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Popular Devotions: Veneration of the Saints and Processions

(Making Popular Religious Practices and Devotions in the Iglesia Filipina Independiente More Potent Vehicles of Spiritual Growth) By: Noel Dionicio L. Dacuycuy

Introduction Veneration of the Saints and Processions are popular religious practices in the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI). Despite the fact that these are not contrary to religious teachings and canonical provision of the IFI, and, in fact, even enjoins pious observance, these popular religious practices and devotions are under attacked from within and from outside by the burgeoning heterodox Christians and churches.1 The complexity of the assault from within to popular religious practices is alarming for they are even prohibited for observance in some local churches and parishes of the IFI. The intricacy of hyperliteralist interpretation of the Holy Scriptures from outside the IFI is upsetting the sacred tradition of the undivided universal church. The assault to these popular devotions is a sort of neo-iconoclasm in the proper sense of the word.2 One of the most difficult things for the neo-iconoclasts to grasp when considering the grassroots theology and popular devotions are the veneration of the saints and religious processions. The immediate reaction of many is that: it is idolatrous worship. After all, most of these neo-iconoclasts from within do have religious symbolism such as the crucifix wherein Jesus is hanging that they do bow unto it, and the pectoral crosses and pendants hanging around their necks that they also kiss and always wear with reverence. Likewise, most of those neo-iconoclasts from outside do have pictures of the Lord Jesus and the Saints, and do use these images in Bible studies and Sunday Schools in order to remind them (mentors and students alike) of the gracious love of God, so far they do not kiss or bow down unto these images. Therefore, it is the bowing down that seems to cause the most problems. Neo-iconoclasts see in the venerations and processions of the images of saints, as idolatrous worship of the images, which is forbidden by God. Nevertheless, to have solid knowledge about these popular devotions is of great importance for these prayer-forms of worship originated from the people, they are practiced and loved by the people, and they are a source of strength and hope in difficult times and situations. A profound knowledge of these popular devotions and religious practices is more than ever-considered necessary in the IFI today, especially for the clergy as they are
Heterodox, adj.: 1) not in agreement with accepted beliefs, especially in church doctrine or dogma; and, 2) holding unorthodox opinions. Etymology Greek, heterodoxos: hetero + doxa, opinion (from dokein, to think); read: http://www.answers.com/topic/heterodox. 2 Iconoclasm (Eikonoklasmos, "Image-breaking") is the name of the heresy that in the eighth and ninth centuries disturbed the peace of the Eastern Church, caused the last of the many breaches with Rome that prepared the way for the schism of Photius, and was echoed on a smaller scale in the Frankish kingdom in the West. The story in the East is divided into two separate persecutions of the Catholics, at the end of each of which stands the figure of an image-worshipping Empress (Irene and Theodora).

expected to guide, to lead, and to instruct the people. However, how can the clergy exercise their leadership functions if they themselves are badly informed about these popular religious devotions? How can the clergy show the correct practices, and worst to prohibit in practicing these popular religious devotions, if their knowledge is based merely on legends and pious stories? In both cases, they would be like blind guides leading the people the wrong way and promoting subjective piety instead of authentic devotion to God and of genuine service to people. Therefore, the following section presents the following insights that though these are not formal religious practices such as the liturgy of the church, popular devotions are likewise useful opportunities to instill proper religious values to people. Popular Devotions and the Liturgy of the Church 1. The Expressions: Popular and Devotions. It is worthwhile to make a brief reflection about the heart of the terminology being used: popular and devotions in the practices of the faithful. Primarily, popular means related to people, in a religious parlance, to the people of God. Wherein, the term people in popular devotions mostly refer to the grassroots, the base of the hierarchical pyramid of churchs polity. Popular, therefore, can be described in two-fold ways of existence: a) originated from the people; and, b) are cherished by the people.3 On one hand, popular devotions and practices originated from people at a certain time and in a given culture in a local Church and from there these are disseminated and become widespread practice by the church, locally and universally. Most of the authors and the places of origin of popular devotions in the church today are sometimes not known and not easy to determine because they are the result of a living and on-going process of grassroots religiosity. Unlike the liturgical forms of worship of the church, which come from above (hierarchy), however, these popular forms of worship come from below (grassroots). On the other hand, as the term popular means also that, more often than not, they are loved, cherished and practiced by the people more than the official liturgy of the church. In these prayer forms of popular devotions, people find consolation and strength and in them they (popular devotions) find an adequate expression of their faith, happiness, and satisfaction.4 While devotion is often understood in an external way as a set of some prayers like for instance the Santo Nio devotion, but there is also a deeper meaning of the word. The Latin term devotion describes, An internal attitude and means of consecration, surrender, dedication, and the ready will to perform all that belongs to the service of God. 5 The real meaning of the word devotion is being reflected in the words of Bishop Tomas a Millamena to worship God in spirit and in truth, which means the external devotion (a set of certain prayers) and internal devotion (surrender to God) must go hand in hand. The

