On the Commemorated Feast of Saint John Damascene, Foe of Iconoclasm

Iconoclasm has been one of the chief means by which the liturgical and doctrinal revolutionaries of the counterfeit church of conciliarism have sought to devastate the Catholic Faith. The conciliar manifestation of iconoclasm has focused on destroying or defacing or “wreckovating” everything that is authentically Catholic in the art and architecture associated traditionally with worship in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church. High altars have been demolished with abandon. Altar rails have been torn down. Tabernacles have been moved and/or replaced with monstrosities that sometimes resemble spaceships or globes. And, of course, statues and images of the saints have been taken down. Many of these statues and images were simply thrown out. Others were smashed up on the spot. Still others were put up for sale.

Iconoclasm has always been a chief means by which revolutionaries have sought to eradicate the authentic history of the past in order to “replace” true history with a “memory” that is false and serves their own ideological interests. John Calvin and his band of bloody butchers sought to eradicate all traces of Catholicism in churches and in society in the Sixteenth Century. His followers in England did so with a merciless abandon a century later during the English Civil War as a means of trying to “purify” the Anglican “Church” of its Catholic vestiges, especially high altars and statues of Our Lady and the other saints. It is thus no accident at all that the new Puritans of conciliarism, which preaches a “simplified” liturgy that is in concert with their mythical constructs of antiquarianism (the projecting back into the past a revolutionary agenda for the present that has no actual foundations in the past), have sought to do in the past four decades exactly what many Protestant revolutionaries did in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. What is even sadder is the extent to which so many Catholics in the conciliar structures have gone along with this new iconoclasm with such docility, if not actual enthusiasm.

Consider this passage from Fathers Dominic and Francisco Radecki’s Tumultuous Times:

The heretical priest Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) of Zurich, Switzerland, with the blessing of the Archbishop of Constance, preached against indulgences, Zwingli then devised a new faith that revived iconoclasm.

“The Government of Canton seized the Church property and decreed the power of priests to marry. It was in 1522 that Zwingli laid down the principle that the Bible under private interpretation, was the sole authority for doctrine. He denied all mystery in the Eucharist. By 1525 the Mass had been stamped out in Zurich, and its departure had been preceded by violent iconoclasm by these mountaineers upon all the inheritance of beauty which their ancestors had left them for a guide. . . . This was the first of the barbaric destructions. A host of others were to follow, through more than a century, ruining the art of Scotland, horribly maiming that of France and the Rhine and the Netherlands: murdering our ancestral wealth in living stones.” (Hillaire Belloc, How the Reformation Happened, pp. 76-77.)

“Despite the opposition of the bishop of Constance and the Swiss diet [theological meeting], the canton of Zurich carried out religious reforms in a vigorous fashion.

“During the year 1534 pictures, statues, crucifixes, candles and other ornaments were removed from the churches and destroyed, decorated walls were whitewashed, the bones of the local saints were buried, altars were placed by tables, organs were dismantled, and the singing by choirs was abolished. The congregational singing of hymns was not introduced until late in that century. Little remained but bare, cold edifices that would hardly distract the attention of the worshipers from the hearing of the simple, unadorned Word of God. Pilgrimages and processions naturally ceased, and the church year was reduced to four festivals: Christmas, Good Friday, Easter and Pentecost. Monasteries were dissolved and their properties were taken over by the state to be used for the care of the unfortunates and the education of the young.

“During Holy Week in April 1525, communion was celebrated according to the Zwinglian usage for the first time. . .  . Zwingli took his place at the head of simple table that was covered with a white linen cloth and on which were placed Communion cups and plates of wood. After praying and reading in German the words of institution and pertinent Scripture passages, Zwingli and his assistants partook of the break and wine and then distributed these sacred symbols among the people, going from pew to pew. Those parts of the liturgy that were retained in the Mass, that is, the Introit, the Gloria in Excelsis, the Creed, and a number of responses were read in the Swiss vernacular by the people, the mean alternating with the women. The same year, Zwingli provided his followers with a simplified baptismal service in the vernacular, from which he had deleted the formula of exorcism and other parts…” (Harold Grimm,The Reformation, 1500-1600, p. 153) 

