The opinion of the Churches of Aquitain and Narbon in the eighth century.


THERE was no part of Gaul so shaken and laid waste by the wars, as Aquitain and Gallia Narbonensis were in the eighth century. Though all France suffered in some measure, yet these two provinces were, during a long series of years, the theater of war and calamity. However, we may say that these mishaps served only to awaken the zeal of these people, and to make them the more sensible of the aversion they ought to have to the idolatry which reigned in the east; and which, it seems, God was willing to punish with the scourge of the Saracens, the great enemies of images and idolatry. For not only did the Bishops of these dioceses preserve their purity in the faith, which they made appear at the end of this century, by their opposing the opinions of Felix, Bishop of Urgel, and of Elipandus, Archbishop of Toledo, who revived Nestorianism; but they also gave a public testimony of their aversion to the worshipping of images, which the Popes asserted in conjunction with those of the east.

The judgment of these dioceses concerning images appeared in public, when their deputies assisted at the Council of Francfort, which condemned the second Council of Nice, notwithstanding that it had been approved by the Pope. The second Council of Nice had in the year 787 ordained the adoration of images, under the penalty of being anathematized. The east was entirely overrun with this superstition; and what we have already seen of Serenus, Bishop of Marseilles, makes it evident, that it had likewise made great progress in the west. Charlemain, and the whole body of the western Churches, if we except Rome, and some partisans of the Pope in Italy, were desirous to stop this torrent: England condemned the decrees of the Nicene Council, and censured them by the pen of the famous Alcuin. His writings were subscribed by all the Bishops of England, and sent to Charlemain. This great Emperor thereupon, in the year 794 assembled at Francfort a council of the Bishops under his government; that is, those of Italy, Aquitain, and Provence, as well to condemn Elipandus, Archbishop of Toledo, and Felix, Bishop of Urgel, as to make an inquiry into the acts of the second Council of Nice. They were exammed in presence of the Pope’s legates. And this Council finding that the second Council of Nice had anathematized all those who refused to render to the images of the saints the worship and adoration which are only due to the Trinity; she denied the service and adoration of images, despised the Nicene acts, and condemned those who received them. Now that we may exactly know the opinions which obtained in these dioceses, whose Bishops approved the book of Charlemain; the reader needs only consider carefully the positions of Charlemain against several opinions which have since prevailed in the Church of Rome.

1. In his preface, he expressly rejects traditions; when he saith, “that as for themselves, they were content with prophetical, evangelical, and apostolic writings.”

2. He maintains, “that we are principally to believe the truth of the Hebrew original; Hebraeae veritati potissimum fides adhibenda est.” Thus he expresseth himself by way of opposition to translations, and the vulgar Latin in particular.

3. He lays it down for a rule, that God alone is the lawful object of religious worship.

“It is no small error to serve any thing with religious worship besides him who saith, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”

And he repeats this afterwards; “Neither do we read that any thing is to be worshipped besides God; because it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”

4. Would we know his opinion concerning the worship which at this day is given to angels and saints? We may find it, lib. 1. c. 9. p. 69. “Moreover,” saith he, “forasmuch as we see that John in the Revelation is restrained by the angel from worshipping him; and that Peter, the Pastor of the Church, forbade the worship of the centurion; and that the chosen vessel, together with Barnabas, with a strong opposition, rejected the adorations of the Lycaonians; we are without doubt to conclude from these examples, that adoration, which only belongs to God, who alone is to be worshipped and alone to be served, is not to be rendered to any creature whatsoever, except only by way of salutation, to express our humility.”

So afterwards; “The Gospel rule of the doctrine of the Prophets and Apostles, which is sometimes recommended to us in the words of our Lord himself, and sometimes by examples, sometimes is represented to us by oracles, either more obscure, or more plain and open; sometimes is taught in plain, and other times in figurative expressions, rejecting the adoration of all other things whatsoever, save only the adoration whereby we mutually salute one another, enjoins the adoration of God alone.”

And again; “Neither men nor angels are in the least to be adored, save only by that adoration which is given to express our charity, and as a salutation.”

5. He distinguisheth very well between the honor we give to saints, and that which we render to God, when he saith; “God alone is to be worshipped, God alone is to be adored, God alone is to be glorified; of whom it is said by the Prophet, The name of him alone is exalted; and to the saints, who having triumphed over the Devil, do reign with him, veneration is to be rendered, either because they have fought courageously for the preservation of the state of the Church, or because they are known to assist it with their continual patronage and intercession.”

So likewise; “We venerate the saints who are dead with the triumph of merits, but they are not to be adored with divine worship, for that very reason, because it is divine worship. Seeing therefore,” saith he, “that God alone is to be worshipped, the martyrs and all other saints are rather to be venerated than worshipped, as we have said before in this book.”

And the same thing we meet with also, c. 28. towards the end.

6. It appears clearly from what he saith concerning the means whereby we obtain remission of sins, that he owned no other sacraments of the Church besides Baptism and the Eucharist; for indeed he mentions only these two.

7. He was so far from owning either the infallibility of the Pope, or of a Council which the Pope hath approved, that he maintains it was a piece of folly to look upon the second Council of Nice as universal, and calls it a Council of one part of the Church only; and he afterwards censures the Fathers of that Council for giving it the title of universal, whereas it had been convened without the participation and consent of many Catholic Churches. This remark made such an impression upon the learned Jesuit Sirmondus, that he seems not to own the second Council of Nice as a general Council.

