My SDA friends had a picture of Ellen Gould White in their living room. I asked, “Isn’t that an idol?” They replied, “No, it reminds us of the lady we love.” I further asked, “Why not put it in church?” They replied, “Because church is worship. We would have to worship her.” “You mean if you put any image in church, you must worship it?”
This was the sort of irrational tendencies of Protestantism. It is sort of like this: “Christmas: the one time of the year when Protestants join Catholics in worshiping statues [Nativity scenes].”
In the eighth century, when the Church convened the Council that would confront this iconoclastic heresy, she put to death all these absurdities that Protestants concoct to revive this same ancient of errors. In short, we know that by the Incarnation, Jesus has made visible the invisible God. Hence, images of the Christ are images of God and so acceptable for worship, since we ultimately worship God in the liturgy.
Even more so, when we possess grace, we have God in us. Remember that perennial exclamation from our first Pontiff, in one of his Catholic letters, “Ye have become partakers of the divine nature?” Indeed, sanctifying grace is a finite, created participation in the very life and love of God, and consequently, when we have the state of grace, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit live in us. “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” [Luke 1:41]. Consequently, if God’s very divine nature lives in the holy ones of heaven and earth, the angels and saints, then images of the same angels and saints are images of God. Subsequently, is it any wonder that Orthodox and Catholic Churches have never ceased to be adorned with statues, icons, paintings, and the like from century to century and age to age, down to our own day?
So Jesus is the Word made flesh. He is the Word Incarnate. He is the Word made visible! Some things already convey this.
For example, the head of Jesus contains His mind. His mind is inseparably joined to the faculty of intellect. The object of the intellect of soul is truth and faith. And faith is the first primary disposition of the sacrament of Baptism.
Moving on, the heart concerns repentance and choice, the will—free will. And what is repentance except the other disposition of Baptism.
Next, the figurative sexuality of Jesus means that He wants to marry the Church. And here, note that Marriage is the only other sacrament besides Baptism that heretics have. Interesting.
Returning to marriage, note that the truth and grace proceeds from Jesus, like the proceeding sexuality of man, and penetrates the Church’s inner being; that is, she receives it, like the receptive vessel of woman. She conceives it, develops it, and then brings it forth in the world through her teaching and sacraments.
Now, what if there is more?
For example, the five wounds? The two arms? The ten fingers? The two legs? The ten toes?
It may sound crazy at first, but amazing analogies will fit here, so that Jesus really will be the ultimate revelation of Catholic mysteries and doctrine. In this article, we will explore these.
Let us start with high level view, so we know where we are going.
Firstly, the hands; our hands perform the works of hands and that means the moral law. Further, the moral law cannot be kept apart from grace, and the primary sources of grace are the sacraments. So the hands, and possibly the fingers, might reveal the sacraments. Here, one will object: only five fingers but seven sacraments; yes, but just hang loose blood. Catholic guy gonna set you up on the theology side.
Secondly, the feet; obviously, the feet are meant to walk in the way. The way is lit by the light of truth. For now, I argue that the toes of the human foot can image sources of Catholic truth, like Scripture or Tradition. Once again, admittedly, there are five toes on each foot but only three sources of truth (Scripture, Tradition, Mag). Again, never fear, there is a great solution.
Let us look at this first. We can argue as follows: when speaking of the sources of Catholic truth, we traditionally think of three sources of truth:
However, we note here that these are mediated sources of Revelation. We will now see that there are two additional sources of truth not in the list, both unmediated: one Revelation and one not Revelation, or merely natural. These two sources are:
God as Triune and Incarnate, unmediated Revelation
Reason, unmediated natural truth
Firstly, God Himself as Trinity and Incarnation is a source, too, His elusive Essence being the central mysteries of our faith. To see God as He is non-mediated, direct. Additionally, with Reason, or natural wisdom, there is no mediation since Reason is not Revelation. Every man has reason in view of his intellect of soul, and with it, he can know monotheism and natural law in some sense, if even with difficulty in some cases.
Going back to the sources we already have, let us look at the Magisterium. The Magisterium has two degrees to it: general Apostolic Succession, or the collection of regular Bishops, and then the supreme Apostolic Successor, Peter. Also, Tradition never exists apart from a valid Bishop. Where the valid Bishop is, there also is Tradition. And Tradition is the property of the Bishops, who are its custodians. Therefore, Bishops and Tradition go together always. Hence, a more accurate rendering of the sources of truth is not merely three but five:
This renewed list of five sources rather than merely three, the Traditional way, will give us a very neat meaning to the toes, of which, we can for now note are five per foot like the number of sources we have just developed.
Now back to the toes. The toes are like an upside down bar graph. On one foot, the toes increase in length from left to right (or right to left for the other foot; either way, the analogy holds), and on the other foot, they decrease from the same left to right. How is this significant? As follows: it matches the nature of a pyramid. How so? Because the same inverse relationship exists in the pyramid with height and width: as height increases, width decreases, and vice versa.