The widespread destruction of altars, statues and crucifixes that took place after Vatican II parallels Zwingli’s iconoclasm which had occurred centuries earlier. (Fathers Dominic and Francisco Radecki, Tumultuous Times, pp. 205-206)

Although Pope Pius XII did give a more or less free hand to the great destroyers of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, Fathers Ferdinando Antontelli, O.F.M., and Annibale Bugnini, C.M., to concoct various liturgical innovations in the 1950s, he did use Mediator Dei, November 20, 1947, to warn of the antiquarianism favored by the revolutionaries associated with the Liturgical Movement, an antiquarianism that relied in no small measure upon the same sort of iconoclasm as practiced Ulrich Zwingli (whose work I once heard praised by a then Capuchin Franciscan priest, the late Father Benedict Joseph Groeschel, in the chapel of his Trinity Retreat House in Larchmont, Westchester County, New York, in 1984):

The Church is without question a living organism, and as an organism, in respect of the sacred liturgy also, she grows, matures, develops, adapts and accommodates herself to temporal needs and circumstances, provided only that the integrity of her doctrine be safeguarded. This notwithstanding, the temerity and daring of those who introduce novel liturgical practices, or call for the revival of obsolete rites out of harmony with prevailing laws and rubrics, deserve severe reproof. It has pained Us grievously to note, Venerable Brethren, that such innovations are actually being introduced, not merely in minor details but in matters of major importance as well. We instance, in point of fact, those who make use of the vernacular in the celebration of the august eucharistic sacrifice; those who transfer certain feast-days — which have been appointed and established after mature deliberation — to other dates; those, finally, who delete from the prayerbooks approved for public use the sacred texts of the Old Testament, deeming them little suited and inopportune for modern times.

The use of the Latin language, customary in a considerable portion of the Church, is a manifest and beautiful sign of unity, as well as an effective antidote for any corruption of doctrinal truth. In spite of this, the use of the mother tongue in connection with several of the rites may be of much advantage to the people. But the Apostolic See alone is empowered to grant this permission. It is forbidden, therefore, to take any action whatever of this nature without having requested and obtained such consent, since the sacred liturgy, as We have said, is entirely subject to the discretion and approval of the Holy See.. . .

Assuredly it is a wise and most laudable thing to return in spirit and affection to the sources of the sacred liturgy. For research in this field of study, by tracing it back to its origins, contributes valuable assistance towards a more thorough and careful investigation of the significance of feast-days, and of the meaning of the texts and sacred ceremonies employed on their occasion. But it is neither wise nor laudable to reduce everything to antiquity by every possible device. Thus, to cite some instances, one would be straying from the straight path were he to wish the altar restored to its primitive tableform; were he to want black excluded as a color for the liturgical vestments; were he to forbid the use of sacred images and statues in Churches; were he to order the crucifix so designed that the divine Redeemer’s body shows no trace of His cruel sufferings; and lastly were he to disdain and reject polyphonic music or singing in parts, even where it conforms to regulations issued by the Holy See. . . . . 

From what We have already explained, Venerable Brethren, it is perfectly clear how much modern writers are wanting in the genuine and true liturgical spirit who, deceived by the illusion of a higher mysticism, dare to assert that attention should be paid not to the historic Christ but to a “pneumatic” or glorified Christ. They do not hesitate to assert that a change has taken place in the piety of the faithful by dethroning, as it were, Christ from His position; since they say that the glorified Christ, who liveth and reigneth forever and sitteth at the right hand of the Father, has been overshadowed and in His place has been substituted that Christ who lived on earth. For this reason, some have gone so far as to want to remove from the churches images of the divine Redeemer suffering on the cross.

But these false statements are completely opposed to the solid doctrine handed down by tradition. “You believe in Christ born in the flesh,” says St. Augustine, “and you will come to Christ begotten of God.” In the sacred liturgy, the whole Christ is proposed to us in all the circumstances of His life, as the Word of the eternal Father, as born of the Virgin Mother of God, as He who teaches us truth, heals the sick, consoles the afflicted, who endures suffering and who dies; finally, as He who rose triumphantly from the dead and who, reigning in the glory of heaven, sends us the Holy Paraclete and who abides in His Church forever; “Jesus Christ, yesterday and today, and the same forever.”

