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prayingserb
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« on: January 19, 2007, 10:21:14 AM »

It is a sin to worship images, but when/how is it obvious that we are worshipping an image, particullarly(sp?) an Icon/s. Why is it not worshipping when the icons of saints, crosses and other objects are kissed?

Excuse my ignorance, particullarly for not having the actual verse which states that worshipping images is a sin, but I would really like to understand this - thanks!
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« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2007, 10:47:03 AM »

It would be good methinks to state the difference between worship and reverence.  In Orthodoxy, many things are given reverence because of their/our connection to the Lord, or their role in helping us move towards Him.  For example, the hands of the clergy are kissed, as they are living Icons of the Lord and His Apostles and through their ministry they bestow the blessings of the Lord upon us.  The Icons are reverenced, as they participate in an unseen reality, giving us a glimpse of the heavenly life and through our understanding of them we gain knowledge of the Faith and of the Life and Works of Christ and His Friends (Apostles, Saints, et al.).

However, only the Lord is worshipped in Orthodoxy, and this is where the prohibition of worshipping images comes in.  Your specific reference would actually be the Ten Commandments, which charge us to hold no graven image - i.e. do not worship as a god anything created by man.  This dichotomy between worship and reverence can be seen in the various actions of the Church - the "bloodless sacrifice" (i.e. Communion) is only offered to God, not to anyone else, thus we only sacrifice to the Lord; incense is only offered "to Thee" referring to the Lord - and then it is used to sanctify the whole of creation through the processing and censing of the Church.  In the language of the Church, the word Worship is only used in reference to God, the Lord Christ, the Spirit, and the acts that they have done in this world (i.e. "We Worship thy Passion, O Christ").

More to the heart of your question, then - the act of kissing is a sign of respect and reverence - the same kiss that we give to our families and closest friends, to the hands of the clergy, to the Icons and Crosses of the faith... (Even the same kiss that Judas masqueraded to Jesus - a kiss of respect that was really a betrayal).  If someone uses their kiss as an act of worship, then they should definitely refrain from kissing anything in this world!!! But for the vast majority, this is not a problem.

I hope this is helpful... If it isn't, maybe someone more skilled in writing can come along and help you, as I'm not ususally the best candidate for this.
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« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2007, 01:35:14 AM »

Excellent reply Cleaveland!

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« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2007, 05:06:22 AM »

incense is only offered "to Thee" referring to the Lord - and then it is used to sanctify the whole of creation through the processing and censing of the Church. 

I understand that incense is also raised before icons and clerical figures...
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« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2007, 07:09:52 AM »

I really wish that the Church in America would print out copies of St John of Damascus' On the Divine Images to hand out freely to Protestants unsure about the use of icons. It would do even more good than cutsey pamphlets, and save the average missionary-minded Orthodox a lot of time explaining to Protestants how we really aren't idolaters.
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« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2007, 07:26:53 AM »

I really wish that the Church in America would print out copies of St John of Damascus' On the Divine Images
You are the Church in America. Wink
Why not look in to printing them yourself with the blessing of your priest?
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« Reply #6 on: January 20, 2007, 07:36:45 AM »

You are the Church in America. Wink
Why not look in to printing them yourself with the blessing of your priest?

No, I'm the Church in Finland and Romania. But over here there's no too much a call for an apologia for the use of icons.
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« Reply #7 on: January 20, 2007, 07:40:05 AM »

No, I'm the Church in Finland and Romania. But over here there's no too much a call for an apologia for the use of icons.
How about a Finnish/Romanian Mission to America then? Wink
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« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2007, 09:00:07 AM »

First of all, thank you for your replies! Secondly, I do not at all appreciate being labelled, meaning being called a protestant, which I do take offence to because no one knows where I stand in my beliefs accept God.

 it's still not making sence, I just haven't understood why we must kiss a cross and icons, candles etc. When I have done these things when I attend the local church, I just wonder to myself, how is this worshipping God? I know it's showing respect to the saint by kissing their Icon, but I just can't see it as anything more than kissing my monitor, because it has given me (visual) access to this site.

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« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2007, 09:20:37 AM »

I do not at all appreciate being labelled, meaning being called a protestant, which I do take offence to
Not only that, I think you were labelled American!

