disciples. As the Father loves Me, so I also love you. Remain in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love, just as I kept My Father's commandments and remain in His love."
    And the Church, as a whole, does fulfill the law because she is the Mystical Body of Christ, continuing His founded mission on earth - to bring people to God's fold. Besides the gift of obedience, belonging to the Roman Catholic Church adds to Christ's success in bringing the Truth, Light and Life to the world because the Church delivers the Whole of the Good News to all people.

    Thus, if you disobey and persecute the Church, you disobey and persecute none other than Jesus Christ Himself.

    If you obey and love the Church, you obey and love Jesus Christ, bearing great fruits along the way and continuing His mission together with all the members of the Church.

    Just as Christ obeyed His Father's will, so does the Church, His Mystical Body follows His Way and Life as she is guided by His Light.

    Therefore, to love and defend the Whole Church which is loved by God Himself - that is my relationship with Christ, as a person and as a Catholic.

    Rather than focusing on my own individual well-being, selfishly being concerned only of myself and wanting a personal relationship with Jesus only for my own sake, I instead look upon the whole of the Church and give my concern to the whole of her because the whole of her is the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ.

    Which one do you think is the attitude of the pope, bishops, priests and other servants in the Church? The former - which focuses on serving God through the whole Church? or the latter - which merely focuses on individual personal upliftment?

    The servants of God in the Church (pope, bishops, priests, religious nuns, etc.) are mostly, self-lessly concerned of the whole Church - to bring more people back to God; instead of their own individual, self-centered personal relationship with God. But of course, to accomplish love of Christ through His Mystical Body the Church, true faithful servants of God do their best to be righteous in God's eyes.

    And the Church provides for all the Truth in her teachings on how to be virtueous in God's eyes. Afterall, the Church knows how to keep herself as the righteous "Bride" to Jesus Christ.

    Thus, the more we obey Church teachings and apply them in our daily lives, the more we conform to the Mystical Body of Christ, just as Christ obeyed His Father's will.

    In the Old Testament, the "Old Church" (Israel/Israelites) disappointed God many times, yet God continued to love His Church - such great love that He send forth His only Son to suffer and die for His people.

    That's almost the whole of mankind - the community of Chosen Ones for God.

    That's what the Church is all about - to please and obey God; to serve and adore God; to bring His Good News to all people; to gather all His people back to His fold. And ever since the beginning, God has always wanted a Whole Church for Himself, not really just 1 or 2 individuals going to Him. Rather, a whole Church, plenty of Chosen Ones, united together, in communion (common-union) with one another, all obeying His will and way.

    Thus, I love the whole Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. The "Chosen Ones" and saved by Jesus Christ. I am grateful to God for bringing to us His only Son, the Redeemer of the mankind; He who founded the Roman Catholic Church.

    Is this what you have as relationship with Christ? Is it too much to bear for an individual? Did you expect such a relationship with Christ exists in a Catholic?

    Many people, and for that matter, many Catholics and other Christians have different types of relationship with Jesus Christ. I can not judge what is right or wrong, good or best, but I can discern that which is self-less from that which is individualistically selfish and self-centered.

    Inasmuch as I can, I try to "copy" Christ (as what the Church teaches us) and since Christ really loves His whole Church (His Bride-to-be; His Mystical Body; as He takes persecutions of her personally) so I must love her and continue to defend her even to the last drop of my sweat and blood, for the love of God and obedience of His commandments. And so Our Holy Mother Church in turn, may continue to love and take care of all of us, delivering to us God's gifts and graces through sacraments, prayers and teachings as how she serves God and obey His commandments so as not to disappoint God anymore.

    For indeed, Jesus Christ did no mistake in establishing this Church which has fulfilled and will continue to fulfill His Father's will on earth, "copying" Christ, being His Mystical Body, promulgating His Way, just as He fulfilled His Father's will, and His kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven... and His kingdom will have no end...

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    Mary, Rosary and Repetitive Prayers for Meditation



    Christ taught us well how to pray and before He gave the "Our Father" prayer to His disciples, He said in Matthew 6:7 - "In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him."

    Prayer is usually a form of communication. In communication, there is always a "message" to relay. Thus, prayer has 3 basic elements: communicate, message, reception/be heard. To pray is to communicate what is prayed for to the one prayed to as meant by the words in the prayer with the goal that the message is heard. This means, when we pray, there is that common and major direction of communication - from the one praying to the one prayed to - in the hope that God will hear what we are talking about. But, the most important element among the 3 is the "message". Otherwise, what is the point of praying if there is no clear message to be relayed and received by God?

    Therefore, it would really be valuable if we try to make some sense of what we want to communicate, from our heart and mind, at least on our part along the one direction from man to God. Then God clearly HEARS what we want to say from the heart.

    "To babble" is to utter nonsensical words which may not mean anything. It does not provide any valuable message to convey, thus lacking in the most important element of the 3 basic elements of a prayer. So Christ warned us against such paganistic ways. Like He said, it would be useless and senseless to babble if there is nothing communicated from man to God - no message to relay. In this case, it would be better to just let God do as He pleases and as He knows what's best for us because babbling will show we really do not mean to communicate anything from our direction to Him.

    Is repetition of the same message over and over babbling?

    Not if what's repeated is a valuable message that needs to be expressed and communicated. One great example, when Christ repeatedly prayed to His Father at the Garden of Gethsemane, just before He was arrested. Three times, Jesus Christ uttered the same message: (Matthew 26:39)"My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet, not as I will, but as You will."; (26:42)"My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without My drinking it, Your will be done!";(26:44)"He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again."

    Thus, the instruction of Jesus is clear with regards to praying properly and not following the paganistic way of babbling. A truthful, honest, sensical message must be conveyed from man to God and it is okey to repeat it over as necessary.

    The Rosary



    You might ask, is praying the rosary "babbling"?

    Metaphorically, the rosary is a lei of roses offered to Jesus Christ. That's one beautiful message of what we want to do - to offer a lei of roses to Jesus. No amount of words can topple such "an act".

    What about the words in the prayers? and the "Mysteries" we contemplate upon while going through all the 15 decades of the rosary? Even more comprehensive and substantial in content because the prayers used for the rosary convey meaningful, useful, valuable messages to God, angels, saints and Mary.