Thursday, February 25, 2016

Types of Veneration

Icons are an integral part of Orthodoxy. However, it is not only restricted within the boundaries of the Orthodox Tradition. It is a Christian reality and tradition since the first centuries of the Church, as we can see in the catacombs and in various ancient church buildings. Nevertheless, how do we act towards an icon? How do we venerate an icon? Being Orthodox, we learn about this from a very young age. For other Christians, however, this is not a given. St John of Damascus, when defending the divine images, he explains the various types of veneration that we show and practice towards icons, stating:

‘The first kind of veneration is that of worship, which we offer to God, who is alone venerable by nature, and this itself has several forms. The first is that of service; for all creatures venerate him, as servants do their master, for “all things,” it says, “are you servants,” some voluntarily, some involuntarily. Those who worship him voluntarily with knowledge are the pious, those who acknowledge him and involuntarily worship against their will are the demons; others who do not know the one who is God by nature worship involuntarily him of whom they are ignorant.
The second kind [of worship] is that of wonder and desire, in accordance with which we venerate God because of his natural glory. For he is alone to be glorified who does not receive glory from any other, but is himself the source of all glory and the incomprehensible light of all goodness, incomparable sweetness, irresistible beauty, abyss of goodness, wisdom past finding out, infinite power, alone worthy to be wondered at, venerated, glorified and desired.
The third kind [of worship] is that of thanksgiving for the good things that have befallen us; for all beings need to thank God and to offer him everlasting veneration, because all things have their being from him, and subsist in him, and without envy he distributes his own gifts to all without being asked, and he will all to be saved and participate in his own goodness, and he is long-suffering with us when we sin, and causes the sun to rise on the just and the unjust, and makes it rain on the wicked and the good, and because the Son of God for our sake became as we are and made us sharers of the divine nature, that “we might be like him,” as John the Theologian says in the catholic epistle.
The fourth kind [of worship] springs from our neediness and hope in his kindnesses, so that accordingly we recognise that, as we cannot do or have anything good without him, each of us venerates him, begging him for that of which we feel the need and which we desire, to be saved from evils and obtain good things.
The fifth kind [of worship] is that of repentance and confession; for when we have sinned we venerate God and fall down before him, begging him to forgive our failings as prudent servants. And this kind [of worship] is threefold: for someone may grieve out of love, or because he may not obtain God’s kindnesses, or in fear of punishment. The first arises from prudence and his desire for God and a filial disposition, the second is that of a hireling, the third that of a slave.’[1]

[1] St John of Damascus, On the Divine Images, Treatise III, 28-32.

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