Written by Fr. Ejiofor Asadu
3rd December, 2018
I have got this image several times with barrels of questions. I decided to share my reply publicly. It’s long unfortunately.
My dear, there is nothing to research about. I will tell you a story.
*An artist was told to draw Jesus and Judas Iscariot. The artist, knowing that there is no real picture of Jesus Christ, searched for a handsome Jewish man to draw. He found one in a palace and drew him. Then he started looking for one to draw as Judas Iscariot. After years of searching without success, he decided to go to the prison with the hope of finding a nefarious man to draw as Judas Iscariot. His expectation was gratified when he saw a hardened criminal in prison and drew him as Judas Iscariot. But when he placed the two pictures side by side, he saw that they looked alike. How come? The prisoner has the answer, “I am the same man you drew as Jesus Christ some years back. But now, I became a criminal and behold you are drawing me as Judas Iscariot!*
*The images of Jesus Christ and the saints are icons*
1. Some say that the picture of Jesus is that of a bad Pope Alexander VI. The fact remains that Pope Alexander VI was a bad Pope and he was not the only bad Pope in the history of the Catholic Church. Even Judas Iscariot was an apostle who touched Jesus and witnessed all his miracles. There were pictures of Jesus before Alexander VI became the pope. Whose pictures were those ones?
2. Some say, it’s the picture of the actor, Jim Caviezel who acted as Jesus in the movie The Passion of the Christ. They forget that at least 26 actors have acted as Jesus Christ in known movies before the 2004 The Passion of the Christ. And since then at least 11 actors have acted as Jesus. *Now which model did they all take in their costume as Jesus Christ?* Of course, they all attempted to represent known images of Jesus Christ which pre-existed them.
Iconography does not imply the exact picture of the person especially if the person lived when there was no cameras. So those images are just icons. So the fundamental issue is the person of Jesus not the image. There are different images of Jesus and Blessed Virgin Mary all over the world with different colours and appearances. The images are icons. Some holy man claim to have seen Jesus. A recent example is that of the proponent of the Devotion to Divine Mercy, St Faustina. But unfortunately, she and some others who claimed to have seen Jesus were not artists. So they still had to describe him to artists. When the artist came out with the picture of Jesus as described by St. Faustina, she cried bitterly, saying the artist could not represent what she saw. I recount her own words and the reply of Jesus:
“Once when I was at that painter’s, who’s painting this image, and saw that it is not as beautiful as Jesus is, I became very sad, but I hid that deep in my heart. When we left the painter, Mother Superior remained in the city to settle various matters, but I returned home by myself, immediately I made my way to the chapel and I had a good cry. I said to the Lord: ‘Who will paint You as beautiful as You are?’ Of a sudden I heard the words: ‘not in the beauty of the color, nor of the brush is the greatness of this image, but in my grace.'” …*
Unfortunately, many Christians see these images as Jesus himself! They are icons, they are not Jesus Christ. *So what is wrong if the image of the actors or one actor serve as icons of Jesus Christ?* In their actings, they tried to portray Jesus Christ.
Read the catechism of the Catholic Church: 1159 – 1162:
“1159 The sacred image, the liturgical icon, principally represents Christ. It cannot represent the invisible and incomprehensible God, but the incarnation of the Son of God has ushered in a new “economy” of images:
Previously God, who has neither a body nor a face, absolutely could not be represented by an image. But now that he has made himself visible in the flesh and has lived with men, I can make an image of what I have seen of God . . . and contemplate the glory of the Lord, his face unveiled.
1160 Christian iconography expresses in images the same Gospel message that Scripture communicates by words. Image and word illuminate each other:
We declare that we preserve intact all the written and unwritten traditions of the Church which have been entrusted to us. One of these traditions consists in the production of representational artwork, which accords with the history of the preaching of the Gospel. For it confirms that the incarnation of the Word of God was real and not imaginary, and to our benefit as well, for realities that illustrate each other undoubtedly reflect each other’s meaning.
1161 All the signs in the liturgical celebrations are related to Christ: as are sacred images of the holy Mother of God and of the saints as well. They truly signify Christ, who is glorified in them. They make manifest the “cloud of witnesses” who continue to participate in the salvation of the world and to whom we are united, above all in sacramental celebrations. Through their icons, it is man “in the image of God,” finally transfigured “into his likeness,” who is revealed to our faith. So too are the angels, who also are recapitulated in Christ:
Following the divinely inspired teaching of our holy Fathers and the tradition of the Catholic Church (for we know that this tradition comes from the Holy Spirit who dwells in her) we rightly define with full certainty and correctness that, like the figure of the precious and life-giving cross, venerable and holy images of our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ, our inviolate Lady, the holy Mother of God, and the venerated angels, all the saints and the just, whether painted or made of mosaic or another suitable material, are to be exhibited in the holy churches of God, on sacred vessels and vestments, walls and panels, in houses and on streets.
1162 “The beauty of the images moves me to contemplation, as a meadow delights the eyes and subtly infuses the soul with the glory of God.” Similarly, the contemplation of sacred icons, united with meditation on the Word of God and the singing of liturgical hymns, enters into the harmony of the signs of celebration so that the mystery celebrated is imprinted in the heart’s memory and is then expressed in the new life of the faithful.”
3. The fundamental question is establishing faith in Jesus which the different images point to.
4. Finally, what is the ground for one to believe a few lines of write up contrary to what he has known all these years? So why are you worried? Have you been worshipping those images? I worship Jesus Christ not images. Images are mere icons. If you have been worshipping those actors then you need repentance because you have been guilty of idolatry.
▪Fr S. Ejiofor Asadu.