«CURRENT THEOLOGY MARIOLOGY O U R LADY'S COOPERATION I N T H E REDEMPTION. Progress in the theses dealing with Mary's coredemptive functions ...»
Again, in this book St. John Damascene is portrayed as ransacking the patristic sources in support of image-worship, as if tradition could yield only reluctant or distorted testimonies in its favor. In somewhat triumphant a tone it is noted that the dictum of St. Basil, The honor done the image passes through to the principal, comes from a passage where the Cappadocian Doctor is discussing the relations of the Son (the Image) to the Father in the blessed Trinity. This principle is also quoted in the dogmatic decree of Second Nicea (cf. DB 302), though it is not quoted as Basil's in the conciliar citation. Comment is required on several points of which Professor Bevan has made use.
Concerning the sparseness of early patristic testimonies the historian must take into account several points. The early Church was fighting its slow battle of progress among peoples who had been idolatrous. Many passages in the early sources excoriate image-worship; obviously these attack pagan idolatry, and especially for attributing to the idol itself some supernatural efficacy. That such passages throw any light on how a Christian regarded the image of Christ or of Our Lady or of the Apostles is to be denied; they can support the inference that as far as the wood or stone or marble or painting itself is concerned, no inherent magical power would 426 THEOLOGICAL STUDIES be accepted by Christians; they do not support the inference that Christian images were only for the stimulating of devotion, for the objects portrayed were legitimately the objects of Christian cult.
Again, the scattered testimonies concerning images have some explanation in the circumstances of the early centuries. The poverty of the Christians, their proscription in the Empire, the absence of opportunities to build churches are historical facts which account for the rarity of images, and for little discussion of them. In view of the circumstances it is astound ing that archeology has discovered such a wealth of representations. As soon as Christianity emerged from the centuries of oppression we find increas ing wealth of ornamental and devotional images, together with the explana tion of them—and not as some phenomenon which is an intrusion in Church practice, but as a genuinely Catholic manner of acting in widely spread parts of the Church. In view of these considerations, to say that there were images, but no cult was paid to them, seems to be a seizure of the wrong end of the historical stick.
Another historical fact to be taken into account in this matter is that ordinary religious practices pass without much notice or comment until some crisis brings them into prominence or makes them the topic of dis cussion. In the case of Iconoclasm, politics, not theology, prompted an at tack δη the ordinary procedure and practice of the Church. The Greek court was anxious to conciliate its Eastern foes, Semitic peoples, mostly Arabs, and, as often, it did not hesitate to adopt an anti-Catholic attitude or doctrine for the furtherance of its political aims. Certain adulatory churchmen undertook to search the patristic sources for anti-iconic passages which would favor Semitic views, and how poor a job could be done may be seen from the reading of their effort in the Sixth Actio of Second Nicea (cf. Mansi, Colléetio Conciliorum, xiii, coli. 291 ff.) The reader of Professor Bevan's book may be permitted to doubt if the writer read this part of the Council carefully.
Concerning the quotation of the principle, The honor done the image passes through to the principal, it is true that St. John Damascene quotes it out of the De Spiritu Sancto ad Amphilochium of St. Basil. It also appears in the dogmatic decree of the Council (DB 302), and it was directly quoted from its source in St. Basil in the Council (Mansi, ibid. col. 69).
But a reading of the Fourth Actio of the Council (Mansi, ibid. 1 ff.) will convince a reader that the intelligent bishops at the Council are not to be charged with witting or unwitting amphibology in using the principle.
Upon reading this part of the Council one may again be permitted to doubt that Professor Bevan read it carefully, though it is a primary source for an historian who sets out to write on image-worship in Christianity.
CURRENT THEOLOGYThe Fourth Actio was held on the Kalends of October, 787. Tarasius, the Patriarch of Constantinople, opened the proceedings by bidding that the "books of the holy fathers" be brought forth and read where they touch upon the worship of images. Several biblical testimonies were read and commented on; then followed passages from the Fathers of the Church— incidentally one may note that the catena of tradition is a continuity embracing biblical and patristic sources. After the citation of St. Athanasius' Fourth Sermon against the Arians, Tarasius thus comments: "The very nature of things teaches that the honor done the image passes through to the principal; likewise, dishonor. The father [Athanasius] used it for an example." Athanasius argued against the Arians from an example of the Emperor and his image; the principle is implicit in his words, and Tarasius introduced it explicitly in his comment.
Next follow two quotations from St. Basil, the first of which has the principle explicitly, and in the same words as Tarasius; the second has it implicitly. Both citations have to do with the doctrine of the Trinity.
Following the second citation of St. Basil, the Presbyter John comments on the fact that St. Basil's mind is that the object and the image are not two but one—words which are strikingly near those which will be quoted later from Saint Thomas. It is evident in these citations that the Council was satisfying itself on the legitimacy of the principle in an application to a doctrinal matter; Athanasius and Basil supported them in using it doctrinally; not one listener present could have though that either Athanasius or Basil were talking about image-worship; obviously they were not. The mind of the council concerning the principle will also be found in the numerous times it occurred (cf. Mansi, ibid. 58, 114, 123, 151, 258, 262, 270, 274, 323 etc.) A principle, so evidently apt and accurate, was naturally included in the decree of the Council; for it indicated briefly and clearly that image-worship is relative, not absolute.
We now turn to Professor Bevan's comment on Saint Thomas, who is "studiously restrained in his attitude toward image-worship." Aquinas discusses this topic in the Summa, II-II, 81, a.3 ad 3 (on religion), II-II, 94, 2, ad 1 (on idolatry), and III, 25, 3-6 (on the adoration due to Christ).
On his treatment there is an interesting comment of Saint Robert Bellarmine, which may profitably introduce a discussion of the Angelic Doctor.