Besides, the liturgy shows us Christ not only as a model to be imitated but as a master to whom we should listen readily, a Shepherd whom we should follow, Author of our salvation, the Source of our holiness and the Head of the Mystical Body whose members we are, living by His very life.

Since His bitter sufferings constitute the principal mystery of our redemption, it is only fitting that the Catholic faith should give it the greatest prominence. This mystery is the very center of divine worship since the Mass represents and renews it every day and since all the sacraments are most closely united with the cross. . . . 

We should imitate the virtues of the saints just as they imitated Christ, for in their virtues there shines forth under different aspects the splendor of Jesus Christ. Among some of these saints the zeal of the apostolate stood out, in others courage prevailed even to the shedding of blood, constant vigilance marked others out as they kept watch for the divine Redeemer, while in others the virginal purity of soul was resplendent and their modesty revealed the beauty of Christian humility; there burned in all of them the fire of charity towards God and their neighbor. The sacred liturgy puts all these gems of sanctity before us so that we may consider them for our salvation, and “rejoicing at their merits, we may be inflamed by their example.” It is necessary, then, to practice “in simplicity innocence, in charity concord, in humility modesty, diligence in government, readiness in helping those who labor, mercy in serving the poor, in defending truth, constancy, in the strict maintenance of discipline justice, so that nothing may be wanting in us of the virtues which have been proposed for our imitation. These are the footprints left by the saints in their journey homeward, that guided by them we might follow them into glory.” In order that we may be helped by our senses, also, the Church wishes that images of the saints be displayed in our churches, always, however, with the same intention “that we imitate the virtues of those whose images we venerate.”

But there is another reason why the Christian people should honor the saints in heaven, namely, to implore their help and “that we be aided by the pleadings of those whose praise is our delight.” Hence, it is easy to understand why the sacred liturgy provides us with many different prayers to invoke the intercession of the saints. 

Among the saints in heaven the Virgin Mary Mother of God is venerated in a special way. Because of the mission she received from God, her life is most closely linked with the mysteries of Jesus Christ, and there is no one who has followed in the footsteps of the Incarnate Word more closely and with more merit than she: and no one has more grace and power over the most Sacred Heart of the Son of God and through Him with the Heavenly Father. Holier than the Cherubim and Seraphim, she enjoys unquestionably greater glory than all the other saints, for she is “full of grace,” she is the Mother of God, who happily gave birth to the Redeemer for us. Since she is therefore, “Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope,” let us all cry to her “mourning and weeping in this vale of tears,” and confidently place ourselves and all we have under her patronage. She became our Mother also when the divine Redeemer offered the sacrifice of Himself; and hence by this title also, we are her children. She teaches us all the virtues; she gives us her Son and with Him all the help we need, for God “wished us to have everything through Mary.” 

Throughout this liturgical journey which begins anew for us each year under the sanctifying action of the Church, and strengthened by the help and example of the saints, especially of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, “let us draw near with a true heart, in fullness of faith having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with clean water,” let us draw near to the “High Priest” that with Him we may share His life and sentiments and by Him penetrate “even within the veil,” and there honor the heavenly Father for ever and ever.

Such is the nature and the object of the sacred liturgy: it treats of the Mass, the sacraments, the divine office; it aims at uniting our souls with Christ and sanctifying them through the divine Redeemer in order that Christ be honored and, through Him and in Him, the most Holy Trinity, Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost. 

In order that the errors and inaccuracies, mentioned above, may be more easily removed from the Church, and that the faithful following safer norms may be able to use more fruitfully the liturgical apostolate, We have deemed it opportune, Venerable Brethren, to add some practical applications of the doctrine which We have explained.

When dealing with genuine and solid piety We stated that there could be no real opposition between the sacred liturgy and other religious practices, provided they be kept within legitimate bounds and performed for a legitimate purpose. In fact, there are certain exercises of piety which the Church recommends very much to clergy and religious.

It is Our wish also that the faithful, as well, should take part in these practices. The chief of these are: meditation on spiritual things, diligent examination of conscience, enclosed retreats, visits to the blessed sacrament, and those special prayers in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary among which the rosary, as all know, has pride of place.

