Lesson: How Do We Love God? (Day 30)
For the last four days (Days 27-29 in this series), we have discussed how the “supposed images” of Christ came about, and why the “supposed images” of Christ are not the real pictures of Christ. This happens because there was no human portrait of Christ from the first century, and the Jews themselves condemned the use of images (Exodus 20:4-6). The Gospels do not tell us how Jesus Christ looked like, but Isaiah 53:2 tells us that Christ has no beauty that can catch our eye. Christ came by emptying Himself of His being God and appeared as a servant obedient to death (Philippians 2:5-8).
But how about the image of Sto. Niño, is it considered an idol? Please allow me to share an article from THE FREEMAN titled “The Sinulog of our love” written by Ambrosio Jamero Galindez, OSA, that appeared last Sunday, January 5, 1992, page 11. The author of that article, an Augustinian, introduced the Dinagyang to Iloilo while he was still the parish priest of San Jose Parish. An excerpt of his article is as follows:
“When the first Catholic missionaries presented the Images of the Sto. Niño to the natives, the latter leapt with joy and dance their best in front of the new-found idol … We pray homage not so much to the idol, but to the One True God depicted by the idol.”
So according to that priest, the images of Sto. Niño are idols. But God puts the prohibition against idols in the second commandment of the Ten Commandments. In Exodus 20:4-6 (NABRE) we can read, “You shall not make for yourself an idol or a likeness of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or serve them. For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their ancestors’ wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation; but showing love down to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.” So clearly we are not allowed to keep the images of Sto. Niño.
Let us examine carefully the case. If the images of Sto. Niño depict the Child Jesus Christ, then the following must be true:
1. He must have worn a gold crown on His head when He was a child. There is no record that He wore one when He was a child. He wore a crown when He was already old, but it was not a crown of gold but a crown of thorns (Matthew 27:29).
2. He must have held a scepter in His hand when He was a child. But He did not have one when He was a child. When He was old, He was given one. It was not a scepter of gold but of reed (Matthew 27:29).
3. He must have worn a crucifix hanging from His neck when He was a child. But He did not wear one when He was a child. Even when He was already old, He never wore a crucifix. He bore a heavy cross, where Simon, a Cyrenian, was asked to help Him carry that cross (Luke 23:26).
4. He must have held a globe in His hand when He was a child. But He never held one.
Based on the above points, can we honestly say that the images of Sto. Niño truly depict the Child Jesus? There is no way for us to say that it really does. So I hope we open our eyes to the truth that can set us free (John 8:32) and just simply believe and follow the words of God so that His wrath will not be poured out on us (Romans 1:18-21).
Lesson: How Do We Love God? (Day 29)
Let us continue our study on the “supposed image” of Christ. Yesterday, we learned that Isaiah prophesied about Jesus’ physical appearance. Isaiah tells us that Christ had NO MAJESTIC bearing to catch our eye, NO BEAUTY to draw us to Him (Isaiah 53:2). This means Christ did not appear as a handsome or extraordinary guy. He was an ordinary person and did not look like a celebrity. Today let us study further the origin of the “supposed image” of Christ. Please read the following quotation from the Catholic book titled “Jesus and You – Discovering the Real Christ” by James Finley and Michael Pennock with Imprimatur issued by Most. Rev. James A. Hickey, S.T.D., Bishop of Cleveland. In my reprinted copy, page 54 under the heading “WHAT DID HE LOOK LIKE?,” we can read:
“In competition with the description of Jesus as ugly was a description which emphasized his divine nature. Thus, divinity and beauty were held to be qualities that went hand in hand … Advocates of the position that Jesus was extremely handsome included doctors of the Church like John Chrysostom, Ambrose, Augustine and Jerome who cited the following scriptural passage to argue against those who used Second Isaiah: Fairer in beauty are you than the sons of men; Grace is poured upon your lips; Thus God has blessed you forever. – Psalm 45:2”
This description is about the beauty of Jesus as God. There is no question as to beauty of God. In fact, the cited verse Psalm 45:2 tells us that Christ is fairer in beauty than the sons of men. So if He is fairer in beauty than the sons of men, why represent Him as a handsome man, when in fact, we cannot represent Him in any form because He exceeds in beauty than the sons of men?
Who is being portrayed in the “supposed image” of Christ, especially in the crucifix? Is it Jesus as God or Jesus as a Man. If it is Jesus as God, then we are telling the world that our God dies on the cross. But who died on the cross? It was Jesus as a Man. In Philippians 2:5-8 we can read, “Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” So it is clear that Jesus emptied His being God and came in human likeness or appearance and was obedient to death. He appeared as a Man not as God and died as a man not as God because God cannot die. So the “supposed image” of Christ still does not portray the real Jesus who died on the cross.
Some may argue that if you have seen Jesus, then you have seen the Father. In John 14:5-8 we can read, “Philip said to him, ‘Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.’” Does this mean the physical appearance or something else? This does not speak of His physical appearance rather it speaks about the works of the Father through Christ.