During the discussions caused by Molina's work on efficacious grace the adherents of Bañes drew up a Memorial for Pope Clement VIII in 1597.
It was given to the papal theologian, Bellarmine. At the end of the Memorial the writers had added ex abundantia errors in theology outside the domain of grace. Bellarmine deals with the charges, among which he found one against himself. In Father Broderick's Blessed Robert Bellarmine (II,
47) the view of Bellarmine on Saint Thomas is printed. For our purposes the following quotation is pertinent.
428 THEOLOGICAL STUDIES It has pleased the authors of the Memorial to have a hit at Robert Bellarmine before concluding, because he does not use St. Thomas' language about the worship due to images. Robert Bellarmine's answer is that he does not speak like St. Thomas because St. Thomas does not speak like the Popes and the ecumenical Councils. St. Thomas had not been able to examine the testimonies of the Popes and Councils, as it was only after his death that they were either committed to writing, or published if written much earlier. If he had seen them, he would certainly have expressed himself differently, for he was a most exact observer of ecclesiastical regulations....
The state of the question is this. In the second General Council of Nicea it was expressly defined that "the images of Christ are to be venerated and adored in a becoming manner, but not with the adoration of latria, which is to be paid to God alone.... " This was the doctrine of the Church about the year 800 A.D. when the iconoclast heresy was rampant. During the early times of the Schoolmen, however, that is, after the year 1100 A.D., the acts of the aforesaid Council... were hidden away in archives, only to be discovered and published in the present century. The consequence of their disappearance from view in the Middle Ages was that Alexander of Hales began to teach that images of Christ should be adored cultu latriae because Christ who is God is so adored. Thus was a novelty, unheard in former ages, introduced into the Church; and because there were no plain ecclesiastical pronouncements to be adduced to the contrary, some theologians, including St. Thomas, who was a disciple of Alexander of Hales, admitted the new opinion, though not a few cried out against it.
In our own day, when the iconoclast heresy came to life again, the Council of Trent, which embraced the doctrine of St. Thomas willingly in other matters, did not think well to imitate his manner of speaking about this matter. In its 25 th session it avoided not only the word latna but the word adoratio also.... This, then, is the reason why Bellarmine did not adopt St. Thomas' style.... Why, then, do the Friars Preacher take him to task....
It is an acceptable view of later theologians that the prohibition of latria in the Council has to do with absolute latreutic cult. The passages of the Angelic Doctor are accepted as proving that relative latreutic cult is allowable with respect of Christ, and in general that the same sort of cult is given the image as is paid to the principal without the image, the difference being between the relative and absolute worship. The basic reasoning for this is stated in Summa, 25, 3, corp. where St. Thomas, citing the principle, The honor done the image passes through to the principal (from Damascene's works, not from St. Basil or the Council), deduces his
CURRENT THEOLOGYargument: "Motus qui est in imaginem inquantum est imago, est unus et idem cum ilio qui est in rem." The same principle is stated negatively in II-II, 81, 3, ad 3: "Motus qui est in imaginem prout est imago non consista in ipsa, sed tendit in id cujus est imago." St. Thomas is touching upon a different point from that which was at issue in the Council; in fact it is a deeper theological point, for it touches on the problem of explaining the relativity of cult; it is adopted by many theologians today as one of several probable opinions. Bellarmine, indeed, did not hold it, for he thought that the Council prohibited all latreutic cult to images, both absolute and relative; he gives other reasons for his position in his treatise De Imaginibus (the danger of saying that we pay latria to an image of Christ, the occasion heretics may take to blaspheme the faith, etc.). In comment on Bevan's "studious restraint" of St. Thomas, it may be noted that he omitted to treat the point which was precisely at issue at Nicea, that he did not have the acts of the Council, and that his principles carry him legitimately to the same positions as those taken in the Council. Again, in arguing to relative latreutic cult to images of Christ, he may be said to have advanced upon the position taken at Nicea, and to have developed, without adverting to it, what was implicit in the declaration of the Council.
MISCELLANEAN A M E S FOR GOD I N RITES OF MISSIONARY COUNTRIES. Certain recent decrees of the Holy See concerning the Chinese and Malabar rites, and the use of certain native words as names for God have aroused interest in problems of doctrine and Church history. The controversies arose long ago in the missions of the Far East, and thus a notice concerning the rites out of two Indian periodicals of standing will not be out of place.
To insure immediate publication of a recent decree of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda His Excellency Leo P. Kierkels, C.P., Delegate Apostolic of the East Indies used the pages of The Clergy Monthly Í4 (Aug. 1940) 2, 3 3 ]. This decree affirmed that since the oath concerning the Chinese rites was no longer obligatory on missionaries, neither was a similar oath concerning the Malabar rites. Becaues of doubts submitted to the Apostolic Delegate, there appeared a letter by his hand in a later issue [ibid. (Oct. 1940) 4, 9 8 ], in which he says in part: "Although the Roman document under consideration recalls the abolition of a similar oath about the Chinese rites—some of which have now been allowed—said document contains no clause permitting any of the Malabar rites. Those rites were not forbidden because of the oath, but the oath was imposed to enforce the prohibition of the rites. Only the oath has now been abolished, while all other prescriptions of Benedict XIV in regard to the matter remain in force, unless there be decisions of the Holy See ordering otherwise."
For a clear summary of the question of the Chinese rites one may consult an Indian periodical of longer standing, the Promptuarium, in the first number of its readapted form [37 (Jan. 1941) 1, 10-19], under the title, "Circa Quasdam Caeremonias Sínicas."
There is an orderly account of the historical origins of the question, of the decrees of the Holy See both of the past and present, and a comment on the present situation. To the summary a brief and essential bibliography is added. The precautions of the Holy See concerning the discussion of the knotty question have been observed.