Wednesday, December 04, 2019


Today is the feast of St. John Damascene, Doctor of the Church. From Part II of his Treatise on Holy Images:

The wicked serpent of old, Beloved, I mean the devil—is wont to wage war in many ways against man, who is made after God’s image, and to work his destruction through opposition. In the very beginning he inspired man with the hope and desire of becoming a god, and through that desire he dragged man down to share the death of the brute creation. He has enticed man also by shameful and brutal pleasures. What a contrast between becoming a god and feeling brutal lust. And again, he led man into infidelity, as the royal David says: ‘The fool said in his heart there is no God.’ At one time he has brought man to worship too many gods, at another not even the true God, sometimes demons, and again, the heavens and the earth, the sun and moon and stars, and the rest of creation, wild beasts and reptiles. It is as bad to refuse due honour where honour is due, as to give it where it is not due. Again, he has taught some to call the uncreated god evil, and has deceived others by making them recognise God, who is good by nature, as the author of evil. Some he has deceived by the misconception of one nature and one substance of the Godhead; some he has induced to honour three natures and three substances; some one substance in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity; some two natures and two substances.

But the truth, taking a middle course, sweeps away these misconceptions and teaches us to acknowledge one God, one nature in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Evil is not a being, but an accident, a certain conception, word, or deed against the law of God, taking its origin in this conception, speech, or doing, and ending with it. The truth proclaims also that in Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity, there are two natures and one person. Now, the devil, the enemy of the truth and of man’s salvation, in suggesting that images of corruptible man, and of birds and beasts and reptiles, should be made and worshipped as gods, has often led astray not only heathens but the children of Israel. In these days he is eager to trouble the peace of Christ’s Church through false and lying tongues, using divine words in favour of what is evil, and striving to disguise his wicked intent, and drawing the unstable away from true and patristic custom. Some have risen up and said that it was wrong to represent and set forth publicly for adoration the saving wounds of Christ, and the combats of the saints against the devil. Who with a knowledge of divine things and a spiritual sense does not perceive in this a deception of the devil? He is unwilling that his shame should be known and that the glory of God and of His saints should be published.