3 4

Cp. Bernhard Raas, Popular Devotion (Manila: Logos Publication, Inc., 1992), 15. Ibid. 5 Ibid., 16-17.

internal attitude should be the basis from which the prayer emanates, and the performance of devotion should always lead to a deepening dedication to God. 6 2. The Rise and Spread of Popular Devotions. Some general observations on the rise and widespread practices of popular devotions are, but not limited with the following: first, the political and historical events often link with the foreign missionaries who sometimes brought popular devotions; second, the clericalization and meaningless of liturgy to the lives of the people; and, third, the presence of the Holy Spirit with the faithful. 7 Convincingly, popular devotions are peoples religious practices and prayers, which are not established as official liturgy of the church. However, many of these devotions and practices are highly suggested and permitted by the ecclesiastical authority of the church. Nevertheless, liturgy is more superior to that of popular devotions since the former (liturgy) is always the action of Christ and the church, which cannot affirmed in the same way from popular devotions. 3. Some Menaces Inherent in Popular Devotions. Cautiously enough, there are inherent dangers to popular devotions and religious practices. Primarily, popular devotions became more important than the liturgy of the church as these are very much loved by the people, expressive of peoples personal life, and easily adapted to the personal needs and the needs of the time. These can also cause people to develop false values, which is not only a challenge to properly instruct the faithful but also to take a careful look at the popular devotions before issuing any guidelines. There is likewise the danger of too much subjectivism, externalism and sentimentalism. While popular devotion does not promote the honor of God, it rather creates a wrong feeling of security in the presence of the living God and, therefore, easily degenerates into superstitious practices or even idolatry. 8 4. Pastoral Care and Popular Devotions. It is extremely difficult to exercise pastoral care amidst of deeply rooted popular devotions. The Apostle Peter appealed: Care for the flock of God entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudginglynot for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Dont lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your good example (1 Peter 5:2-4). In light of Peters exhortation, ministers are but teachers of the people of God. Therefore, a minister should exert correct leadership in the church through a positive attitude towards the popular devotions of the faithful, which entails a solid knowledge about popular devotions and an acquaintance of the peoples needs, wishes and desires for these are translated in popular religiosity. A fraction of this dictum means an infringement of grassroots religiosity, therefore, a doomed leadership.9 The next section deals on the IFI religious principles and practices on the use of images, popular devotions, and processions anent to the official documents of the church such as the Doctrine and Articles of Religion (DFAR), the Constitution and Canons (C&C), and other relevant documents of the church.

See: Bishop Tomas A. Millamena, Towards a Common Understanding and Vision of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, Address to the Supreme Council of Bishops (SCB) in a Study Conference on March 2004 at Asian Social Institute, Manila. 7 Raas, Popular Devotion, 17. 8 Ibid. 9 Ibid.

