St John of Damascus: What Kind of Images Are the Sounding Heralds in Your Home?

Feast of St Daniel the Stylite

John_Damascene_Square_3.jpegI SAY THAT everywhere we use our senses to produce an image of the Incarnate God Himself, and we sanctify the first of the senses (sight being the first of the senses), just as by words hearing is sanctified. For the image is a memorial. What the book does for those who understand letters, the image does for the illiterate; the word appeals to hearing, the image appeals to sight; it conveys understanding. Therefore God ordered that the ark should be made of acacia wood and gilded within and without, and that the tablets, the rod, the golden jar containing manna should be placed in it as a memorial of what had happened and to prefigure what was to come. And who will say that these images are not loudly sounding heralds? And these were not placed at the side of the tabernacle, but right in front of the people, so that those who saw them might offer veneration and worship to God who had worked through them. It is clear that they were not worshipping them, but being led by them to recall the wonders, they were offering veneration to God who had worked marvels. For images were set up as memorials, and were honored, not as gods, but as leading to a recollection of divine activities.

And God ordered twelve stones to be taken from the Jordan, and He gave the reason; for He said, “so that, when your son asks you, what are these stones? You shall relate how the water of the Jordan failed at the divine command, and the ark of the Lord and all the people passed over” (cf. Joshua 4:6-7). How therefore shall we not depict in images what Christ our God endured for our salvation and His miracles, so that, when my son asks me, what is this? I shall say that God the Word became human and through Him not only did Israel cross over the Jordan, but our whole nature was restored to ancient blessedness, through which that nature has ascended from the lowest parts of the earth beyond every principality and is seated on the very throne of the Father.

~St John of Damascus, On the Divine Images, Treatise 1


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