It had been some period of time since either Steve or Josh had stopped by my cube. The reader may recall ( or may have to search my earlier articles ) that Steve and Josh were acquaintances from work. Josh had stopped by from time to time to ask about my catholic faith, and then it appeared Steve joined in to help protect Josh from “those Catholic types“.
Josh poked his head around the corner and asked, “You got time for some coffee?”
My response was something akin to the fact that there is always time for coffee. As I pushed myself back from the desk, I prayed to myself what has become my favorite prayer. “Lord, take me where you want me to go; Let me meet who you want me to meet; Tell me what you want me to say, and Keep me out of your way.” That prayer was coined by Mychal Judge, O.F.M. who was the first certified fatality of 9/11.
When I came out of the cube farm and saw that Steve was to join us, I knew why I had prayed the prayer. Steve was never hostile to me, nor did he go out of his way to put my faith in a bad light in front of Josh, but it was easy to tell his mission in life was to prevent anyone from taking Catholicism at all seriously.
We got our coffee and found a nearly clean table nearby. We sat chatted for a few moments about what was new in our work lives, and then Steve asked, I am paraphrasing a bit here to make up for my now failing memory, “You guys have statues, and icons and painting all over the place in your churches right? So you guys worship statues, right? How can you do that when the Bible clearly says that no one should make graven images?”
A sip of coffee, a deep breath, and I began…
I reminded Steve that I had stopped at his cube a couple of times and commented on the picture on his desk of Christ Knocking at The Door. He indicated that he recalled that, so I continued. I asked if the Bible had changed at all since the time God the Father gave the Ten Commandments to Moses to the time when John had written Revelation 3:20.
He indicated that the Bible had not changed, could not change and will be the same into eternity.
My question then was along the lines that wouldn’t the image of Jesus at the door be essentially a graven image as well, and wasn’t Steve rather much worshiping it by having it at his desk?
I mentioned to Josh that he had a picture of his parents with his bride from their wedding day on his desk, and asked why he did that?
Josh indicated that his Mom had passed a couple of years ago and that was his way of remembering her and the happier times.
They were a little surprised when I told them that Catholic churches use statues, paintings, etc for the same purpose. We do not worship the statues as there is only one Supreme Being worthy of worship in any of His forms as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit but that we used the images as reminders of the friends who have gone before us. When we have a statue of St. Joseph in front of a church called St Joseph the Worker Catholic Church, it is to remember his life and his devotion and dedication to his family, not to worship the statue.
Much the same as a statue in a town park of a local hero is not for us to worship him or her, but to remember their actions, their lives, and their gifts.
I then asked if there were familiar with the rest of the book of Exodus. They responded that they were.
We agree that in the Ten Commandments, the Father told Moses and subsequently us that were we not to bow or serve graven images. But, I asked, did they recall the part where the specifications for the Ark of the Covenant were given? Didn’t the Father tell Moses to have angels cast at each end of the Ark with their wings extended?
There are other areas in the Bible where instructions were given for the creation of images to be used during worship, not as objects of worship.
Steve snapped back, “Can’t be. Where?”
I replied that during the Exodus, when God had sent a plague of serpents, he told Moses to cast a bronze serpent and if the Israelites looked at it, they would be cured. He didn’t tell them to pray to it, or worship it, or dance around it, just look at it and use it.
Even Ezekiel had an image of angels carved into the temple wall during one of his dream sequences. I asked them if they had seen that passage? They responded they had but had not considered the examples I had given them when they were thinking about Catholics and the use of statuary.
I closed by reminding them that God forbids the worship of images as gods, but he doesn’t ban the making of images. If he had, the movie “The Ten Commandments” could not be allowed, the film the “Passion of the Christ” would have had to be banned, photographs, paintings, such as the one on Steve’s desk, would be all be forbidden. God does forbid the use of graven images as the object of our worship, but He allows us to use these images in our worship of Him.
Josh spoke, “Thanks for the clarification, now let’s get a refill for the long walk back to the cube farm.”