Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Faith that has Established the Universe

Today is the Sunday of Orthodoxy, the first Sunday of Great Lent, and the day on which the Church celebrates both a historical and theological victory. After centuries of debate on the practice and appropriateness of Holy Icons in Christianity, the Church still suffered the influence of Iconoclasts (those who fought to destroy Holy Icons) even after the Seventh Ecumenical Council declared them appropriate and good for worship. It wasn’t until the Empress Theodora in 843 CE (56 years AFTER the Seventh Ecumenical Council which took place in 787 CE) finally and forever restored Holy Icons into the Great Church along with a procession of the Patriarch and the Clergy. The event took place on the first Sunday of Great Lent. After more than one hundred years of debate and violence, the Church finally had be properly restored to her glory with Holy Icons.

For more than a thousand years on the first Sunday of Great Lent, the Church has commemorated this historical event with a procession of Holy Icons in our Church. Unfortunately, most Churches limit this procession to a quaint procession often including children holding their favorite Icons from home walking around the interior of the Church. The “outside world” never has a clue as to what is taking place inside the walls of our Church. Empress Theodora PUBLICLY restored the Holy Icons with a grand procession, yet we quietly and in private declare the truth of the faith. Thankfully there is a growing number of Churches that are restoring the custom of a public procession similar to the Holy Friday procession with the Epitaphios of Christ.

Here is video of our procession held in Florence, SC a few years ago.

If we are going to take seriously our Great Lenten journey, today we have another example of the truth of the Church that has been promoted for nearly two thousand years. We can trust that the Church, which has remained vigilant about the unchanging truth, has also guided us along our Great Lenten journey. Today, as we process around the Church, either inside or outside, holding our favorite Icon from home, we can be comforted knowing we are walking in the footsteps of the thousands of holy men and women who over the centuries publicly proclaimed their faith in Christ and His Church. In every Orthodox Christian Church throughout the world today, the following proclamation:

From the proceedings of the Seventh Ecumenical Council read on the Sunday of Orthodoxy
All As the prophets beheld, as the Apostles have taught, as the Church has received, as the teachers have dogmatized, as the universe has agreed, as grace has illumined, as truth has revealed, as falsehood has been dispelled, as wisdom has presented, as Christ has triumphed; this we believe, this we declare, this we preach: Christ our true God, and His saints we honor in words, in writings, in thoughts, in sacrifices, in temples, in icons, on the one hand bowing down and worshiping Christ as God and Master, on the other hand honoring the saints as true servants of the Master of all, and offering to them due veneration.
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 fraternal and filial love we praise the heralds of the faith, those who with glory and honor have struggled for the faith, and we say: for the champions of Orthodoxy, faithful emperors, most-holy patriarchs, hierarchs, teachers, martyrs and confessors: may their memory be eternal.
(Sing) Everlasting be their memory; • Everlasting be their memory; • Everlasting be their memory.

Let us beseech God that we may be instructed and strengthened by the trials and struggles of these saints, which they endured for the Faith even unto death, and by their teachings, entreating that we may to the end imitate their godly life. May we be deemed worthy of obtaining our requests through the mercy and grace of the great and First Hierarch, Christ our God, through the intercessions of our glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever-Virgin Mary, the divine Angels and all the saints. Amen.

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