I just wonder to myself, how is this worshipping God? I know it's showing respect to the saint by kissing their Icon, but I just can't see it as anything more than kissing my monitor, because it has given me (visual) access to this site.
It's not worshipping God, it's venerating His Saints. When you lose your parents (as I have) little things become important, like photographs of them, and you begin to treat these objects with reverence and care because they are your link to someone you love that you cannot see anymore. We love Christ and His Saints, but we cannot see them either. But we do have their images. And just as the love I feel for my parents when I see their photograph prompts me to pray for their souls ( and therefore my love can still reach them), the same goes for Icons. The reverence and love we express is transferred to the one who is depicted.
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« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2007, 12:53:41 PM »


 it's still not making sence, I just haven't understood why we must kiss a cross and icons, candles etc. When I have done these things when I attend the local church, I just wonder to myself, how is this worshipping God? I know it's showing respect to the saint by kissing their Icon, but I just can't see it as anything more than kissing my monitor, because it has given me (visual) access to this site.

Your computer monitor, though it may have excellent picture quality, is not a window to heaven like the icons are.  Unless, of course, your monitor was built by monks giving themselves entirely over to prayer and fasting when building it!  Wink  Also, remember, that we are not kissing the wood or the paint (though in fact we are) but we are reverencing the image behind what is displayed, what St. Basil the Great calls the prototype.

If I may offer another analogy.  Let us suppose a person goes to prison, rightfully or wrongfully (It doesn't matter here) and is allowed visitors but only with a glass window in between.  People actually kiss that window, though symbolically, they are kissing the person from whom they are separated.  It is not because they like kissing windows but show their love and affection though it doesn't happen with a physical sensation.  The same with icons--our reverencing of the image is not reverencing the wood or paint but what is written (remember, icons are written not painted).  It shows that, because of our sinfulness, there is still a separation between us and those who have gone to their rest in the Lord.

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« Reply #11 on: January 20, 2007, 01:40:46 PM »

The same with icons--our reverencing of the image is not reverencing the wood or paint but what is written (remember, icons are written not painted).

This use of the term "written" for icons instead of painting is due only to Koine using the same term for both writing and the use of a brush, in secular portraiture first and later in Christian iconography. It is not a deliberate choice of phrasing designed for theological exposition.
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« Reply #12 on: January 20, 2007, 02:24:56 PM »

This use of the term "written" for icons instead of painting is due only to Koine using the same term for both writing and the use of a brush, in secular portraiture first and later in Christian iconography. It is not a deliberate choice of phrasing designed for theological exposition.

Agreed. Saying icons are "written" seems to me to be a case of Orthodox trying extra hard to sound different LOL.  Icons are painted.

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« Reply #13 on: January 21, 2007, 12:24:02 AM »

"and save the average missionary-minded Orthodox a lot of time explaining to Protestants how we really aren't idolaters."

CR - I think that, these days, it would only be hyper-Reformed (Calvinists) and Fundamentalists who would make that charge (may some charasmaniacs as well).

I don't think broad evangelicals, mainline protestants or emergent church people would make that charge. Many of them might be intrigued, especially the mainliners and the emergent. The problem is that they are selective and undiscerning: the mainline guy just may also have portrait of Martin Luther King or Dietrich Bonhoeffer (or John Coltrane!) and say they are saints to be venerated (and in God's eyes they may very well be, well, maybe not Coltrane; but neither the Western or Eastern Churches have canonized them). Worse still they may also include a Native American totem alongside an icon!

The emergent folk may actually "get" it to some degree, but they also want a good band at their worship service, along with a comfortable seat, great powerpoint presentation and good coffee!

The broad evangelical would probably be uncomfortable venerating an icon, but wouldn't pass judgment on us for doing so.
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« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2007, 02:04:54 AM »

I think this episode of Our Life in Christ does a good job of explaining why we do what we do and the rationale behind it.
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« Reply #15 on: January 21, 2007, 07:14:42 AM »

Thanks for the article, DavidBryan!

So i'm seeing this the way I have always seen it - kissing the cross and icons is purely to show deserved respect. So, what exactly is the verse saying, we must not worship ingraven images (without saying why kissing icons isn't that) ?

thanks!
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« Reply #16 on: January 21, 2007, 05:06:59 PM »

The word "worship" means to adore, venerate, revere and honour; and it is a word that was used and, to some extent is used to this day, in both secular and sacred situations. In the true meaning of the word, there are various modes of worship. In the religious sense, the highest mode of worship is adoration.

I have always found it interesting that American Orthodox go to great lengths to say that they don't worship Icons or the Mother of God. This little article I picked up on the net, might help explain that this is because American Orthodox continue to understand the word in a Protestant sense. Unfortunately, I can't find the url, but it is from an English Orthodox site.

It might help clarify some issues - it might not, but I, for one, am all for reclaiming my language from Protestant bondage.  Grin

"Worship"?

