Triumph of Orthodoxy
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today – the first Sunday of the Great Fast – we celebrate the triumph of Orthodoxy. This day commemorates the proclamation of the fathers of the seventh ecumenical council, where the fathers of the Church triumphed over the challenge of the iconoclasts – those who tried to tear down the Orthodox understanding of Christ’s incarnation, of God’s redemption of matter, of the transfiguration of physical things by the grace of God.
Today we see before us the holy icons… today is a celebration of God’s grace to transfigure that which is material into something more… into something which is holy.
This realization… that God can transfigure what is base and material is a fundamental acceptance and understanding of the reality of Christ’s incarnation, of God’s having taken on human flesh and sanctifying it by His grace.
We see before us the icons… simple paintings upon wood. But they are so much more than that. Through the prayer of those who wrote them, and through the prayers of those who have wept before them and poured their hearts out in prayer before them and in memory and honor of those whom they depict… and through the operation of the Holy Spirit, they become transfigured. They become holy – not in and of themselves, but because they represent and can even transmit the holiness of God.
If God can make something holy of paint and wood… how much more, then, might he do with flesh and blood, with the body, mind, and soul of a human being?
This transformation, this transfiguration of what is base into what is holy is the triumph of Orthodoxy!
Brothers and sisters in Christ… the triumph of Orthodoxy is a proclamation of Christ’s kingdom not of this world.
We witness the world trampling upon the truths of Christianity on a daily basis. We see the martyrdom of Christians in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and elsewhere around the world. We see greedy politicians bating brother against brother – polarizing people against one another… We experience on a day to day basis the ridicule of our faith and feel challenged to live out our faith in these times. How then is Orthodoxy triumphant?
Orthodoxy is indeed triumphant because, while it may transfigure this world, it is above and is not bound by this world… it is eternal. Christ promised us that in this world we shall have tribulation, but that we should be of good cheer, for Christ has overcome the world!
Let the display of these icons stand witness to the promise of the triumph of Orthodoxy! It is a triumph that must take place within the heart of each and every person.
In the Compline services that we heard each evening this week, we heard the refrain ‘God is with us!’ Through the victory of Christ and through the workings of the Holy Spirit, this is a great and profound truth.
‘God is with us’… think about that!...
Think about what this means as we behold the icons displayed triumphantly before us. God has renewed and redeemed all of creation and all of creation rejoices in Him.
Think about what it means that ‘God is with us’ as we work to observe the Fast… purifying our bodies through Lenten foods and through more disciplined eating; standing at prayer at home and in church, surrounding ourselves with a greater atmosphere of devotion to God.
On this Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy we realize the presence of God in the world and the possibility of the transfiguration of physical things. God is with us here and now. Next week we will celebrate St Gregory Palamas and we will see further how God is with us through His grace and energies. Surely one of the most wonderful things that Great Lent offers to us is the realization of the nearness of God in our lives. He stands at the very door of our heart and knocks…
Let us rejoice in the power of the triumph of Orthodoxy, in the recognition that God is with us… and let us assure that we are doing everything possible to make sure we are with Him.