Use of Images, Popular Devotions, and Processions in the IFI It should be recalled that the fundamental object of the founding of the IFI, though religious fanaticism was condemned, it did not condemn the use of images, popular devotions and religious practices of the Western church, but to respond to the imperative need to restore worship of the one true God in its entire splendor.10 In considering the use of images in the church, the DFAR (Part B, Sec. 9) and the Epistle III give some guidelines; in regard to Marian devotion and Veneration of Saints, the DFAR (Part B, Sec. 14 and Sec. 15), the Doctrinal and Constitutional Rules (I, Chap. III) and the Epistle III will have to be taken into account; while the Constitution and Canons (Chap. Four, Sec. 11, f.) encourages public processions and the formation of pious organizations (Chap. Four, Sec. 28) in the church. The contents of these guidelines can be summarized in the following religious principles: 1. The uses of images are not prohibited, but always reserve the center of altars for the symbols of the Most Holy Trinity, assigning the side-altars to the Virgin Mary and the Servants of God. 2. Veneration of saints is legitimate and not contrary to Gods commandments as revealed in the Scriptures; but the deification of the saints is condemned as monstrous blasphemy and even idolatry. 3. Devotions rendered to the saints in no wise must distract the honor due to the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity. 4. The faithful shall honor the Blessed Virgin Mary above all. 5. Persons universally recognized for their holiness of life, loyalty and courage (saints and martyrs of the faith) are to be held in reverent remembrance. 6. It is a function reserved to a priest to lead the faithful and to have public procession outside of the Church. 7. The faithful are encouraged to organize pious associations within the parish to interest the laity in matters of religion, which are usually for religious devotions. In short, the IFI wanted to restructure popular devotions and religious practices in such a way that it becomes relevant and attractive sign of peoples relationship with God. Since the intent of the church was pastoral, it is not surprising that the IFI looks also at popular forms of devotions, piety and religious practices and makes some recommendations. It is worthwhile to consider the theological principles which guide the IFI in recognizing Christian truths and in formulating these truths in its doctrinal statements, especially the appropriateness of veneration of saints, devotion to Virgin Mary, the use of images and public processions, wherein it is the primary concern of the the next section. Theological Principles and the Christian Truths While it is conscientious to the responsibility of the magisterium in defining doctrinal statements of the church, the IFI reckons the interplay of Christian Tradition, Holy Scriptures,


Cp. Doctrinas y Reglas Constitutionales (1904/1906), Part I, Chap. I, 3. Emphasis is of the writer.

religious experience, and human reason/knowledge.11 Even so, it asserts that God relates directly to the world through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. These are, however, the fundamental foundations in assertaing Christian truths in doctrinal statements and the certainity of religious practices of the church. The primary question is: Do these popular devotions and religious practices conform to the canons of the universal church? While it avers that the Holy Scriptures is the inspired word of God, a norm for judging belief in God (cp. 2 Timothy 3:16-17), and the unsurpassed source of Gods revelation, the IFI asserts that God reveals his divine will and guides his people in some other ways: through the gift of the prophecy,12 in the course of the councils of church leaders, and even to direct revelations to individuals.13 Undeniably, Christian tradition is not handed down to the church in a mechanical way such as on the use of images/icons, on popular devotions, and on religious processions. Nevertheless, it is linked with the church, headed by the bishops, which are under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In short, the undivided universal Church recognizes that this tradition comes from the Holy Spirit who dwells in the Church. While the entire Church is subject to tradition, it also carries out this tradition, but each does it in its own place and in its own way. 14 In such aspect, the IFI affirms to conform to the canons set by the first seven ecumenical councils of the church, for these councils fully reflect the faith of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, which is the Body of Christ; thus, the tradition of the universal church. It is the important responsibility of the magisterium (teaching office) of the church to discern the will of God through the guidance of the Holy Spirit; that is, in the IFI practice, the bishops in synodthe adjudicator of the faith.15 The bishops are likewise governed by the norms of the Holy Scriptures and Christian tradition; thus, the bishops do not stand above the scriptures and the tradition of the church, but are subject to them. Therefore, the sola scriptura, the sola traditio and even the solum magisterium are bizarre in the IFI and, as such, are contrary to its nationalist heritage and its doctrinal principles. In the light of the Christian truths, the next section is a general argument of the propriety of popular devotions and religious practices in the IFI, wherein in the process it delineates Christian veneration from pagan idolatry, while encourages further reflection and study. Christian Venerations and Pagan Idolatry Above all, the IFI honor saints in heaven because they (the saints) have attained the likeness (eikon or "image") of God (2 Cor 3:18); thus, they reflect God's glory. Paul tells us to "imitate" the saints, which is a concept, similar to "honoring" or "veneration" (1 Cor 4:16; Phil 3:17; 2 Thess 3:7-9); and this is because the saint, in turn, imitates Christ (1 Cor 11:1; 1 Thess
See Alister E. McGrath on the discussion of the four main sources of theology, which have been, acknowledge within the Christian tradition, Scripture, Reason, Tradition, and Experience. In Christian Theology: An Introduction (Oxford/Malden: Blackwell Publishers, 2001), 159-219. 12 Cf. Acts 11:27-30; 21:10-12; 1 Cor 14:1-4, 31. 13 Cf. Acts 15:28; 10:9-17; 9, 18:9; 21:22-23; 28:24, respectively. 14 Cp. Statement on Rediscovering the Local Church, (October 2000); also, Statement on the Ministry of the Laity, (May 2000); and, Statement on Ministry, (October 1989). 15 Constitution and Canons (1977), Art. III, Sec. 3, (b), 22.

