Hi there! Glad you decided to join us! As always, grab your favorite beverage and a comfy spot and let’s chat!
I love visual cues to worship. It’s part of using my entire body to worship the Lord. Before I dive in, I want to compare the ‘Catholic’ with the ‘Protestant’ practices – I’ve seen lots of protestant folks kneeling at an altar at a concert, or before a cross, or with a Bible in their hand, or even at a graveside. Those folks are not worshiping idols. In the same way, using the ‘Catholic’ aids – statues, pictures, crucifix, etc. does not mean they are committing idolatry! In the early days of the church, statues, icons, pictures, etc. were visual aids to teach the masses, who were largely illiterate. They were sort of like a child’s picture book in today’s world.
I love the beauty and imagery in stained glass or iconography. The colors can have meanings of themselves, even apart from the pictures shown. Their beauty reminds me of the beauty of God and how worthy He is to be worshiped and adored.
I love the crucifix, as a visible reminder of what the Lord did for me. Yes, He rose again! 1 Corinthians 15 says “If Christ is not risen, our faith is in vain…” But the reality of His sacrifice for me remains. The crucifix makes me want to be more obedient and spurs greater gratitude for my salvation, when I can ‘see’ the price He paid for me.
Statues of saints can help me worship Jesus. No, I absolutely do NOT worship Mary or the saints! I worship God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The statues of Jesus, of the saints, of Mary, help visually cue me to some particular aspect of the Lord and why He’s worthy of worship, or some virtue I want to cultivate in my own life. For example, when I see Mary, I see someone who said the ultimate “yes” to Jesus. I want that ‘yes’ of my own. I want to be that fully surrendered to God’s plans for my life. So, if you would see me standing or even kneeling before a statue of Mary in prayer, rest assured that I’m not worshiping her! I’m remembering her complete and total acquiescence to the will of God, and praying that Jesus will work that same ‘yes’ in my own heart to Him. I’m likely praying for His grace to emulate Mary’s total abandonment to His will, His plans, His purposes, no matter where they may take me, or what they may cost me in this life on earth.
Paintings can also help me pray and worship. I love the picture of Jesus as the Divine Mercy. It reminds me of His mercy toward us, of the cleansing of the blood and water, and of the fact that I can trust Him with every aspect of my life. So, again, if you see me standing or kneeling before a picture, know for certain that I am not worshiping that picture! Pictures can help me focus on some aspect of the Lord’s life or on a Bible story and spur me to meditate on that.
Finally, creation itself can inspire me. Something as simple as a tree can spark worship. I can be outside, enjoying the beauty of creation, the beauty of the weather, and praise Him for those. Or I may remember that in Isaiah 55, the trees of the field clap their hands in praise to the Lord. Or I might remember Psalm 1: I am a tree of righteousness, planted by the Lord, to bear fruit in season. I can remember the palm branches used when Jesus entered Jerusalem in Holy Week, and be spurred to worship with “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” and then meditate on ways the Lord is coming to my life in this season. I might remember Nathaniel, whom the Lord called and said that He had seen him under the fig tree; in that day it was common to meditate on Sacred Scripture in a favorite spot beneath a shade tree. I might remember Zacchaeus, who climbed a tree in order to see Jesus more clearly; what can I do today to ‘climb up’ or ‘ascend’ to see Him more clearly? Or maybe I can simply remember the Lord’s provision, as I think about a fruit tree. Where has He blessed me with provision or something enjoyable? What can I thank Him for?
Hopefully, my experiences with visual worship will encourage you to use the views around you as well, to worship the Lord more frequently and more fully!