From these multiple forms of piety, the inspiration and action of the Holy Spirit cannot be absent. Their purpose is, in various ways, to attract and direct our souls to God, purifying them from their sins, encouraging them to practice virtue and, finally, stimulating them to advance along the path of sincere piety by accustoming them to meditate on the eternal truths and disposing them better to contemplate the mysteries of the human and divine natures of Christ. Besides, since they develop a deeper spiritual life of the faithful, they prepare them to take part in sacred public functions with greater fruit, and they lessen the danger of liturgical prayers becoming an empty ritualism.

In keeping with your pastoral solicitude, Venerable Brethren, do not cease to recommend and encourage these exercises of piety from which the faithful, entrusted to your care, cannot but derive salutary fruit. Above all, do not allow — as some do, who are deceived under the pretext of restoring the liturgy or who idly claim that only liturgical rites are of any real value and dignity — that churches be closed during the hours not appointed for public functions, as has already happened in some places: where the adoration of the august sacrament and visits to Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in the tabernacles are neglected; where confession of devotion is discouraged; and devotion to the Virgin Mother of God, a sign of “predestination” according to the opinion of holy men, is so neglected, especially among the young, as to fade away and gradually vanish. Such conduct most harmful to Christian piety is like poisonous fruit, growing on the infected branches of a healthy tree, which must be cut off so that the life-giving sap of the tree may bring forth only the best fruit.

Since the opinions expressed by some about frequent confession are completely foreign to the spirit of Christ and His Immaculate Spouse and are also most dangerous to the spiritual life, let Us call to mind what with sorrow We wrote about this point in the encyclical on the Mystical Body. We urgently insist once more that what We expounded in very serious words be proposed by you for the serious consideration and dutiful obedience of your flock, especially to students for the priesthood and young clergy. (Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei, November 20, 1947.) 

The synthetic concoction known as the Protestant and Judeo-Masonic Novus Ordo liturgical service, you see, is but the work of true iconoclastic, antiquarian revolutionaries, men who sought to eliminate as much of the Catholic past as they could in order to foment a Protestant-Masonic worship “service” that would suit the “needs” of “modern man” while at the same time serving the ecumenical, syncretist interests of the One World Religion. Bugnini himself spoke about this himself in L’Osservatore Romano in 1965:

We must strip from our Catholic prayers and from the Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren that is for the Protestants.  (L’Osservatore Romano, March 19, 1965.)

It is no accident, therefore, that there was only one footnoted reference, at footnote twenty-two, to Mediator Dei in the “Second” Vatican Council’s first document, Sacrosanctum Concilium, December 1, 1963. Pope Pius XII’s 1947 encyclical letter, which warned of many of the innovations and sacrileges that would become the “norm” in the hideous abomination known as the Protestant and Judeo-Masonic Novus Ordo liturgical abomination, was consigned to the Orwellian memory hole in just sixteen years.

The contemporary iconoclasm of the conciliarists that has so devastated the sensus Catholicus of so many Catholics harkens back not only to the iconoclasm of the Protestant revolutionaries but to the iconoclasm that was fought by the saint we commemorate today, Saint John Damascene. Fathers Dominic and Francisco Radecki provided the historical background in Tumultuous Times to the work of Saint John Damascene in defending the sacred images of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and Our Lady and the other saints:

Caliph Yezid II ruled the Islamic Empire of the East from 720-724 A.D. He prohibited and destroyed images in the mosques and churches within his domain. “To Muslims, any kind of picture, statue, or representation of the human form is an abominable idol.”

Emperor Leo III, inflamed with a misguided zeal, imitated the action of the Caliph and in 726 A.D. decreed that all statues, icons and images of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin and the saints be destroyed. He claimed that the people were worshipping images and committing idolatry by praying before them. This practice of destroying sacred images is called iconoclasm. The name is derived from the Greek words: eikon image and klao to break.

St. Germanus, patriarch of Constantinople, firmly resisted these innovations and explained to the emperor what the Catholic Church taught regarding the proper use of images. “The images of the saints are incentives for virtue in the same way as edifying discourses are; a picture is a compressed history, which directs our thoughts towards our Heavenly Father.” he also wrote a letter to Pope St. Gregory II who confirmed the devotional use of images to remind the faithful of Jesus, Mary, and the saints. However, the hard-hearted emperor refused to accept the consistent practice and teaching of the Church concerning images and began a campaign of brutality and destruction.