1:6). In like manner, the IFI faithful are exhorted to honor and imitate the "heroes of the faith" (Heb 6:12; 11; cp.: DFAR, Part B, Sec. 14 and Sec. 15). 1. Council of Nicaea II and the Use of Icons/Images. Nevertheless, this popular devotions and religious practices emanate from Christian tradition that the early church fathers deemed appropriate and allowed to be used in the church. In fact the Second Council of Nicaea, A.D. 787, had sanctioned the use of icons/images in the church and the veneration of saints. The Council formulated, for the first time, what the Church has always believed regarding icons, which is quite in harmony with the history of the spread of the gospel, as it provides confirmation that the becoming man of the Word of God was real and not just imaginary, and as it brings us a similar benefit. For, things that mutually illustrate one another undoubtedly possess one another's message.16 The Council further states that,
Given this state of affairs and stepping out as though on the royal highway, following as we are the God-spoken teaching of our holy fathers and the tradition of the catholic church for we recognize that this tradition comes from the holy Spirit who dwells in herwe decree with full precision and care that, like the figure of the honored and lifegiving cross, the revered and holy images, whether painted or made of mosaic or of other suitable material, are to be exposed in the holy churches of God, on sacred instruments and vestments, on walls and panels, in houses and by public ways, these are the images of our Lord, God and savior, Jesus Christ, and of our Lady without blemish, the holy Godbearer, and of the revered angels and of any of the saintly holy men. The more frequently they are seen in representational art, the more are those who see them drawn to remember and long for those who serve as models, and to pay these images the tribute of salutation and respectful veneration. Certainly this is not the full adoration {latria} in accordance with our faith, which is properly paid only to the divine nature, but it resembles that given to the figure of the honored and life-giving cross, and also to the holy books of the gospels and to other sacred cult objects. Further, people are drawn to honor these images with the offering of incense and lights, as was piously established by ancient custom. Indeed, the honor paid to an image traverses it, reaching the model, and he who venerates the image, venerates the person represented in that image.17

Conclusively, the Council defines the permissible use of images/icons in the church such as the images of Jesus Christ, and of Virgin Mary, and of the Saints. It likewise exhorts the veneration of the saints in accordance to the established ancient custom of the church such as the offering of incense and lights in honor of these images. Then a formula of faith in this matter was drawn up: the veneration and honor (timitiki proskynisis) is given to the saints and the Blessed Virgin, but not the real worship or adoration (latreia) which is given only to God and the Three Divine Persons of the Trinity and the Incarnate Word, Jesus.18 Likewise, the Council declares anathemas concerning holy images as to strengthen the tradition of the catholic church, to follow Paul, who spoke in Christ, and the entire divine apostolic group and the holiness of the fathers, clinging fast to the traditions which the church have received. It appropriately pronounces that,
Cp. Seven Ecumenical Councils, in www.ewtn.com. Emphasis is of the writer. Ibid. 18 Cp. P. C. Thomas, General Councils of the Church: A Compact History (Mumbai: Saint Paul Society, 1993), 59.
17 16

Therefore all those who dare to think or teach anything different, or who follow the accursed heretics in rejecting ecclesiastical traditions, or who devise innovations, or who spurn anything entrusted to the church (whether it be the gospel or the figure of the cross or any example of representational art or any martyr's holy relic), or who fabricate perverted and evil prejudices against cherishing any of the lawful traditions of the catholic church, or who secularize the sacred objects and saintly monasteries, we order that they be suspended if they are bishops or clerics, and excommunicated if they are monks or lay people. Anathemas concerning holy images: 1. If anyone does not confess that Christ our God can be represented in his humanity, let him be anathema. 2. If anyone does not accept representation in art of evangelical scenes, let him be anathema. 3. If anyone does not salute such representations as standing for the Lord and his saints, let him be anathema. 4. If anyone rejects any written or unwritten tradition of the church, let him be anathema.19

