How do we explain the use of statues, religious pictures etc in our devotions?

I am frequently asked how Catholics justify the use of statues etc in
churches when we are forbidden to create ‘graven images’. I use the
analogy of family photos but my friends insist this a ‘cop out’!


Here we have yet another example of isolating a passage from Scripture without taking its context into account. In Exodus 20:4-5 we read: “You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness 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 serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God;" God is not concerned here with images in themselves; He is concerned with people not worshiping them.

If images were evil in themselves, He would not have ordered the Israelites to fashion some for the decoration of arc of the covenant as He does in Exodus 25:18: “And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. In Exodus 25:22 He informs them that He, God Himself, will meet with them from above the mercy seat between the two graven cherubim.

Catholics do not worship statues and icons anymore that the Jews worshiped the graven cherubim; we honor those the statues and images represent. In the case of the crucifix, we do not worship the crucifix, we worship Jesus because we believe that He is God.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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