Today, many non-Catholics have been misled into thinking that Catholics worship statues of Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints. When the occasion or topic arises, we should simply explain that these are reminders of people we honor as role models for our edification, just as athletes, political figures, presidents and generals, etc. are honored with statues, memorials and coins.

Paintings, statues and icons of the saints are no more objects of worship than are paintings of great national heroes, famous generals or even family photographs. Even memorabilia and decorative pieces in homes can be used to show non-Catholics that these items, even though much admired, are not worshipped.

“The use of images in the Church dates from very remote antiquity. This is sufficiently proved from the monuments of the Apostolic age, and from the numerous symbols and images of Christ, the [Blessed] Virgin, the Apostles, and biblical personages which adorn the Roman Catacombs; many of these symbols belong to the first and second centuries.” (Father J. Birkhaeuser, History of the Church, p. 313)

Nevertheless, Leo adamantly opposed the appeals of both Saint Germanus and the pope. He held a council in Constantinople in 730 A.D. to condemn the veneration of sacred images. The patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem did not attend the council and the reigning patriarch of Constantinople, St. Germans, who opposed the emperor’s plans, was banished. Iconoclasm caused an eruption of violence throughout the Byzantine Empire as Leo’s hatred for sacred images burned uncontrollably.

“The emperor replied in the manner of men who are accustomed to wield force more readily than argument. He burnt all the sacred images in one of the public places of the city, and in the churches he whitewashed the walls, which were covered with precious paintings. He ordered that a large picture of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, which has been erected by Constantine at the entrance of the palace, be smashed. Some women who happened to be on the spot implored the military officer to desist from his impious task, but their prayers were disregarded. The officer mounted a ladder, and with a hatchet hacked away the countenance of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The women, beside themselves with grief and indignation, pulled away the ladder; the officer fell down and was killed on the spot.” (Father Clement Raab, O.F.M., Twenty Ecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church, pp. 53-54.)

On January 17, 731 A.D., Leo III issued a decree which stated that anyone who did not destroy images in their possessions or who honored them in any way would be guilty of treason. Thus began a severe persecution of the Church that was to last for over 50 years.

“The icons were broken up; illustrations of Christ and the saints were torn out of manuscripts; relics were cast into the sea. And when people resisted these imperial moves, prison, exile, torture, and death followed. Much of the brutality and savagery associated with the Byzantine Emperors has resulted from their activity in this matter.” (Father John Murphy, General Councils of the Church, p. 85) (end of material quoted from and found in Tumultuous Times, pp. 68-70)

A particular note of interest is to be found in the fact that the Byzantine Emperor Leo III was interested in doing the bidding of a Mohammedan caliph, finding that the Caliph’s hatred of images had “merit” to it. In other words, Emperor Leo III wanted to assure the Mohammedan caliph that there was no need to kill the Christians in his domain. “True” Christians such as himself, Leo III, hated images such as much as he, the caliph, did. Oh, what was that some defenders of the recntly deceased "restorer of tradition," Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, were saying about the fact that he just “had” to violate the First Commandment by going into the mosque in Turkey and taking off his shoes and then turning in the direction of Mecca so as to “save” the lives of Christians worldwide? Seems like a bit of history repeating itself. No Catholic ever puts the physical safety of himself or others above honoring the First Commandment, which is violated on a seemingly daily basis by Ratzinger/Benedict's successor, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, otherwise known as the Argentine Apostate.

Saint John Damascene, who lived from around 679 to 754 A.D., fought the iconoclasts and defended the veneration of the images of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and Our Lady and the other saints. He is a saint to invoke in our day as those purporting to be Catholics have rekindled the spirit of Emperor Leo III and Ulrich Zwingli.

Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., wrote the following about today’s saint in The Liturgical Year, taking the time to note how the various heresies that arose in the East would lead one day to the Greek Schism of 1054, placing the heretical and schismatic Orthodox well outside the pale of the one and only Church of Christ, that is, the Catholic Church founded by the God-Man Himself on the Rock of Peter, the Pope:

The faithful have not forgotten that on the first Sunday of Lent the Greeks keep one of their greatest solemnities, that of Orthodoxy. History proves that the Church of Constantinople, the new Rome, did not share the indefectibility of that of the old Rome, for it passed through a cycle of heresies on the dogma of the Incarnation. It rejected successively the consubstantiality of the Word, the unity of Person in Jesus Christ, and the integrity of His two natures. It seemed as though there were nothing left for heretical emperors and patriarchs to deny. Yet there was one more error to proclaim before the measure of false teaching was filled up.