2. Idolatry in Exodus 20:45 and the Veneration of Images. But, was not the Second Commandment (Exodus 20:4-5) brushed aside when Christianity decided once and for all in 787 (after centuries of common practice) that images and veneration of images were permissible in the Christian church, and even exhorted a pious practice? The answer is definitely a negative one. What forbidden in the Commandment was a "graven image" (one of God). Evidently, in context, then, what God was forbidding was idolatry: making a stone or block of wood God. The Jews were forbidden to have idols (like all their neighbors had), and God told them not to make an image of Him because He revealed Himself as a spirit. It is stated,
You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me. (Exodus 20: 4-5; Deuteronomy 5:8-9; NIV, NRSV).

The context of Second Commandment, therefore, makes it very clear that idolatry is being condemned. However, it cannot mean a prohibition of images per se but rather the making of images for oneself in order to bow down and worship them. There is no doubt, however, that the Israelites were tempted to worship idols as gods. Nevertheless, as St. John of Damascus reasoned against the iconoclastic of his day,
Listen to what Scripture says concerning the Exodus of the sons of Israel, when Moses ascended Mt. Sinai to pray for a time. While he was receiving the law, the stiffnecked people rose up and said to Aaron, the servant of God: "Make us gods who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him." [Ex. 32:1ff] Then, when they had looked over their wives' trinkets, and made the calf, they ate and drank, and drunk with wine and madness, they made merry, saying in their folly, "These are your gods, O Israel." Do you not see that


they worshipped idols, which are the abode of demons, as gods, and that they adored creatures instead of the Creator? As the divine apostle says, "They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles, and served the creature rather than the Creator. For this reason God forbade them to make any image, as Moses says in the book of Deuteronomy: "Then the Lord spoke to you, and out of the midst of the fire you heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice" [Deut. 4:12]. And again, "Take heed, and keep your soul diligently. Since you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a graven image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air" [Deut. 4:9, 15-17]. And again, "And beware lest you lift up your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and worship them and serve them" [Deut. 4:19]. You see that the one object is that the creature be not adored in place of the Creator, and that adoration should be given to none but the Creator alone. In every case he is speaking of adoration. Again, "You shall have no other gods before Me; you shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness" [Deut. 5:7]. Again, "You shall make for yourself no molten gods" [Ex. 34:17]. You see that He forbids the making of images because of idolatry and that it is impossible to make an image of the bodiless, invisible, and uncircumscribed God. "You saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke" [Deut. 4:15] and St. Paul, standing in the midst of the Aeropause, says: "Being therefore God's offspring, we ought not to think that the Deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, a representation by the art and imagination of man" [Acts 17:29].20

In the Exposition on the Catholic Christian Veneration of Images, Dave Armstrong avers that mere blocks of stone or wood (them) are not to be worshiped, as that is gross idolatry, and the inanimate objects are not God. This does not absolutely preclude, however, the notion of an icon, where God is worshiped with the help of a visual aid. 21 Armstrong concludes that, The Jews were right, according to what had been revealed to them at that early stage of salvation and redemptive history. God had to hammer into them the fact that He was different than man (Num 23:19). The pagan gods were notable for their similarity to men. But Yahweh (the Father) is a spirit, and has no body. So idols were absolutely forbidden because (a) they competed with the true god, and (b) implied that God the Father was material.22 The use of divine images as defined by the Second Council of Nicaea is not in the same category of idolatry, if these images are rightly used in the church. As long as God is worshiped, it is irrelevant if a visual representation is used or not. The object of worship is God. The images of Mary and the Saints are aids to help ask for intercession, and to honor them and ponder their holy lives (NOT worship or adoration, which is for God alone). It is not idolatry at all (i.e., it is not automatically idolatry by virtue of the very existence of the statue). This is an entirely different concept from pagan polytheistic idolatry. Therefore, it is important to point out the
Cf. St. John of Damascus, On the Divine Images, trans. David Anderson, (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1980), 55-56. 21 In Exposition on the Catholic Christian Veneration of Images, Dave Armstrong avers that, The incarnation (God taking on flesh) was yet to come, and not yet fully revealed. One has to learn that God is Spirit (John 4:24) in order to grasp some of the profundity of God becoming man. In http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07620a.htm. KJV, RSV, AMP, ASV, and Jewish (1917) Bible versions translate "graven image" at Exodus 20:4, but many of the more recent translations render the word as "idol": NASB, NRSV, NIV, Moffat, CEV, Confraternity. Others have "image" (Goodspeed, Knox), or "carved image" (NEB, REB). 22 Ibid.

