St. Mary and St. Joseph Coptic Orthodox Church

CI06 Church and Icons

Some Christians and non-Christians consider the use of Icons in the Church to be a form of idolatry. Of course that would be true if the church actually worship these icons, which never happens. No Orthodox Christian who knows anything about the Orthodox faith has ever worshiped a religious image. Even when people kneel to pray before an icon or burn candles or place flowers before it, they aren’t worshiping the image. They are simply expressing love and honour for the person represented by the icon. Studying the Bible carefully shows that God has forbidden the making of images and statues only if they were made with the intention of worshiping them. 

God never banned the making of all religious images. On the contrary, God actually instructed the Israelites to make two golden statues of angels to be mounted on the Ark of Covenant. (Ex. 25:10-22). God also commanded the people to decorate the places of worship with gold, bronze and wooden images (see Ex 25:33-36; 26:1; 1Kgs 6:23-7:51; 2 Chr 3:10-4:22).

But why icons? Icons are written to tell the story of the person on the icon. Therefore, they help to remember and honour our Lord in His saints, as they are His handcraft.

Most people display photos of their loved ones in their homes and workplaces. They may even kiss the picture. This way they show love and respect to those who the picture portrays. The same idea when we kiss the picture of the Lord Jesus or the saints. We show our love, honour and respect to them.

Do saints take away or “steal” honour from God when we honour them. Of course not. They are the “handwork” of God (Eph 2:10). Our praise of the masterpieces goes to the Artist who created them.  

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