Christ enthroned in heaven could not be belittled, but His images might be proscribed on earth. Heresy was powerless to touch the King even in these pictorial representations, but schism could at least shake off the yoke of His Vicar, and this last denial rolled the stone to the door of a tomb where the Crescent was one day to seal. 

The heresy of the Iconoclasts or Image-breakers represents the last phase of Oriental error with regard to the Incarnation of the Son of God. It was right that the feast which commemorates the restoration of the holy Images should receive the glorious name of the Feast of Orthodoxy. It celebrates the last blow struck at Byzantine dogma, and recalls all those delivered by the councils of the Church between the first and second of Nicea. A peculiar solemnity was given to this feast by the fact that all the anathemas formulated in previous times against the adversaries of revealed truth were renewed in the Church of St. Sophia, while the Cross and the holy Images were exalted in triumph and the emperor stood at his throne.

Satan, the sworn foe of the Word, showed clearly that he looked upon the doctrine of the Iconoclasts as his last resource. There is no more heresy which has caused more martyrdoms or destructions. Nero and Diocletian seemed to be reincarnate in the baptized Caesars who defended it; Leo the Isaurian, Constantine Copronymus, Leo the Armenian, Michael the Stammerer and his son Theophilus. The edicts of persecution, published in defence of the idols of former times, were renewed for the destruction of the idolatry which was said to defile the Church. 

In the early days of the heresy, St. Germanus of Constantinople reminded the crowned theologian of Isauria that Christians do not adore images but given them a relative honour, which is due to the persons of the saints whom they represent. The imperial pontiff replied by sending the patriarch into exile. The soldiers, whom the emperor charged to carry out his will, gave themselves up to the pillage of churches and private homes. On all sides venerated statues fell under the hammer of the destroyer. Mural paintings were covered with chalk, vestments and sacred vessels mutilated and destroyed on account of images in embroidery or enamel. Masterpieces of art, which had nourished the devotion of the people, were publicly burnt, and the artist who dared to represent Christ, Our Lady, or the saints, was himself subjected to fire and torture together with those of the faithful who had not been able to restraint their sorrow at the sight of such destruction. The shepherds bowed beneath the storm and yielded to regrettable compromises, and the reign of terror was soon supreme over the deserted flock.   

But the noble family of St. Basil, both monks and consecrated virgins, rose en masse to withstand the tyrant. They passed through exile, imprisonment, starvation, scourging, death by drowning and the sword, but they saved the tradition of ancient art and the faith of their ancestors. The whole Order seems personified in the holy monk and painter Lazarus, who was at first tempted by flattery and threats, then tortured and put in chains. It was impossible to repress him. His hands were burned with red-hot plates, but he still continued to exercise his art for the love of the saints, for the sake of his brethren, and for God, and he outlived his persecutors. 

The heresy of the Iconoclasts helped, moreover to establish the temporal independence of the Roman pontiffs, for when the Isaurian threatened to enter Rome and destroy the statue of St. Peter, all Italy rose to repel the invasion of these new barbarians, defend the treasures of her basilicas and withdraw the Vicar of Christ from the yoke of Byzantium. 

It was a glorious period, a hundred and twenty years, comprising the reign of great popes, from St. Gregory II. to Paschal I. In the history of the Eastern Church it begins with John Damascene, who saw the opening of the conflict, and ends with Theodore the Studite, whose indomitable firmness secured the final triumph. For many centuries this period, which gave to many saints to the Greek Kalendar, was unrepresented in the Latin Liturgy. The feast of to-day was added by Pope Leo XIII. in 1892, and how John Damascene, the quondam vizier, the protege of Our Lady, the monk, whose excellent doctrine won for him the name of ‘Golden stream,’ commemorates in the Western cycle the heroic struggle in which the East rendered such glorious services to the Church and to the world. (Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., The Liturgical Year.)

