08-21-2016, 09:41 PM
If you kissed a picture of her out of love and piety, does that mean you are worshipping her? Or the picture?
RJB hit the nail on the head. We kiss pictures of our fellow members in Christ (the Saints) out of love. It does not mean we are worshiping the Saints or the picture. Our love is directed to the one whose image is on the picture, just as it is when I kiss the picture of my beloved departed grandmother. I am not worshipping my grandmother just as I am not worshiping the Saint, who is also a beloved member of my family through Christ.
The Christian Faith is above all about love, and indeed a love enfleshed. It is love with movement and form. It is also a love with spirit and light. In fact, the closest thing we can say regarding the essence and ontology of God is the word 'love'. That is why St. John said "God is love". Our very ontological being in life is in relationship through love. Through communion with the other (both God and neighbor), we find true personhood, true being. That is what it means to be in the image of God - as a person who gives and receives love. This is the very mystery of the Holy Trinity, and our growth in theosis (that is, in the likeness of God) pertains to our ability to love and be loved.
Images and pictures are an extension of our great love for God Who has entered into the world and sanctified it. If God is love, and God is infinite, so too is love infinite. Thus while we worship the Uncreated God in Holy Trinity alone for through Him all love finds its source and being, we too have love for those dear to us, such as our family members by birth, our friends by choice, and our baptized brothers and sisters through Christ. There is plenty of love to go around when one has allowed Christ to enter into their hearts and transform them with divine love. From this overflowing love, we find the pious acts of veneration.
It is not mandatory to venerate an image of Christ or of a Saint. One is not a heretic because he feels uncomfortable doing so. It can be difficult for some due to cultural upbringing or previous indoctrination. It can be difficult also for some to differentiate between worship and adoration, especially for new converts. Having personal discomfort is not heresy, yet it does demonstrate there is room to grow spiritually. Yet because we may personally find discomfort or unease for our various reasons does not mean that those who do not are necessarily idolaters. And that is when a person is called a heretic within the Church - when they stubbornly place their individual beliefs, interpretations, and judgements to be above all and accuse their brethren falsely simply because they don't yet fully understand or comprehend.