My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
SUNDAY OF ORTHODOXY: CELEBRATING THE
TRIUMPH OF ORTHODOXY
On Sunday of Orthodoxy, our Holy Church commemorates the final ending of the Iconoclast heresy and the restoration of the holy icons to the churches by Empress Theodora, acting as regent for her young Michael III. This took place on the first Sunday of Holy and Great Lent, March 11th 843 A.D.
ICONOCLASM was one of the most powerful and prolonged heretical movements. The Iconoclast heresy began in the first half of the 7th century and continued to create havoc in the Church for more than 100 years. Directed AGAINST THE VENERATION OF ICONS, it touched also on other aspects of the faith and Church order (for example, the veneration of Saints and holy relics). The heresy was CONDEMNED at the Seventh Ecumenical Synod in 787 A.D., and the final Triumph of Orthodoxy occurred in 842 A.D. under Saint Methodius, Patriarch of Constantinople. At that time, there was established the feast of the "Triumph of Orthodoxy," which is observed by the Church even today on the First Sunday of Holy and Great Lent.
If Orthodoxy triumphed in the era of the Iconoclastic heresy, this was because SO MANY OF THE FAITHFUL WERE PREPARED TO UNDERGO EXILE, TORTURE, AND EVEN DEATH, FOR THE SAKE OF THE Truth. The Feast of Orthodoxy is above all A CELEBRATION IN HONOR OF THE MARTYRS AND CONFESSORS WHO STRUGGLED AND SUFFERED FOR THE FAITH.
How can contemporary Orthodox Christians not be inspired and seek to emulate all those who were tortured and shed their blood for the Orthodox Christian Faith? The Orthodox Christian must understand that it is not enough to claim to be Orthodox, but also to be willing to suffer for the Faith as the Saints, Martyrs, Confessors and countless other fellow Christians did back then.
The modern-day Orthodox Christian must make every effort to learn what he/she believes, and learn the Faith. Be ready to teach the faith to others, beginning with your relatives, friends, wives, husbands, and children. He/she need to know it well, so as to defend it and prevent anyone from adulterating it and/or attempting to dilute it or watering it down. The Holy Synods condemn anyone who attempts to either add anything to it or to omit, alter, or corrupt any of the dogmas. Anyone who attempts it is immediately excommunicated.
The evil one is determined to turn everything upside-down. We learn from past experiences and events, such as the Iconoclastic heretical movement and the other earlier heresies, that the devil is willing to create division among the faithful and create confusion in an attempt to distort the image of Christ. We see it happening to other Christians of other traditions and the tragic impact it had among them. Don’t say that it can never happen again to our Church, especially when we are celebrating today on this most sacred day, the Triumph of Orthodox Christianity over heresy. It took our fellow Orthodox Christians to fight the good fight, sacrifice, and be tortured for over 100 years to win and be victorious.
We see even on these very important commemorations that they are observed superficially. There is a lack of understanding of their purpose and meaning. The commemorations are reduced to a ‘ritual,’ and nothing more. As soon as we leave church services, we go back to our routine and life and simply move on to the next event. We remember the sacrifices of the Saints, Martyrs, Confessors, Hierarchs, etc., but is anyone touched or moved by it? Is anyone’s life changed by it? Finally, the pressing question today is, are icons today sacred? Are the holy relics of Saints still holy? Is the Divine Eucharist still the Precious Body and Blood of Christ? And, if they are, why is there is such fear to approach them and avoid offering them the due veneration? Why are some of our faithful afraid to receive any of the sacraments of the Church, including Holy Communion? Have we become the modern ICONOCLASTS?
EXCERPTS FROM SUNDAY OF ORTHODOXY SERVICE
The priest reads the following excerpts from THE AFFIRMATION OF THE FAITH, of the Seventh Ecumenical Synod:
As the Prophets beheld; as the Apostles taught; as the Church received; as
the Teachers dogmatized; as the Universe has agreed; as Grace has shone forth;
as Truth has been proven; as FALSEHOOD HAS BEEN DISPROVEN; as Wisdom
has been presented, and CHRIST HAS REWARDED. This is what we believe;
this is what we declare; this is what we preach, Christ OUR TRUE GOD, AND WE
HONOR His Saints IN WORDS, IN THOUGHT, IN SACRIFICES, IN CHURCHES AND
IN ICONS. Christ, WE WORSHIP AS God and Master and His Saints WE HONOR
AS TRUE SERVANTS OF OUR SAME LORD, AND ACCORDINGLY, WE GRANT THEM
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!
Therefore, with brotherly and filial love, we praise these preachers of piety, for the glory and honor of their own pious struggle for the Faith, and we say: "Eternal be the memory of the defenders of Orthodoxy; pious Sovereigns, holy Patriarchs, Hierarchs, Teachers, Martyrs, and Confessors.
Eternal be their memory (3)
Let their deeds and struggles of pious faith, even death, TUTOR AND STRENGTHEN YOU. Entreat God that WE IMITATE THEIR DEVOUT LIFE UNTIL OUR OWN END, beseeching Him that we may be made worthy of all our askings, by the grace and compassion of the Great and First Hierarch, Christ Our True God; by the intercessions of our Most Glorious Lady Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary, of the godly Angels, and of all the Saints. Amen.
Priest: Τίς θεός μέγας, ώς ο Θεός ημών; σύ εί ο Θεός, ο ποιών θαυμάσια μόνος. What god is great as our God? You are God, Who alone works wonders.
Glory. For the Feast
We venerate Your immaculate icon, O good
Lord, and entreat You to forgive our offenses, O
Christ Our God. By Your own choice, You were
pleased to ascend the Cross in the flesh, to deliver
us, whom You created, from our slavery to the foe.
Therefore we cry to You with gratitude: You have
filled all things with joy, O Our Savior, by
coming to save the world.
Glory. Mode pl. 4
Open to me the gates of repentance, O Giver
of Life, for early in the morning my spirit hastens
to Your holy temple, bringing the temple of my
body all defiled. But as one compassionate, cleanse
me, I pray, by Your Loving-kindness and mercy.
Both now. Same Mode.
Guide me in the path of salvation, O
Theotokos, for I have befouled my soul with
shameful sins and I heedlessly squandered all of
my life’s resources. By your intercession deliver
me from every uncleanness.
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George