Dom Prosper Gueranger provided the passage from the Liturgy of the Hours concerning the life of Saint John Damascene, part of which is excerpted here:

“John, who received the name of Damascene from his native place, was of noble birth, and studied sacred and profane letters at Constantinople under the monk Cosmas. When Emperor Leo the Isaurian made a wicked attack upon the cult of the holy Images, John, at the desire of Pope Gregory III., earnestly defended the holiness of this cult both by words and writings. By this he enkindled so great a hatred in the heart of Leo that the Emperor accused him, by means of forged letters, of treachery to the Caliph of Damascus, whom he was serving as a councillor and minister. John denied the charge, but the Caliph was deceived by it and ordered his right hand to be cut off. John implored most earnestly the help of the blessed Virgin, and she manifested the innocence of her servant by reuniting the hand and arm as though they had never been severed. This miracle moved John to carry out a design which he had long had in mind. He obtained, though not without difficulty, the Caliph’s permission to leave him, distributed all his goods to the poor and freed all his slaves. He then made a pilgrimage to the holy places in Palestine, and at length withdrew with his teacher Cosmas to the monastery of St. Sabbas near Jerusalem, where he was ordained priest.

“In the religious life he was an example of virtue to all the monks, especially in his humility and obedience. He sought for the lowest offices in the community as though they were peculiarly his own, and fulfilled them with the greatest care. When he was sent to Damascus to sell baskets made by himself, he welcomed the mockery and jests of the lowest classes in that city where he had once held the most honourable offices. He was so devoted to obedience, that not only was he ready to obey the nod of his superiors, but he never thought it right to ask the reason of any command, however strange or difficult. While practicing these virtues, he never ceased earnestly to defend the Catholic doctrine as to the honouring of holy Images. Thus he drew down upon himself the hatred and persecution of the Emperor Constantine Copronymus, as he had once doe that of Leo the Isaurian, and this all the more because he freely rebuked the arrogance of these Emperors, who meddled with matters concerning the faith, and pronounced sentence on them according to their own judgment.

“It is a marvel how much John wrote both in prose and inverse for the protection of the faith and the encouragement of devotion. He was worthy of the high praise which was given him by the second Council of Nicea. He was surnamed Chrysorrhoas on the account of the golden streams of his eloquence. It was not only against the enemies of the holy Images that he defended the orthodox faith, for he also stoutly opposed the Acepahli, the Monothelites and the Theopaschites. He maintained the laws and the power of the Church. he asserted the primacy of the Prince of the Apostles in eloquent words, and often called him the pillar of the Churches, the unbroken rock and the teacher and ruler of the world. His writings are not only distinguished for doctrine and learning, but have a savour of simple piety, especially when he praises the Mother of God whom he honoured with a singular love and devotion. But the greatest praise of John is that he was the first to arrange in order a complete course of theology, thus preparing the way in which St. Thomas Aquinas has so clearly dealt with the whole body of sacred doctrine. This holy man, full of days and good works, fell asleep in the peace of Christ about the year 754. Pope Leo XIII declared him to be a Doctor of the Church, and ordered his office and mass to be said throughout the world.” (Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B.,The Liturgical Year.)

Yes, we can see how much the hatred of the holy images runs through the cold veins of the cold-hearted liturgical revolutionaries who “wreckovated” Catholic churches during these last years of their conciliarist captivity. How wonderful it is, therefore, that the authentic patrimony of the Catholic Church has been maintained in the catacombs, replete with high altars and altar rails and glorious images and statues of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and Our Lady and the saints.

We must be careful to festoon our own homes with these images, which provide us with visible, tangible representations of the mysteries of salvation and of the cloud of witnesses that are invisibly present in every offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and that await us in Heaven, please God we die in a state of Sanctifying Grace as members of the Catholic Church, outside of which there is no salvation. For it is not only our churches that must remind us of the mysteries of the Faith and the intercessory power of our saints who are enjoying the glory of the Beatific Vision of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in Heaven. Our very homes and our cars must be similarly adorned. These images and statues remind us that we must be careful to polish the image of the Blessed Trinity that resides in our very souls when we are in states of Sanctifying Grace, that we need the help and Heavenly intercession of those who have won the crown of eternal glory to perfect that image of the Blessed Trinity in our souls as we offer unto Him all of our prayers and good works and the merits we earn as a result of the patient endurance of our daily crosses as the consecrated slaves of Our Lady’s Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart.

