Reflection: The Veneration of Icons

Saint Nikolai Velimirovic

The veneration of icons is an integral part of Orthodoxy, from which it cannot be separated. That the veneration of icons appears to some people to be the same as idolatry is no proof against icons. To the Jews it seemed that Christ worked miracles by the power of Satan and not God, and to the Romans it seemed that the Christian martyrs were ordinary sorcerers and magicians. St. Nicephorus said to Leo the Armenian, the iconoclastic emperor: “An icon is a divine thing, but not to be worshiped.” Then he explained how God commanded Moses to make a serpent of brass and to raise it in the wilderness, even though just before this He had commanded: Thou shall not make unto thee any graven image (Exodus 20:4). The latter He commanded in order to save the chosen people from the idolatry of the Egyptians, and He commanded the former that He, the One and Most-high God, might manifest His power through a visible thing. In the same manner He manifests His power through icons. This is His holy will and our aid for salvation. If icons are things of little significance or even idolatry, why would many of the holiest and most spiritual men and women in the history of the Church have suffered to the death for icons?

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