Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

Exhortation to the Heathen
Chapter IV
By St. Clement of Alexandria (d. ca. A.D. 215)

[after ridiculing pagan idols]... As teacher on this point, I shall produce to you the Sibyl prophetess: "Not the oracular lie of Phoebus, Whom silly men called God, and falsely termed Prophet; But the oracles of the great God, who was not made by men's hands, Like dumb idols of Sculptured stone."

She also predicts the ruin of the temple, foretelling that that of the Ephesian Artemis would be engulphed by earthquakes and rents in the ground, as follows: "Prostrate on the ground Ephesus shall wail, weeping by the shore, And seeking a temple that has no longer an inhabit ant."

She says also that the temple of Isis and Serapis would be demolished and burned: "Isis, thrice-wretched goddess, thou shalt linger by the streams of the Nile; Solitary, frenzied, silent, on the sands of Acheron."

Then she proceeds: "And thou, Serapis, covered with a heap of white stones, Shalt lie a huge ruin in thrice-wretched Egypt."

But if you attend not to the prophetess, hear at least your own philosopher, the Ephesian Heraclitus, upbraiding images with their senselessness: "And to these images they pray, with the same result as if one were to talk to the Walls of his house." For are they not to be wondered at who worship stones, and place them before the doors, as if capable of activity? They worship Hermes as a god, and place Aguieus as a doorkeeper. For if people upbraid them with being devoid of sensation, why worship them as gods? And if they are thought to be endowed with sensation, why place them before the door? The Romans, who ascribed their greatest successes to Fortune, and regarded her as a very great deity, took her statue to the privy, and erected it there, assigning to the goddess as a fitting temple--the necessary. But senseless wood and stone, and rich gold, care not a whir for either savoury odour, or blood, or smoke, by which, being at once honoured and fumigated, they are blackened; no more do they for honour or insult. And these images are more worthless than any animal. I am at a loss to conceive how objects devoid of sense were deified, and feel compelled to pity as miserable wretches those that wander in the mazes of this folly: for if some living creatures have not all the senses, as worms and caterpillars, and such as even from the first appear imperfect, as moles and the shrew-mouse, which Nicander says is blind and uncouth; yet are they superior to those utterly senseless idols and images. For they have some one sense,--say, for example, hearing, or touching, or something analogous to smell or taste; while images do not possess even one sense. There are many creatures that have neither sight, nor hearing, nor speech, such as the genus of oysters, which yet live and grow, and are affected by the changes of the moon. But images, being motionless, inert, and senseless, are bound, nailed, glued,--are melted, filed, sawed, polished, carved. The senseless earth is dishonoured by the makers of images, who change it by their art from its proper nature, and induce men to worship it; and the makers of gods worship not gods and demons, but in my view earth and art, which go to make up images. For, in sooth, the image is only dead matter shaped by the craftsman's hand. But we have no sensible image of sensible matter, but an image that is perceived by the mind alone,--God, who alone is truly God.

Back to The Sibyls
Back to Being Catholic