One of the ways in which the images of the saints can inspire us to pursue the heights of sanctity more fervently as the consecrated slaves of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ through Our Lady’s Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart is to read about the lives of the saints every day.

The revolutionaries have control of our churches at the present moment. They cannot, at least not yet, control our homes and the churches at which we worship in the catacombs during this time of apostasy and betrayal. Our own love for and reverence of the Sacred Images in our churches and in our homes will help us to aspire all the more to ask Our Lady to send us the graces to live in such a way that we might be given the privilege of dying a death that will send us in short time to have the highest place in Heaven possible next to herself. We must be Iconophiles in this era of the neo-iconoclasts.

Indeed, here is a prayer, “Good Night to Our Blessed Mother,” found on the website of Our Lady of the Rosary Library (Traditional Catholic Prayers and Devotions) before an image of Our Lady before we go to sleep each night:  

Night is falling dear Mother, the long day is o’er!

And before thy loved image I am kneeling once more

To thank thee for keeping me safe through the day

To ask thee this night to keep evil away.

Many times have I fallen today, Mother Dear,

Many graces neglected, since last I knelt here;

Wilt thou not in pity, my own Mother mild,

Ask Jesus to pardon the sins of thy child?

I am going to rest, for the day’s work is done,

Its hours and its moments have passed one by one;

And the God who will judge me has noted them all,

He has numbered each grace, He has counted each fall.

In His book they are written against the last day,

O Mother, ask Jesus to wash them away;

For one drop of His blood which for sinners was spilt,

Is sufficient to cleanse the whole world of its guilt.

And if ere the dawn I should draw my last breath

And the sleep that I take be the long sleep of death,

Be near me, dear Mother, for dear Jesus’ sake

When my soul on Eternity’s shore shall awake. 

Saint Alphonsus de Liguori wrote that we must always venerate Our Lady’s statue when making a visit to her Divine Son in His Real Presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament. He composed this prayer to be prayed in front of an image of Our Lady:

Most Holy Virgin Immaculate, my Mother Mary, to Thee who art the Mother of my Lord, the Queen of the universe, the advocate, the hope, the refuge of sinners, I who am the most miserable of all sinners, have recourse this day.

I venerate Thee, great Queen, and I thank Thee for the many graces Thou hast bestowed upon me even unto this day; in particular for having delivered me from the hell which I have so often deserved by my sins.

I love Thee, most dear Lady; and for the love I bear Thee, I promise to serve Thee willingly for ever and to do what I can to make Thee loved by others also. I place in Thee all my hopes for salvation; accept me as thy servant and shelter me under thy mantle, thou who art the Mother of mercy.

And since thou art so powerful with God, deliver me from all temptations, or at least obtain for me the strength to overcome them until death. From Thee I implore a true love for Jesus Christ. Through Thee I hope to die a holy death. My dear Mother, by the love thou bearest to Almighty God, I pray Thee to assist me always, but most of all at the last moment of my life. Forsake me not then, until thou shalt see me safe in heaven, there to bless Thee and sing of thy mercies through all eternity. Such is my hope. Amen. 

Invoking the intercession of Our Lady, the fairest flower of our race, and of her devoted client, Saint John Damascene, may we use this time of the Paschal Triduum before the unshrouding of the sacred images on Holy Saturday, March 30, 2024,, to “polish up” the image of the Blessed Trinity in our souls, especially by means of daily Mass (if at all possible in these times of apostasy and betrayal), Eucharistic adoration and weekly Confession (in addition to our daily family Rosary–prayed in the home with our fellow family members on our knees in front of an image of Our Lady) so that we might be able to enjoy an unending Easter Sunday of glory in Heaven directly in His presence and in the actual company of those who representations have been given to us by Holy Mother Church to inspire us here on earth to be their imitators in both word and in deed.

Vivat Christus Rex! Viva Cristo Rey!

Isn’t it time to pray a full fifteen-decade Rosary now?

Our Lady of the Rosary, us.

Saint John Damascene, pray for us.