Christian communities formed in the Reformation rejected the worship of the Mother of God, of the saints and angels and of icons and relics. Indeed, the Reformation was accompanied in many places by a widespread outbreak of iconoclasm. Sculptures, paintings, relics all made their way to the flames. Sacred images which had been worshipped for centuries by devout Christians came to be seen as idols. They were not merely removed, they were treated as abominations, shattered, hacked in pieces, or burned. Not surprisingly, communities which resisted the Reformation often hid their sacred images, and restored them to use when the opportunity arose, as it did, for example, during the reign of Mary Tudor in England.

The Reformers deployed the same biblical texts to justify their destruction of images as the Eastern iconoclasts had done centuries before.

The Reformation rejection of worship of the Theotokos, the saints and angels, the icons and relics, had an odd consequence for the Protestant use of the English language. Since God was now for Protestants the sole object of Christian worship, the word "worship" gradually began to be treated as a synonym of "adore."

The English word "adoration" translates the Greek word "latreia" or the Latin "adoratio" or "adoratio latriae". Adoration is due to God and to God alone. But adoration is a mode of worship; one that springs from the acknowledgement of our absolute dependency on God and on our mere contingency as created beings.

The Reformation rejection of the cult of the saints and of their relics and of the sacred images left no other mode of worship in Protestant and Reformed communities. No distinction came to be made by Protestants between adoration and the other lesser, relative modes of worship, since none of them survived in their religious practice.

Nonetheless, the older, broader concept of worship still survived and survives. In England we call the mayor "your Worship," without any suggestion we are acknowledging her or him as the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. In the Anglican Marriage service the bride and bridegroom exchange rings with the vow, "with my body I thee worship,". *(Interestingly, these words have been removed from the Episcopalian Marriage ceremony. Which could explain why American English speakers have fallen into a more narrow usage of the word "worship" than the English. At least the English of the older generation.)

The pledge of allegiance made by a lord declared himself the monarch's "man of earthly worship." Neither monarch nor bride nor bridegroom was expected to interpret this as an act of adoration, of latreia. And whatever objections there may be to Christians joining Masonic lodges, it would be utter silliness to argue that reference to a senior officer of the Lodge as the "Worshipful Master" is idolatrous.

Roman Catholic communities in Great Britain both retained the pre-Reformation cult of the Blessed Virgin, the saints, their relics and the sacred images, and kept alive the older use of the word "worship" as the generic term of which adoration is the supreme mode, but not the only mode.

Worship has a variety of modes. All forms of worship have a cognitive aspect - a recognition that reverence and honour are due to the object of our worship by reason of its relation to God - as well as a practical aspect, the words, gestures and postures that represent the honour and reverence we pay to the object of our worship.

Adoration is the unique mode of worship offered to God alone. We adore none other. Adoration involves acknowledgement of God as Creator and Sustainer of all that is, as our ruler and shepherd and as the sole source of our salvation. It involves more than mere acknowledgement of the reality of our relation to the Almighty: adoration involves praise and thanksgiving, celebration and petition.

A unique degree of veneration and reverence is due to the Theotokos. We worship her as the Mother of God, as uniquely close to him and as sharing in the work of God in a unique way and to a unique degree. Whenever we think of her we are drawn to think of her Son. Worship of the Mother of God, far from being an obstacle to worship of God, places us before the Signpost that points the way to Him who is the way, the truth and the life. It is her unique relation to God as the Theotokos that makes her the worthy object of our worship. It is her relation to God as His creature that absolutely forbids us to adore her.

We worship the Mother of God, but we do not adore her.

We prostrate ourselves before the Theotokos in prayer, kiss her icon, offer incense, flowers and lights, celebrate festivals and sing offices in her honour, but we do not adore her, since she is no less a creature than are we. She shows us human nature as fully deified as is possible to us, but she remains a creature. We love, venerate, celebrate, reverence, honour and serve her; all modes of worship. But we do not adore her.

We worship the angels as beings above us in the order of nature, as servants and messengers of God and as our powerful protectors and helpers. Our worship begins from acknowledgement of what they are in relation to Him and in relation to us.

We worship the saints as members of our own human family who have truly "put on Christ," as icons of Christ, as exemplars of deified humanity. We worship them with profound reverence and respect.

We worship the saints and angels not for their own sake, but in virtue of their relationship to God.

We worship icons and relics not as painted wood, skilfully assembled chips of stone, and collections of ancient bones. Far from it. Even the wood of the Cross and the Life-Receiving Tomb are worshipped only because of their role in Christ's saving work. The images and the relics of the saints are worshipped as modes of their presence to us and ours to them. They are worshipped not for their own sake, but as a means of worshipping the person whose icon or relic each is, and that holy person in turn is worshipped because of her or his relationship to God.

