Veneration versus Idolatry

A letter from Tony Meehan (Southern Cross August 17) highlights an important distinction between anamnesis and the idolatrous and sometimes hedonistic beliefs of paganism. He is right when he says that statues, crucifixes, relics and the like are material things, which unto themselves are nothing, incapable of the “magic” so often attached to them in idolatry! It is the memory or deep down recollection of truths which makes veneration so important, not the object itself; for if the focal point of veneration were the object itself, then that act of veneration would indeed be idolatrous.

In a recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land, following the steps of our Lord, there were many places where we stopped, letting the memories related to that place flood in! At times those memories became so emotional, they evoked unavoidable tactile responses. For me, perhaps the most emotional place was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on the apex of Golgotha; I kissed and touched the piece of rock beneath the alter – I was overcome with the memories and emotions of God’s revelation. Was I practising idolatry – no; did that piece of stone evoke memories, images and love – it most certainly did and thus the veneration! The recollection of the actions that occurred on that ‘holy hill’, who was there and what the actions on that fateful day meant – that was the focal point of my veneration!

Of course, the intentions of the individual are not always plain for us to see and, as individual members of the Body of Christ, it behoves us to behave and think in a manner which is not idolatrous. We need to examine ourselves and ensure that our veneration of something is just that – veneration!

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About Anthony

I am a married Catholic who is interested in Theology, History, Philosophy and the search for truth. I also have a penchant for photography.
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