Triumph of Orthodoxy
Over the course of this past week, the first week of Great Lent, the Church prayed the Canon of St Andrew of Crete – an extended lamentation of repentance that brought before our eyes the whole history of God’s interaction with mankind. This beautiful and deeply moving work of St Andrew sets the proper tone for our Lenten journey… in the fourth Canticle we hear, ‘The end draws near, my soul, the end draws near; yet thou dost not care or make ready. The time grows short, rise up: the Judge is at the door. The days of our life pass swiftly, as a dream, as a flower. Why do we trouble ourselves in vain?’
Our earthly life is so brief and is so precious. This is the time given to us for our repentance and for our reconciliation with God. In the services of this first week of Lent we hear: ‘Behold the appointed time; behold, the day of salvation, the entrance to the Fast. O my soul, be watchful, close all the doors through which the passions enter, and look up towards the Lord.’
Great Lent is a time for us to take stock of where we are in our spiritual life. It is a wonderful opportunity for ‘spiritual spring cleaning’.
I think it has been harmonious to experience this past week the change toward daylight savings – where we set the clocks to maximize our enjoyment of the daylight. We’ve also been blessed this past week with a truly spring-like change in the weather… After so many months of rain and cloudy skies, this past week has been a refreshing burst of warmth and sunlight. Spring is definitely in the air!
How appropriate that these changes drawing us from darkness toward light have taken place in this first week of Lent. For that is precisely what Lent is all about. It is a call to us to come out from the shadows and to step into the light. It is our own summoning like Christ calling Lazarus from the tomb: ‘Come forth!’
We are called to ‘be watchful, to close all the doors through which the passions enter and look up towards the Lord.’ Great Lent is a time for us close the doors of the passions, to minimize our worldly distractions, to create time for silence and prayer. It is a time for us to look into the depths of our conscience and to ask ourselves – where does my treasure lie? Where is my heart’s desire?
If we stop to ask this question - and if we do so with unflinching honesty – the answer will probably make us weep. Is our heart wholly and completely with Christ? Is Christ our greatest treasure? Let us ask this of ourselves and let us reflect upon it with humility and sincerity.
But let us not be discouraged… this is precisely the call to repentance… to see our estrangement from God and to turn back to Him. After this week of deep reflection and sighing, after this week of realizing that we are in exile from our lost Paradise, we have before us today the celebration of the triumph of Orthodoxy! We recall on this day the ending of the Iconoclast controversy and the restoration of the holy icons to the churches of God.
Today we recognize and celebrate the hope and the joy and the vision that is presented before us in the holy icons. An icon emphasizes the reality of the incarnation of God… that the Incomprehensible and Invisible, out of His love, deigned to become comprehensible and visible! That God took on real flesh and blood, that we might see Him, touch Him, embrace Him. Divinity has taken on humanity so that humanity might take on Divinity.
An icon is so much more than paint and wood. It depicts the visage of a saint and becomes a window into heaven. An icon is a receptacle and a transmitter of prayer… As we gaze upon these icons set here before us, think for a moment about all the prayers, the tears, the love that has been expressed before them. They become witnesses and bearers of something very special… they become conduits of grace.
And just as the paint and wood of an icon may take on this heavenly purpose, so too are we called to become more than just flesh and blood. We are called to be transmitters of prayer, to be witnesses and bearers of something very special. We are called to become conduits of grace.
God grant that we might become living icons of Christ. This is what we are called to be as Christians! May God grant that we work diligently in this Lenten season to ‘be watchful, to close all the doors through which the passions enter, and look up towards the Lord.’ It is through these efforts that we take on the task of icon restoration. Patiently scraping away the darkness and the soot which obscures that living and vivid image of God within us.
As we celebrate the triumph of Orthodoxy and the restoration of the holy icons today, let us make this personal. Let us make this Lenten season a time for the restoration of the icon within our soul and a glorious triumph of Orthodoxy in our own life!