All acts of worship draw us ultimately to the worship of God. We begin by venerating the icon of a saint, and are drawn eventually to the adoration of the God whose work the saint is, and in Whom the saint is glorified.

We revere and venerate a dead parent's photograph, we bring flowers to the grave. We treat the photographs of those we love with reverence and respect. We may place them in a special place, even put flowers before them. But the worship we offer the sacred images is rather different.


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« Reply #17 on: January 21, 2007, 08:25:10 PM »

Agreed. Saying icons are "written" seems to me to be a case of Orthodox trying extra hard to sound different LOL.  Icons are painted.

Anastasios,

We should ensure that we are speaking of icons differently than Western Christians.  To say they are painted--though I know full well the monks and nuns and others who create them are using brushes and paints rather than pen and paper--does not adequately convey what icons are.  It does not sufficiently differentiate icons from secular painting.  Another poster, Culver,  I believe, remarked that the Koine can be translated as to write or to paint.  That may be true, but we must also realize that in other langauges, like Russian, which had a huge iconography school, the verbs "to paint" and "to draw" refer clearly to secular work, not that of the sacred.  The same is true in Latin.  In the early 4th century, a regional synod met at Elvira, Spain and the Acta of that meeting call for a ban on picturas which are, of course, paintings.  But the bishops who met here were not against icons or images, but against the secularization of such images and the Latin term for secular images is pictura.  (A lot of historians misread the Acta of this local council). And that is why I prefer to use the term "written" to describe icons.

Also consider the thought that what is being written is the divine becoming incarnate.  We then read in the images, through prayer, just as prayer was used to create the icon, the meeting of the two natures.

Just my 2 cents!

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« Reply #18 on: January 21, 2007, 08:45:01 PM »

Anastasios,

We should ensure that we are speaking of icons differently than Western Christians.  To say they are painted--though I know full well the monks and nuns and others who create them are using brushes and paints rather than pen and paper--does not adequately convey what icons are.  It does not sufficiently differentiate icons from secular painting.  Another poster, Culver,  I believe, remarked that the Koine can be translated as to write or to paint.  That may be true, but we must also realize that in other langauges, like Russian, which had a huge iconography school, the verbs "to paint" and "to draw" refer clearly to secular work, not that of the sacred.  The same is true in Latin.  In the early 4th century, a regional synod met at Elvira, Spain and the Acta of that meeting call for a ban on picturas which are, of course, paintings.  But the bishops who met here were not against icons or images, but against the secularization of such images and the Latin term for secular images is pictura.  (A lot of historians misread the Acta of this local council). And that is why I prefer to use the term "written" to describe icons.

Also consider the thought that what is being written is the divine becoming incarnate.  We then read in the images, through prayer, just as prayer was used to create the icon, the meeting of the two natures.

Just my 2 cents!

Scamandrius

There is no doubt I believe that both the eastern as well as western iconographer would consider themselves not simply to be a painter but rather a writer. One merely needs to observe the last supper of leonardo davinci to be able to surmise as such...

Furthermore, it seems that the council of elvira here is expressing a form of early iconoclasm...
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« Reply #19 on: January 22, 2007, 07:38:11 AM »

Thank you Riddikulus for your wonderful help! I also thank everyone else who has posted!




We revere and venerate a dead parent's photograph, we bring flowers to the grave. We treat the photographs of those we love with reverence and respect. We may place them in a special place, even put flowers before them. But the worship we offer the sacred images is rather different.

This sentence, especially, helped me beyond words. You have put it in a way that any one can understand, and will (hopefully) accept!
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« Reply #20 on: January 22, 2007, 10:20:00 AM »

Furthermore, it seems that the council of elvira here is expressing a form of early iconoclasm...

As I said, I think a lot of historians, both art and church, misread the Acta of this council.  The ban on picturas is to convey a ban on secular images within the church and not those related to the Church.  One should also realize that a great majority of the images made at this time, as indicated in the catacombs since the Church was still largely an underground music, were abstract in concept--the use of the fish or lamb for Christ for examples.  I think the bishops were trying to urge a new direction actually depicting the saints and Christ in a medium all their own.

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« Reply #21 on: January 22, 2007, 10:26:01 AM »

We don't say that it's wrong to say we write a theological treatise because you can also write a novel.  As such, you can paint an image or paint an icon.  Saying you write an icon is merely taking another language's features and trying to force it on English to create a theology out of a word distinction that doesn't exist.

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« Reply #22 on: January 22, 2007, 04:43:13 PM »

Thank you Riddikulus for your wonderful help! I also thank everyone else who has posted!

This sentence, especially, helped me beyond words. You have put it in a way that any one can understand, and will (hopefully) accept!