distinction between idolatry and the proper use of images for the purpose of worship (of God) or veneration and honor (of saints). Nevertheless, statues and pictures might be seen as magic charms, but such temptation is exceedingly rare among those who use images in worship such as the case of the IFI, even nominal Christians. Those who hold close to this tradition know the function of images. It is the critics who usually have no clue of what is going on. The hyperliteralist interpretation of the Commandment against "graven images" is no longer held; it is interpreted somewhat differently. Insofar as it condemns idolatry, nothing has changed. But in terms of the absoluteness of the use of image in worship, it is applied differently. Christians do the same with the commandment about the Sabbath. If we were to be hyper-literalist, Christian churches would all worship on Saturday, like the Jews, and Sabbatharian Christians. But Christians now observe the Sabbath on Sunday, as that was when Jesus was resurrected. 23 The same essential principle on the observance of Sabbath, but in a different application based on the historical events in the life of Jesus, the Second Commandment, therefore, works at the same approach. 3. Theology of Incarnation and the Sacred Images. Nevertheless, since God took on flesh, Christians now have an image of God which is not a graven (idolatrous) image: Jesus, the image of the invisible God (Colosians 1:15; KJV, RSV). Since Jesus was Himself an image or icon; therefore, it is permissible to have icons of Him (and by extension, of the saints, who also reflect Him, just as He reflects the Father). So by the doctrine of the Incarnation (God became man), the use of images in Christian worship is not idolatry. Since Jesus was Himself an image or icon of the invisible God; therefore, it is permissible to have icons of Him (and by extension, of the saints, who also reflect Him, just as He reflects the Father). Likewise, other images such as of Mary or the saints are merely representations, for the sake of honor or veneration, not adoration or worship, which is reserved for God alone. Anyone who thinks otherwise is simply ignorant on the theology of divine images unto which the IFI copiously subscribed. Similarly, asking a saint to intercede is not worship; it is no different than asking another Christian on earth to intercede. The IFI professes as the other churches do that saints in heaven are alive, as clearly seen in the book of Revelation. They are portrayed as being quite aware of what is going on, on earth. Likewise, the IFI worships Jesus Christ through images (including crosses, crucifixes, and statues of Jesus), and, likewise, venerates saints via images. Some people might be so foolish as to say that the IFI was worshiping an idol of plaster. But it is quite obvious that the IFI is worshiping Jesus by having a visual representation, which helps to focus concentration unto Him, likewise to Mary and to the Saints. This is the basis of images: the Incarnation. Jesus has everything to do with images of God, since He is that, Himself. The Incarnation (like the Trinity) brings a much different understanding of God.24 In like manner, Hieromonk [now Bishop] Auxentios avers that St. John of Damascus presents the attack on sacred images as a veritable denial of the Incarnation of Christ itself.25 Therefore, Auxentios concludes that the iconoclastic controversy focuses on Christological issues, and those who reject the sacred images are but counterparts of the earlier Christian heretics who distorted or misrepresented the true nature of Christ and His Incarnation.26 The
Ibid. Ibid. 25 Hieromonk [now Bishop] Auxentios, "The Iconic and Symbolic in Orthodox Iconography," in Orthodox Tradition, Vol. IV, No. 3, 56-57. 26 Ibid.
24 23

