The Church has never been afraid of history. History is filled with happy events as well as sorrowful events, but it cannot be unwritten or changed. As human beings, we study history to learn of our past and to improve our future, as the old saying goes, “He who does not know history is doomed to repeat it.” Church history is important not only so we can avoid repeating the “bad parts”, but so that we can emphasize the good parts. Today is one of those days.
The first Sunday of Great Lent, known as the Sunday of Orthodoxy, commemorates the victory of the Church over the Iconoclasts, those who wrongly taught that Holy Icons were idols. The historic victory of the Church is played out in the annual Procession of the Holy Icons, but today isn’t just a historic commemoration. It is about the truth of the faith.
Put simply, if Jesus Christ was indeed the incarnate eternal Word of God, then He should be depicted in Holy Icons. Real people actually saw His face. They touched His hands. They felt His healing touch. They watched Him be crucified, and they saw His resurrected Body. He was no longer some distant deity far away in heaven, but a personal compassionate God-Man. This is the true victory on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, as we read today:
From the proceedings of the Seventh Ecumenical Council read on the Sunday of Orthodoxy
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 worshipping 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) Eternal be their memory; • Eternal be their memory; • Eternal 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.