If by seeing Christ’s appearance we have seen the Father’s appearance, then we are contradicting what Jesus taught in the Bible. In John 6:46 we can read, “Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.” So this clearly tells us that only Christ has seen the Father’s appearance. So Christ clearly appeared as a Man, not as God (Philippians 2:5-8). Otherwise we have seen the appearance of the Father through the appearance of Christ.
Lesson: How Do We Love God? (Day 28)
Let us continue our study on the “supposed image” of Christ. Yesterday, we learned that the creation of the “supposed image” of Christ was a hot issue for the first five centuries, and the “supposed image” of Christ came from the artists’ imagination. We also learned that the Gospels does not tell us of Christ’s physical appearance, and that we do not have a painting of Christ’s image from the first century because the Jews condemned the use of graven images. So what did Jesus look like?
Isaiah 53 is the so-called messianic prophecy because it contains the prophecy about Jesus Christ. Before we read the verse that describes the physical appearance of Christ, let us first be convinced that it is true that Isaiah 53 is about Christ. In Acts 8:32-33 we can read, “This was the scripture passage he was reading: ‘Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opened not his mouth. In (his) humiliation justice was denied him. Who will tell of his posterity? For his life is taken from the earth.’” This text is found in Isaiah 53:7-8. In Acts 8:34-35 we can read, “Then the eunuch said to Philip in reply, ‘I beg you, about whom is the prophet saying this? About himself, or about someone else?’ Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this scripture passage, he proclaimed Jesus to him.” So Isaiah 53 prophesied about Jesus. Just read Isaiah 53 for yourselves and see how this chapter exactly describes Jesus Christ.
Since we have established that Isaiah 53 describes about Christ, then we can now check how did Jesus Christ look like when He came to earth. In Isaiah 53:1-2 we can read, “Who would believe what we have heard? To whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up like a sapling before him, like a shoot from the parched earth; He had no majestic bearing to catch our eye, no beauty to draw us to him.” If you don’t believe in His description as prophesied by Isaiah, then you are hit by verse 1 already. Verse 2 describes Jesus’ physical appearance. He looked like a shoot that sprouted in a parched land. I hope you can imagine the difference between a shoot sprouting from a parched land and one sprouting from a well-watered soil.
What did Isaiah mean by saying “like a shoot from the parched land?” Well, Isaiah simply tells us that He had NO MAJESTIC bearing to catch our eye, NO BEAUTY to draw us to Him. Simply put, Christ did not appear as a handsome or extraordinary guy. He was an ordinary person and did not look like a celebrity. This could probably the reason for Judas kissing Him during His arrest in the garden (Matthew 26:47-50). Judas wanted to make sure that those who would arrest Christ would not arrest the wrong person.
Now we know from the Scriptures that Jesus Christ did not appear as a handsome guy. But how come all “supposed images” of Christ portray Jesus Christ as a handsome guy? It is because His “supposed images” came from the artists’ imagination. Refer to Days 26 and 27 of this series for further details. So let us open our eyes to the truth that can set us free (John 8:32). Let us not justify our idolatrous practices so that we will not become fools in the eyes of God (Romans 1:22-28).
Lesson: How Do We Love God? (Day 26)
Starting today we will discuss some common arguments in favor of carving, bowing down, or serving idols. This act is strictly prohibited by God over and over again in the Bible and is the second commandment of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 4-6). In my Day 23 posting, I have shown that God DOES NOT ALLOW us to revere and worship the creatures, only the Creator (Romans 1:25). I have also cited a common argument in favor of the use of images, wherein people argue that it is not the image that they worship but the one being represented by the image.
So every time a person bows down or serves an image, he/she is bowing down or worshiping the one being represented by the image and not the image itself. But this argument is not acceptable before God because the beings represented by the images are creatures like Mary, Peter, Buddha, etc. I have also mentioned that many images found inside the church buildings are images of mortal man, that is, all of them represent creatures, except the “supposed image” of Christ because this one SUPPOSEDLY represents the Creator, Jesus Christ.
But why consider such an image as the “supposed image” of Christ? It is because nobody was able to photograph Jesus Christ during His time. I hope we are sane enough to understand that there was no camera at that time. The supposed image of Christ was based on speculation. If you are in doubt and disagree with me, please read the following quotation from the Catholic book titled “Jesus and You – Discovering the Real Christ” by James Finley and Michael Pennock with Imprimatur issued by Most Rev. James A. Hickey, S.T.D., Bishop of Cleveland. In my reprinted copy, page 54 under the heading “WHAT DID HE LOOK LIKE?,” we can read:
“Certainly, Christians through the ages have speculated on our Lord’s earthly image. The earliest descriptions of Jesus come from legend and have no basis in reality… Early Christians began understanding Jesus in terms of the Suffering Servant. As a result, Church fathers like Origen, Clement of Alexandria and Irenaeus characterized Jesus as a small in stature, ill-favored and insignificant. They claimed he was without beauty, had a humble and mean appearance, and looked like a slave.”
So this quotation tells us that the image portraying Christ is just based on human imagination or speculation, which is also prohibited in Acts 17:29. Please read my Day 20 posting uploaded last February 15, 2013. We’ll have more discussions on this matter in the coming days, Lord willing.