fact that "the Word became flesh" is the very meaning of the icon, and to deny the use of the Church's icons is comparable to a denial of Sacred Scripture itself. The icon functions to reveal, embody, and express the Incarnation of Christ and the soteriological consequences thereof. Concurrently, he asserts that,
The Scriptural message of the Incarnation and the icon are analogous, as two forms of Christian revelation, both acting to convey the salvific message to mankind: We who do not see Him [Christ] directly nor hear His words nevertheless listen to these words which are written in books and thus sanctify our hearing and, thereby, our soul. We consider ourselves fortunate and we venerate the books through which we hear these sacred works and are sanctified. Similarly, through His image we contemplate the physical appearance of Christ, His miracles, and His passion. This contemplation sanctifies our sight and, thereby, our soul. We consider ourselves fortunate and we venerate this image by lifting ourselves, as far as possible, beyond the physical appearance to the contemplation of divine glory. Whatever the particular faculty of perception (hearing or seeing), the net result is the same, the sanctification of the soul. Scripture and sacred images are both part of the redemptive plan. And this sanctification is precisely, again, the result of participation in the divine energies, so that "contemplation," in the passage above, might better read "participation." Thus, the iconoclastic challenge against the painting and veneration of icons does nothing other than jeopardize the Church's very teachings about the nature of Christ and, at the same time, the sanctification of the faithful, which are both accomplished and established through the function if the icon.27

Conclusively, to deny the importance of visual art in the context of worship as a means of relating to God is to turn the Christian faith into a Docetic one that does indeed show reflect disdain for creation and functional disbelief in the Incarnation. Leonid Ouspensky vividly states,
But iconoclasm, both in its teaching and in its practices, undermined the saving mission of the Church at its foundation. In theory, it did not deny the dogma of the Incarnation. On the contrary, the iconoclasts justified their hatred of the icon by claiming to be profoundly faithful to this dogma. But in reality, the opposite happened: by denying the human image of God, they consequently denied the sanctification of matter in general. They disavowed all human holiness and even denied the very possibility of sanctification, the deification of man. In other words, by refusing to accept the consequences of the Incarnationthe sanctification of the visible, material world iconoclasm undermined the entire economy of salvation. "The one who thinks as you do," St George of Cyprus said in a discussion with an iconoclast bishop, "blasphemes against the Son of God and does not confess His economy accomplished in the flesh." Through the denial of the image, Christianity became an abstract theory; it became disincarnate so to speak, it was led back to the ancient heresy of Docetism, which had been refuted a long time before. It is therefore not surprising that iconoclasm was linked to a general secularization of the Church, a de-sacralization of all aspects of its life. The Church's own domain, its inner structure, was invaded by a secularized power. Churches were assaulted with secular images; worship was deformed by mundane music and poetry. This is why the Church, in defending the icon, defended not only the foundation of the Christian faith, the divine Incarnation, but, at the same time, the very meaning of its




existence. It fought against its disintegration in the elements of this world. "Not only was the destiny of Christian art at stake, but Orthodoxy itself 28

Indeed, in defending the use of images in the church is protecting the foundation as well as the orthodoxy of the Christian faith. The next section, which serves as conclusion and offers recommendations, highlights some of the seemingly forgotten aspects of the popular devotions and religious practices that can serve as a basis for more potent vehicles of spiritual growths as well as to make it a tool for invigorating Aglipayan Spirituality in the lives of the IFI adherents, both the clergy and the lay people.