Glad to be of some help.  Grin

Also, I think it might be helpful to remember that it's important that you understand your intentions. If others misunderstand, it's really their problem.

I don't mean to seem indifferent, but from my own perspective, I honestly don't feel the need to explain my actions to others. If people don't understand that the worship (veneration) I offer to icons is different than the worship (adoration) I offer to God, I'll explain it to them, but refuse to get into any arguments over it. 

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« Reply #23 on: January 22, 2007, 05:21:33 PM »


Also, I think it might be helpful to remember that it's important that you understand your intentions. If others misunderstand, it's really their problem.

 

My parents don't understand the distinction either and they were horrified that I would dare use them in prayer.  fortunately, we've not said anything to each other we'd regret later because of the issue.

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« Reply #24 on: January 22, 2007, 08:35:15 PM »

My parents don't understand the distinction either and they were horrified that I would dare use them in prayer.  fortunately, we've not said anything to each other we'd regret later because of the issue.

Scamandrius

It is hard for Protestants to differentiate between this and idol worship. As an Anglican, I never made the connection that Catholics or Orthodox were practicing idol worship. Because, I suppose, I always looked at the intention and the ultimate object of worship. Might have been helpful that I don't have a Calvinist bone in my body!  Grin
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« Reply #25 on: January 27, 2007, 10:16:21 PM »

The reverence showed to an Icon passes to the subject matter.  IOW., bowing before the Icon of the Mother of God is morally the same as bowing before the Mother of God were She to be literally standing before us, "in the flesh."

In some ways, the Church's formula with regard to the doctrine of Icons is as close as She comes to committing to what the world may identify as a "metaphysics" of the universe.  It's not really a stretch though, especially if one considers just how humans conceptualize in the first place.  When we desire to approach someone, this is always mediated by our conception of them - even when we literally see them with our human eyes, what gets "portrayed in the mind" is a phantasm, a mental event which reassembles the information received by the eye.  This process of "reassembly" is conditioned not only by biological constraints (for example, we can only see a certain narrow spectrum of light - this is not true of all creatures, meaning that we do not see all that is possible with our human eyes), but also mental and spiritual ones.  For example, my appraisal of someone is going to be heavily conditioned not only by what I see of them and their behaviour, but what trusted people have told me about them as well.  Culture in general can do this as well, for better or for worse (that is to say, a culture can form us in accord with truth, or it can obscure it...ex. racist ideas.)

With all of this in mind, we can see the Icon has an intimate connection with what it portrays - there is a unity between the two, especially subjective to how human cognition works.  In some ways, it could be argued the Icon gives an even purer, more direct perspective on the Saint or sacred event (in the case of festal Icons, for example) than depicted than directly "first hand" witness of either necessarily would, since all that the Icon portrays is how those sacred persons and things ought to be seen.  That is to say, the Icon could be said to be a kind of semi-abstract art, conveying more than the superficial, but meaning and feeling.

This is why I've read it said that far from being a compromise with idolatry, Holy Icons are in fact a guardian against idolatry - that is to say, idolatry rightly understood.  What the Scriptures proscribes is heresy - whether it be those deviations about what men say of God and His Economy (both of creation and salvation) which spring directly from the Church (or as "schisms from schisms", like Protestantism from Roman Catholicism), or if those heresies are deviations away from the primitive "natural religion" of Adam or the later Patriarchs (like Noah and his three sons.)  Images which point to falsehood (the divinity of the celestial elements or the forces of nature, or poetical ideals, along with the subsequent debased myths) are prohibited, not those which point to the truth.  It's the difference between kissing an Icon of Christ, and kissing a picture of the devil (or some pagan god, which as far as the Fathers were concerned, amounted to the same thing.)

Thus, the Icon points not simply to Christ, but a correct understanding of Christ.  While there were many who saw Christ before His Passion, Death, and Resurrection, they (for various reasons) did not come away thinking the same thing about Him.  An Icon does not allow for this possibility - it "tells it like it is", without the ambiguity life sometimes allows for.  With this sort of concrete theology (theology in colour and line!) before us, how can we not show reverence?

The only thing like this which the Church has which surpasses this level of communication (between the Divine and the corporeal) are the chief sacraments, though in the broad understanding, Icons certainly are "sacraments" or "holy mysteries."  The summit of this would be the Eucharist, where the "images" of Christ not only point to a certain reality, but the objects in question essentially become that reality (thus requiring a kind of reverence which if shown to any Icon would cross a line into idolatry/falsehood - since the paint and wood of the Icon ARE not the subjects they portray, whereas the bread and wine do become the Body and Blood of Christ.)
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