In former Protestant churches I attended, rarely did I notice pictures or designs within the walls of the Church. Some mandatory things that were in the church were an empty cross, a Lord’s Supper picture, and everyone had a Black Jesus portrait in the cafeteria.
Literally, everyone had one!
For the most part, these churches I sat in week after week were really white walls and space. It wasn’t until I started attending Mass and becoming a Catholic that I got the experience that I longed to see which was a church engraved with stories through art.
Many non-Catholics find Catholic spiritual art, images, and icons disturbing. Almost as if it is idolatry the way Catholics adorn themselves in scapulars, pictures of saints and other aids for faith.
But let’s be real: Protestants have their own unique version of this! There have been times when someone’s loved one has died, at times you might see a photo of their departed family member as a reminder of their impact in that person’s life. They may stare and powder or ask for their guidance.
Little do non-Catholics know that they’ve committed idolatry by using an image for spiritual purposes!
From what I remember, I never had a big dilemma on icons, statues, or images. A lot of Protestant Christians see them as idolatrous but I didn’t. Perhaps, it was a small occasional visit to baptist churches with stained glass windows that influenced my view. I’ve been thoroughly happy with this!
3 years years ago during Christmas season, I stepped into a nearby parish for Wednesday evening mass and was encountered by the pastor who was seated on a pew. He and another guy were speaking, and there the three of us were in an empty church. I spent most of my time observing the statues of the saints and the stations of the cross depiction on the walls. At the altar, was the tabernacle. Never had I really been in a space with so many spiritual things. It was a complete 180 for me. I was wholly intrigued and moved by the breathtaking pieces of the Catholic faith!
As I’ve visited other parishes, I’m always fascinated by the beauty and depth of their icons and stained glass windows with their detailed depictions of saints and the ministry of Jesus on earth. When I see them, I can’t help but be in awe at their design. I heard it said best by an Eastern Orthodox blogger “the Bible is the faith in words, Icons are the faith in pictures.”
The spiritual art is just one of the many ways to find deeper intimacy with God the Church offers that I indulge in! We should all take advantage of the beauty of faith in art.
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