THE FIRST SUNDAY OF THE GREAT FAST: SUNDAY OF ORTHODOXY

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE

THE FIRST SUNDAY OF THE GREAT FAST: SUNDAY OF
ORTHODOXY

On this day, the First Sunday of the Great Fast,
the SUNDAY OF ORTHODOXY, the Holy Church
Commemorates the Restoration of the holy and
august Icons, and the SYNODIKON of the Holy
and Seventh Oecumenical Synod on behalf of
Orthodoxy is read.

On this day, the First Sunday of the Great Fast, is the commemoration OF THER RESTORATION OF THE HOLY AND VENERABLE ICONS, which came about by the autocrats of Constantinople, Michaels and his mother Theodore, together with the Patriarch, the holy confessor Methodios.

"The sense of joy and thanksgiving, already evident on the Saturday of Saint Theodore, is still more apparent on the First Sunday in Lent when we celebrate the Triumph of Orthodoxy. On this day the Church commemorates the final ending of the Iconoclast controversy and the definitive restoration of the holy icons to the churches by Empress Theodora, acting as regent for her young son Michael III. This took place on the first Sunday in Lent, 11th March 843. There is, however, not only a historical link between the First Sunday and the RESTORATION OF THE HOLY ICONS but also, as in the case of Saint Theodore, a spiritual affinity. If Orthodoxy triumphed in the epoch of the Iconoclast controversy, 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 HOUR OF THE MARTYRS AND CONFESSORS WHO STRUGGLED AND SUFFERED FOR THE FAITH: HENCE ITS APPROPRIATENESS FOR THE SEASON OF LENT, when we are STRIVING TO IMITATE THE MARTYRS BY MEANS OF OUR ASCETIC SELF-DENIAL."

"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 disturb the Church for more than 100 years. Directed against THE VENERATION OF OF HOLY ICONS. it touched also on other aspects of the faith and Church order (for example, the VENERATION OF SAINTS). The seriousness of this heresy was increased by the fact a whole series of Byzantine emperors acted epigenetically, in its favor for reasons of internal and external politics, these emperors were also hostilely disposed to Monasticism. The heresy was condemned at the Seventh Ecumenical Synod in 787 A.D., and the FINAL TRIUMPH OF ORTHODOXY OCCURED ON 842 A.D. under Saint Methodios, Patriarch of Constantinople at that time there was established the feast of "Triumph of Orthodoxy," which is observed by the Church up to now (on the First Sunday of Great Lent)."

After Emperor Theophilos’ death, his widow the Empress Theodora (celebrated Feb. 11th), together with the Patriarch Methodios (June 14th), established Orthodoxy anew. This ever-memorable Queen venerated the icon of the Mother of God in the presence of the Patriarch Methodios and the other confessors and righteous men, and openly cried out thes holy words: "IF ANYONE DOES NOT OFFER RELATIVE WORSHIP TO THE HOLY ICONS, NOT ADORING THEM AS THOUGH THEY WERE GODS, BUT VENERATING THEM OUT OF LOVE AS IMAGES OF THE ARCHETYPE, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA." Then with common prayer and fasting during the whole first week of the Forty-day Fast, she asked God’s forgiveness for her husband Theophilos. After this, on the First Sunday of the Great Fast, she and her son, Michael the Emperor, made a procession with all the Clergy and faithful and RESTORED THE HOLY ICONS, AND AGAIN ADORNED THE Church of Christ with them. This is the holy deed that all we the Orthodox Christians commemorate today, and we call this radiant and Venerable Day the Sunday of Orthodoxy, that is, THE TRIUMP OF TRUE DOCTRINE OVER HERESY.

Dismissal Hymn. Second Tone

WE worship Thine Immaculate Icon, O Good One, asking the forgiveness
of our failings, O Christ our God; for of Thine own will Thou wast well-pleased
to ascend the Cross in the flesh, that Thou mightiest deliver from slavey to the
enemy those whom Thou hadst fashioned. Wherefore, we cry to the Thee
thankfully: Thou didst fill all things with joy, O our Savior, when Thou camest
to save the world.

Kontakion Hymn. Plagal of Fourth Tone

THE undepictable Logos/Word of the Father became depictable when He
took flesh of thee, OTheotokos, and when He had restored the defiled image
to its ancient state, He suffused it with Divine beauty. As for us, confessing
our salvation, we record it in deed and word.

The Greek word ANATHEMA can mean either "SEPERATED" or ‘ACCURSED." With regard to the former, the Apostle Paul said to the Romans: "For I could wish to be an anathema from the Christ on behalf of my brethren, my kinfolk according to the flesh, who are Israelites, of whom are the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the worship, and the promises, of whom are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, Who is OVER ALL, God blessed unto the ages. Amen" (Romans 9:3-5).

So, in the Synodikon of Orthodoxy, we hear how the heretics are ANATHEMATIZED and whow those reposed in Christ are acclaimed. At each proposal, for the former we proclaim "ANATHEMA" THREE TIMES and for the latter we proclaim "ETERNAL MEMORY" THREE TIMES. The pronouncment of "anathema" upon a heretical doctrine IS TO PROTECT THE FAITHFUL OF THE CHURCH. As for sany who are under anathema, THEY NEED TO REPENT BEFORE DEATH OVERTAKES THEM. The adherents of HERETICAL BELIEFS who have been anathematized or seperated from the Church are able to repent and to be received into the Church. The anathema against heretical doctrine CANNOT BE LIFTED. Since the acts and decisions of the Oecumenical Synods ARE NOT PRONOUNCEMENTS OF ANY ONE BISHOP OR ARCHBISHOP, THESE Spirit inspired Councils are the UNASSAILABLE PILLARS OF THE Church.

Let us be instructed by the teachings of the aforementioned acclaimed Orthodox Chrisntians, and let us be confirmed by their contests and struggles until death on behalf of pieity. Let us be emulators of the end oof their godly conduct of life. May we be accounted worthy of the attainment of our entreaties through the mercies and grace of the First High Priest Christ, our True God, by the intercessions of our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Eve-Virgin Mary, the godlike Angels, and of all the Saints. Amen. (Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)

________________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George

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