Tuesday, December 4, 2012

St. John of Damascus

Every day the newspaper has stories about the conflict in Syria.  Today the Church honors a native of Syria, St. John of Damascus also known as St. John Damascene.  He was born around the year 645 and worked as a treasury official for the Muslim caliph of Damascus.  In time he quit his job and migrated to Jerusalem where he became a monk in St. Sabbas Monastery.  He's important to us today because he defended the use of holy images at a time when many, known as iconoclasts, declared that it was blasphemous to make an image of Christ or the saints.  The following quote of his defending the use of images for prayer can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church #1159:

"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 unveiled."

When we pray with holy images we don't worship or venerate the material from which they were made but the reality they portray.  They are like windows that open our hearts and minds to the reality beyond them. 

Each of us, in turn, is called to be an image of Christ.  As members of the Body of Christ, we are to reveal him to the world.  With this in mind let's pray that Advent may help us get rid of anything that distorts the image of Christ in us.  And, on this feast of a native Syrian saint, let's pray for all the Syrian people but especially our Christian brothers and sisters who find themselves in an increasingly hostile environment. 

1 comment:

  1. "Each of us, in turn, is called to be an image of Christ." How true, and like the icon, we should not be worshiping ourselves --- something many people in today's Me-First culture fail to understand.

    I liked this counter description of a "person" I recently read: "According to (Edith) Stein, the human person is primordially a social being living in an I-Thou relationship, an embodied person-in-the-world who intrinsically shares her world with other persons. The essence of 'person' cannot be stripped of its particular sociological facts and still be that being. Hence, the essential characteristic of 'person' necessarily includes other persons." (From a paper by Michael F. Andrews, published in Quaestiones Disputatae, Fall 2012)

    I think Donne said it as "No man is an island."