Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Triumph of Orthodoxy

This Sunday of Great Lent, the first, commemorates the restoration of the icons to the churches of the faithful. Perhaps the greatest debt the Eastern Church owes the Western Church is the preservation of icons and religious art, for it was the Popes of Rome who preserved the true faith of the fathers and upheld the veneration of holy images for the edification of the faithful.

As we heard today in church, "This is the faith of the Apostles, this is the faith of the Fathers, this is the faith of the Orthodox, this is the faith which has established the universe." We do not worship the icons; we worship the reflected grace and glory of God, which shone forth through the saints depicted in our icons, and the religious truths depicted therein. We venerate the icons, as we venerate our beloved family members long gone before us, whose photos and portraits we preserve. As Father Benedict preached in his sermon today, we are all called to be icons in the world; we are summoned to live a Christ-like life as an image of God's grace to us. If we are blessed, we may inspire other Christians; if we do not hew to our faith and duty, we may drive others to sin. Let us all strive to be true images of the grace and glory of God. Let us all be icons to one another.

The previous two paragraphs were a Facebook post made earlier today.  Tomorrow is the Feast of Annunciation, and I continue my personal quest of attending Liturgy for each of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Church this liturgical year.  Fortunately, my schedule of teaching at William Carey University allows me to attend the vesperal liturgy tomorrow night, because I had an exam scheduled for tomorrow night, which will go forward.  It is a blessing that my lesson plan fits the year so well.

Holding the icon of my patron saint, Saint Alexander Nevsky, I was reminded of the harshness and persecution experienced by the faithful, and the great fortune we enjoy in America living and worshiping freely.  Saint Alexander could not live freely even in his own country, and the Russian faithful suffered horribly under the Mongol yoke.  Today, we processed around our church, singing the Troparion of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, no doubt presenting a bizarre spectacle to the neighborhood, but free and joyous and blessed by God to worship Him in the fullness of the faith.

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