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Why Veneration Isn’t Idol Worship

Question:

Why do Catholics venerate the cross on Good Friday? Isn't that idol worship?

Answer:

The underlying assumption here is that the act of veneration is an act of worship. But this is not necessarily true. The word veneration simply means to give great respect or reverence. The respect and reverence that Catholics give to sacred objects is not of the same kind of respect or reverence given to God.

So now the question becomes, “Is it idol worship to show respect or reverence to a crucifix?” Such piety is no more idol worship than showing respect to a picture of a loved one by kissing it or putting it up on your mantle in a prominent place.

Reverence shown to a material object is not foreign to the Bible. God instructed Moses to erect a bronze serpent so that whoever looked upon it would be healed from their snake bites (Num. 21:8-9). Such reverence was appropriate. But when the Israelites started showing the bronze serpent a reverence that belonged to God alone—namely, worship—King Hezekiah destroyed it with divine sanction (2 Kgs. 18:4).

The reverence that Catholics show a crucifix on Good Friday, or any other time, is a physical expression of the gratitude that we have to our blessed Lord for his death on the cross that won for us the reward of salvation.

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