Now, check this out: if we consider the sources of truth above as stacked upon one another in the pyramid, with the lowest being Reason, and God as Triune and Incarnate as the highest, and when we let height of the pyramid be the reliability of a source for truth by itself, and if we let width on the pyramid be the evidence for the source as legitimate, then the analogies hold perfectly. It works out to the following: the more reliable a source of truth is for truth, which is to say, the amount of truth and how certain it is to the unbiased individual, then the less evidence there is to support it as a legitimate source.
Let us go ahead and work it out. We will start from the bottom and work upward:
Reason: The weakest source in terms of truth is Reason, the bottom of our pyramid. Unaided philosophy only gives foundational truth, as in basic monotheism and natural law; but it is the most evident source; all men have reason and can plainly see it. No man may excuse himself from seeking out truth with reason. "The fool has said in his heart, there is no God." (Ps 14:1)
Scripture: Scripture is less evident than Reason in the world, since only Christians have it in full. For example, the New World Indians only had reason before Europe came to them. Before the Spaniards came to the Aztecs, they did not have Scripture. No savage can ever have Scripture unless it is brought to him. So, again, whereas all men have reason, not all men have Scripture. Scripture is less evident. Yet Scripture is much greater in truth than merely Reason. Immensely greater. For from Scripture comes the story of salvation history, the innumerable characters, players, times, places, miracles, lessons, and so forth. What other writings can compare to the Bible? None! In another dimension, however, mainly to confine ourselves to Divine Revelation, Scripture is now the most evident source of Revelation. All three forms of Christendom accept the Scriptures. Yet, the Scriptures are also the least reliable source of Revelation by themselves, since they are highly susceptible to misinterpretation without Tradition and Bishops. Protestants only have Scripture, but they are all over the map on truth.
Tradition and Bishops: moving up, the evidence for general Apostolic Succession and Oral Tradition is less in the writings of the Fathers than for Scripture. The vast majority of early church father testimony is clearly citing Scripture. Quotes that argue for valid Tradition and Succession from the Apostles are much less. So, again, Tradition and authoritative Apostolic Succession are less evident to humanity than Scripture. But Tradition is far more reliable than Scripture, since it gives the right interpretation. With only Tradition, the Orthodox would still have all their dogmas, even without Scripture. But again, the evidence for Tradition is less than Scripture, hence why only two of the three forms of Christendom accept Tradition, Orthodox and Catholic.
Peter: Quotes in antiquity that speak of Peter's special office of infallibility are far less than quotes about general Apostolic Succession. Therefore, Peter's special role in Apostolic Succession is less evident than general Bishops, hence why the Orthodox do not accept him. But Peter is even stronger in truth than his other brothers combined, since with Peter, the fullness of truth on earth is known in Catholicism. Hence why the Orthodox are a little bit in error and debate a thousand years of what we know to be certain as dogma.
Finally, the Trinity and Incarnation lies even above Peter, since God is the ultimate source of truth, but those mysteries are so elusive, so hidden!
What we have shown is that as you ascend the pyramid of sources, the truth increases but the evidence for reliability decreases, and down the pyramid, vice versa. And how does this relate to the toes? Everything. More specifically, in the crucifixion, the one foot is nailed on top of the other foot in such a manner that there is one-to-one correspondence between each toe on the one foot to the other. But note, in one foot, the toes start out long and decrease to the shortest in a single lateral direction, but on the other foot, they start out short and increase to the longest. Bingo! If each pair of correlated toes symbolizes a source of truth, with one foot imaging reliability of truth (height on the pyramid), and the other evidence for the source (width on the pyramid), then the analogy of our pyramid fits perfectly. For, note that the endpoints most easily illustrate our conjecture: the longest toe on one foot is on top of the shortest toe of the other foot, and the shortest toe of the same foot is on top of the longest toe of the other foot. Yes! if our first foot is on the stronger leg and images degree of reliable truth [degree or truth is a stronger characteristic for a source, since the evidence is irrelevant to God. We want to know how reliable it is!], and if the second foot is on the weaker leg and images evidence for the source [a weaker characteristic, since how evident a source or truth is as legitimate is less important than how much reliable truth comes from it], then endpoints of the toes are perfect: the Trinity and incarnation, the left endpoint, is the most reliable source of truth [the longest toe] but has the least evidence for it [the correlated shortest toe]. Similarly for Reason, it is the shortest toe of truth but the longest toe of evidence. The other sources or toes are similar. Amazing! For a much more in-depth rendering of this subject, see: The Mystical Catholic Pyramid and the Ages of Doctrinal Development.
In the next segment, we will talk about the hands and fingers as the sacraments.