Conclusion: A New Hermeneutics? While there are valid points in the criticism that popular devotions and religious practices, which practically encourages pessimism in the faith of the people, in view of the fact that the Aglipayans/Independientes tend to forget the radical demands of the historical Jesus and the IFI nationalist heritage, still interceding to the saints can be open to novel interpretations. Indeed, there are many Aglipayans/Independientes who join to these popular devotions and religious practices that have shown extra ordinary commitment on the level of politics. Assuming that they do not see the link between these religious practices and their political commitment, most would continue their devotions for reasons that they may be personally meaningful for them, but they often live two unconnected worlds: first, the world of religious devotion and religious practices; and, second, the social and political context of the IFI adherents. It raises therefore the issue of how the unconnected worlds can be connected. The following insights, perhaps, can help in the reformulation (new hermeneutics) of the veneration of the saints, the use of images in worship and the practice of religious processions. First, the popular Lenten and Holy Week devotions in the observance to the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, such as the Station of the Cross, the Palm Sunday triumphant entry to Jerusalem, the General Processions on Holy Tuesdays and on Good Fridays of the Holy Week as well as the joyous observance of the Resurrection of the Lord, without an espousal of pessimism, can serve as significant religious apparatus to reinvigorate Christian affirmations that despite of oppressions and martyrdom, God affirmed the ministry of Christ for the liberation of the poor and the oppressed from the bondage of oppression (Luke 4: 16-19). In like manner, it therefore encourages the IFI adherents to continue the mission of Jesus as the Lord commanded (Great Commission Matthew 28:19-20; the Lukan Agenda Luke 4:16-19). It is a matter of transforming the popular devotion as effective vivacity to religious affirmation that God is the sole true ruler of the entire universe. Second, a saint represents someone who is triumphantly with the Lord and is universally recognized for his/her holiness of life, loyalty and courage in the proclamation of the Gospel of salvation (reign of God) despite of oppression and martyrdom. Thus, one can take popular devotions to the saints as a willingness to constantly announce the reign of God despite of martyrdom. Likewise, the very idea of veneration of the saints should remind that the church continue to witness the reign of God in the world today. The popular devotions, therefore,
Leonid Ouspensky, Theology of the Icon, Trans. Anthony Gythiel and Elizabeth Meyendorff (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1992), 146. Emphasis is of the writer.


should edify the adherents to participate in the ministry of the church and not mere recipients of the salvific act of God, but serving to advance the reign of God and salvation of mankind 29 by virtue of their baptism.30 Lastly, it should be instilled in the minds of the IFI adherents that worship is kerygma in action. It is the offering of total self to God in Christ, which involves participation in the proclamation of the Life, Death and Resurrection, and the Second Coming of Christ to the end, that faith may be awakened and made alive in all men.31 Thus, the IFI submits itself to the mandate of servanthood to the people, especially to the poor. Since Jesus associates the Reign of God with the restoration of the well-being and wholeness of the human person, IFI ministry is advocacy for the basic rights of the peasants and workers.32 It is not suggested whatsoever that popular spirituality which is based on popular religious devotions and practices is inferior to a spirituality based on the convictions that the historical Jesus deeply held. It must be internalized therefore that Aglipayan Spirituality per se is the IFI holistic response to the call of the God to liberate His people from all forms of dehumanization (of which an inordinate popular devotion and religious practices is one of its forms of dehumanization). It is the living out of the Gospel of Christ and of the IFI historical heritage of serving God and Country (Pro Deo et Patria).33 ---------------Sources/Materials Anderson, David (trans.). On the Divine Images by St. John of Damascus. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1980. Armstrong, Dave. Exposition on the Catholic Christian Veneration of Images, in http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07620a.htm. Auxentios, Hieromonk. "The Iconic and Symbolic in Orthodox Iconography," in Orthodox Tradition, Vol. IV, No. 3, 56-57. Constitution and Canons (1977), Art. III, Sec. 3, (b), 22. Doctrinas y Reglas Constitutionales, 1904/6. Part I, Chap. I, 3. Six Fundamental Epistles, 1904. McGrath, Alister E. Christian Theology: An Introduction. Oxford/Malden: Blackwell Publishers, 2001. Millamena, Bishop Tomas A. Towards a Common Understanding and Vision of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, Address to the Supreme Council of Bishops (SCB) in a Study Conference on March 2004 at Asian Social Institute, Manila. Raas, Bernhard. Popular Devotion. Manila: Logos Publication, Inc., 1992.
29 30

See: SCM, 1. Cp. SML. 31 SCM, 19. 32 Cp. Statement on Ministry. 33 Cp. Aglipayan Spirituality.


Seven Ecumenical Councils, in www.ewtn.com. Statement on Aglipayan Spirituality (May 1998). Statement on Church Mission (October 1976) Statement on Ministry, (October 1989). Statement on Rediscovering the Local Church, (February 2000). Statement on the Ministry of the Laity, (May 2000). Thomas, P. C. General Councils of the Church: A Compact History. Mumbai: Saint Paul Society, 1993. Ouspensky, Leonid. Theology of the Icon, Trans. Anthony Gythiel and Elizabeth Meyendorff. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1992.