St. John Damascene on Holy Images


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Ellyn von Huben

Not only once educational for the illiterate, they are still a vehicle for making an invisible presence visible to humanity. Icons bring us theological truths through visual art in the same way theologians bring us truth with words. This time of year, when we are trying to wait, in the Advent of our hearts, we are surrounded by a visual onslaught. This sensory overload threatens to encroach upon the peaceful territory in which we try to wait. Some of this barrage can border on the uplifting; for example, moments spent flipping through the Metropolitan Museum of Art Christmas catalog.

Most is just an assault on the aesthetic and spiritual senses.

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More and brighter holiday lights, bigger inflatable lawn displays, crazier nativity scenes: John Damascene and his gift to the Church. The visual world is essential to us and most certainly can act as a conduit for the Gospel. Image and word illuminate each other. They give us the opportunity for devotion with and beyond words.

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Whether we are contemplating the iconography of particular saints or Gospel narratives, they always point us in the right direction. Christ is at the center. There cannot be a better way to focus our hearts during Advent than to free ourselves of the surrounding noise — aural and visual — and connect with the sacred through icons. Ellyn von Huben is a native of Wisconsin, and has never lived more than five miles from the shores of Lake Michigan.

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St. John of Damascene on Holy Images (Followed by Three Sermons on the Assumption)

Whether one was a Jew, a Roman mercenary and soldier, tax collector, a Samaritan, a friend or enemy, they were all the same to Jesus. We often hear people criticize others for being a friend to someone considered an enemy or to someone who belonged to another camp. Still some exhort that we should stay away from sinners as we might turn out be like them someday.

It is so natural to see that when one is different and is not one among us, we tend to shy away from them and keep distance from them. We discriminate and minister only to those whom we have found acceptable and live up to the standards of friend and ally. We cannot go past beyond this that we effectively cling only to those of our kind. We forget that Jesus came for ALL of us. He died to save the self-righteous and the sinner.

Man like it that way: But Jesus is asking us to look beyond party affiliations and the like, to go beyond divisions and schools of thought.


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He wants us to love those who are not one with us, love and care those who hate us and put us down. Jesus wants us to be good to everyone, even to those who lord it over us and dictate on us. Jesus wants something beyond the regular and ordinary. He wants us to sincerely love one another and reach out to all and forget all differences. It enables one to hold the hands of someone who may have failed in his walk. In his love for Christ, he draws his neighbor closer to God instead of judging and condemning him as a poor witness and disciple of our Lord.

Heavenly Father, help me to be open to all men and to love and serve even those who have hurt me. In Jesus, I pray. The first weekday of Advent presents us with a vision of a united world. When everyone goes to the same God of Jacob, God will take away the reasons for war and people can spend their energies on building rather than on destroying.

In the gospel Mt 8: Jesus, like Isaiah, predicts that foreigners will find answers at the feet of the God of the Jewish people. They might take solace in the fact that this is all a dream. He knew the power of his words, his integrity, his goodness and what he was doing in the lives of other people. His authority came from who he was, not from who he said he was. The centurion already knows Jesus can accomplish great things. Christian brothers and sisters span the globe from all nations and peoples.

John of Damascus for Icons | Christian History Institute

What a voice we have! Our voices challenge our governments to be better than what they are. Come to that mountain this Advent. Anthony Messenger Press, December 1, Jesus used many images or pictures to convey what the kingdom of God is like. Jesus promised that everyone who believed in him would come and feast at the heavenly banquet table of his Father. The power to command with trust and respect Why did Jesus not only warmly receive a Roman centurion but praise him as a model of faith and confidence in God?

In the Roman world the position of centurion was very important. He was an officer in charge of a hundred soldiers.


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  • In a certain sense, he was the backbone of the Roman army, the cement which held the army together. Polybius, an ancient writer, describes what a centurion should be: He risked the ridicule of his cronies as well as mockery from the Jews by seeking help from a traveling preacher from Galilee. Nonetheless, the centurion approached Jesus with great confidence and humility.

    He was an extraordinary man because he loved his slave. In the Roman world slaves were treated like animals — something to be used for work and pleasure and for bartering and trade. This centurion was a man of great compassion and extraordinary faith. He wanted Jesus to heal his beloved slave. Jesus commends him for his faith and immediately grants him his request. Are you willing to suffer ridicule in the practice of your faith?

    And when you need help, do you approach the Lord Jesus with expectant faith? Jesus fulfills this prophecy first by restoring both Jew and Gentile to friendship with God through the victory he won for us on the cross. When he comes again he will fully establish his universal rule of peace and righteousness moral goodness and unite all things in himself Ephesians 1: His promise extends to all generations who believe in him that we, too, might feast at the heavenly banquet table with the patriarchs of the Old Covenant Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who believed but did not yet see the promised Messiah.

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    The season of Advent reminds us that the Lord Jesus wants us to actively seek him and the coming of his kingdom in our lives. The Lord will surely reward those who seek his will for their lives. May I never lose hope in your promises nor lag in zeal for your kingdom of righteousness and peace. This Advent, the Good News Reflections are focusing on the four gifts from God that are represented by the four candles on our Advent wreaths: Jesus is the Light of the World, represented by the candlelight that grows brighter as we get closer to Christmas. Jesus commissioned us to share the gifts of God by spreading his light.

    We become light so that when others observe us, they see Jesus. Together, connected to each other in Christian community, we become a string of lights like the ones that will decorate our Christmas trees. This is the source of our hope in a dark and anxious world. Gaps on the string are quite noticeable. How bright is your own light? December is such a busy, hectic month! Be sure to slow down and take time for yourself and your spiritual needs. Think of Jesus as the one who turns on the electricity to make our lights glow.

    We need nothing more than his say-so. The sun goes down, your home gets dark, and your world be-comes bleak. Now everything you see is awash in brightness and color. What had seemed lifeless has been converted into delightful beauty. First, you supply the electricity: You make your soul available to Jesus. What do you need him to do in you? When your decorations are up and night-time falls, flip the Christmas lights on and off and on and off. Enjoy how easy it is to change the way your little world looks.

    Terry Modica, Good News Ministries. We shine with his light. When others observe us, they should be seeing the glory of God. And you probably are revealing the glory of God more than you realize! Of course, our sins block that light, and for this reason we should take time this Advent to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But also think about how your life reveals Christ to the world. By following Jesus and imitating him, we become the branch of the Lord that Isaiah foresaw.

    By giving Jesus to the world through our actions and attitudes, we reveal the luster and glory of God. True faith in Jesus means we believe in living the way he taught us to live.

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    We deeply want to imitate him. We yearn to help others grow in the faith, too, because we know the value of faith. His love for someone else — a servant! It was not only his trust in Jesus that proved he had true faith; it was his compassion for others.

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