8. The Fathers of the second Nicene Council having made a comparison between the Eucharist and images, and used these following expressions, which are not to be found at present in the copies of that Council; As the body of our Savior passeth from the fruits of the earth into an excellent mystery; so images,formed by the industry of artificers, pass to the veneration of those persons, according to whose likeness they have been wrought; Charlemain doth censure those who had made a parallel between images and the Eucharist, in such a manner as shews that he knew nothing of Romish transubstantiation. He saith,

“that the Eucharist is made by the hand of the priest, and by calling upon the name of God, both priest and people joining their prayers in the consecration thereof; whereas images stand in no need of consecration, but are made at the discretion of the painter. He saith, that Melchizedek did not present an image as a type of the body and blood, but bread and wine: that Moses commanded a lamb to be eaten as a type of our Savior, wholly rejecting the custom of worshipping images. That the Psalmist, who sang that men should eat the bread of angels, that is, Jesus Christ, hath also declared, that the makers of images are like unto the images they have made. That the Sacrament is of divine institution; whereas the insolent use of images is not only without Scripture, but also directly contrary to the writings of the Old and New Testament.

That our Savior never instituted the memory of his suffering to be kept up by the works of artificers and worldly arts, but by the consecration of his body and blood: that he was not willing that his faith and his confession should be expressed by pictures, but by the mouth and the heart.”

We are carefully to take notice, that the authors of this book, who desired to exalt the sacrament of the Eucharist with all their might, never give the least hint that Jesus Christ had instituted it, to make it an object of adoration.

“They say, that the Eucharist, according to the judgment of St. Paul, is preferable almost to every other sacrament; that it is made invisibly by the Spirit of God, and consecrated by the Priest, who calls upon God; that it is carried by the hands of angels, and laid upon the altar of God in heaven; that it can neither increase nor be diminished; that it is confirmed by the Old and New Testament; that it is the life and nourishment of souls; that by its manducation it leads to the entrance of the heavenly kingdom; that it can never be abolished, no not in the time of persecution; and that nobody can be saved without receiving of it. Whereas images are visibly made by the hand of the workman, painted by the art of the painter, placed on the walls by the hands of men, that by them, if men inconsiderately abuse them, sins are increased; that they can increase and diminish in beauty, according to the ability of the workman; that age spoils them; that they only feed the eye; that they only bring to remembrance things past, by looking upon them; that they may be spoiled by taking wet; that they who keep to the true faith are saved, without having any regard to images.

And to exaggerate the folly of their anathemas pronounced against those that did not worship them, they conclude that this anathema strikes at the saints of old, of whom we never read that they adored them; that the same was levelled at the martyrs, who from the baptismal font passed immediately to the kingdom of heaven, without any adoration of images; and lastly, that it is darted against little infants, who cannot worship them, and of whom, notwithstanding, the Son of, God saith, Suffer little children to come to me, etc.”

I own that Charlemain censureth Gregory, Bishop of Neocaesaria, for giving to the Eucharist the name of the true image of Jesus Christ: for after having made out, that no artificer can form a true image of Jesus Christ, he adds, when he speaks of the Eucharist,

“that Jesus Christ did not offer up to God the Father for us in sacrifice any image or prototype, but himself; and that he who of old had been foretold by visible resemblances under the shadow of the Law, in the immolation of the lamb, and in some other things, as being the sacrifice that was to be offered, by truly accomplishing the things that had been prophesied of him in the oracles of the Prophets, did offer up himself to God the Father, for a saving sacrifice, and bestowed upon us, (the shadows of the Law being passed away,) not some imaginary sign, but the Sacrament of his body and of his blood. For the mystery of the blood and body of our Lord must not now be called an image, but the truth; not the shadow, but the body; not a type of things to come, but that which had been prefigured by the types of old. For now (according to the Song of Songs) the day is risen, and the shadows are gone. Now Jesus Christ, the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believes, is come, he hath now fully accomplished the Law.

Now upon those who sat in the region of the shadow of death a great light is risen. Now the vail is taken off from the face of Moses; and the vail of the temple being rent, hath opened to us all secrets and things hid. Now the true Melchizedek, Christ, the King of righteousness, and King of peace, hath bestowed upon us, not sacrifices of beasts, but the Sacrament of his body and of his blood, and hath not said, This is the image of my body and of my blood; but, This is my body, which shall be given for you, and this is my blood which shall be shed for many for the remission of sins.”

But it is plain that Charlemain understands by the word image a prototype, like the shadows of the Law; with respect to which it is true, what many of the Fathers have said, that the sacraments of the New Testament are the body and the truth; though otherwise considered as sacraments, they are sacred signs, which cannot be confounded with the things signified by them, without renouncing the light of common sense. Moreover, we are to observe, that Charlemain never said that the Eucharist is properly the body of Jesus Christ. If he denies Jesus Christ to have said concerning the Eucharist, This is the image of my body, taking the word as a prototype and a shadow of things to come; yet he always holds that it is his body in a sacramental sense, for he never speaks of the Eucharist as the body of our Lord, without adding the restriction of sacrament, or of mystery. If, saith he, he hears the mystery of the body and of the blood once mentioned; and twice together, he hath bestowed upon us the sacrament of his body and of his blood; and lastly, the mystery of the body and of the blood cannot be called an image. Now the word mystery, according to the constant use of the Church, properly signifies the symbol, the figure, the sacred sign of the body and blood of our Savior.

Lastly, we ought to observe, that though he says that the Sacrament is the body of Jesus Christ, yet he never saith that it ought to be adored. Indeed he ought to have drawn up an impeachment against these worshippers of images, upon this article, and a very important one too, because it is very evident that the Greek worshippers of images did not adore the Eucharist, but gave only a simple, veneration to it, like to that which they bestowed upon the cross, the altar, and the gospel, as one of their authors tells us, in a book which they call, An Invective of the Orthodox against the Opposers of Images, printed at the Louvre in 1685, in the collection of authors who have writ since Theophanes.


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