Previously God, who has neither a body nor a face, abso-
lutely 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.
Christian iconography expresses in images the same Gos-
pel message that Scripture communicates by words. Image and
word illuminate each other:
We declare that we preserve intact all the written and un-
written 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 incarna
tion 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.
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
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 vener
ated angels, all the saints and the just, whether painted or
made of mosaic or another suitable material, are to be exhib-
ited in the holy churches of God, on sacred vessels and
vestments, walls and panels, in houses and on streets.
“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,
27 St. John Damascene,
1, 16: PG 96:1245-1248.
28 Council of Nicaea II (787):
31 Council of Nicaea II: DS 600.
32 St. John Damascene,
1, 27: PG 94, 1268A, B.