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Dialogue: Experiencing God’s Consolation

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Recently a Muslim friend asked me about the statutes in the Church whether Christians worship statues. In other words: Are Christians idol worshipers? I recognized that often questions like this one come either out of ignorance or due to misunderstanding. We had a very helpful religious conversation around the topic. I told him that Christians are monotheists. They affirm without ambiguity that worship is due to God alone. In light of the Crucified and Risen Christ they believe that the nature of the one living God is Triune. In his or her worship of God, a Christian adores the one living God. This worship includes three principal acts: namely adoration (or the recognition of God’s infinite perfection), prayer or the asking for divine help, and sacrifice or the offering of something precious to God.
Christians also venerate angels and saints. Veneration like adoration has three principal forms. In venerating angels and saints; first, Christians honor the sanctity of the angels and saints; second, they pray to angels and saints to intercede before the divine Majesty; thirdly, Christians imitate saints and angels love for and service of God.
The statues one finds in the churches and chapels are symbolic form of the saints and angles. The purpose of keeping statues in the places of veneration is to recall the person whom the statue represents in order to inspire greater piety.
My Muslim friend expressed gratitude for this brief response, and I too felt glad for this occasion for dialogue. Consolation is God’s gift in such conversations. We both felt that.
Victor Edwin SJ
Lecturer – Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations (Vidyajyoti College of Theology), New Delhi