This Sunday, the first Sunday of Great Lent is called the Sunday of Orthodoxy, or the Triumph of Orthodoxy. This Sunday is an impressive reminder of the centrality of Christ in the Orthodox Church. It is a spiritual feast during which we Orthodox Christians reaffirm our confession of faith in Jesus Christ and His saving work. It is the day in which we lift up Christ in praise and glorification.
St. John of Kronstadt stated, “The Lord is everything to me. He is the strength of my heart and the light of my mind. He inclines my heart to everything good; He strengthens it; He also gives me good thoughts; He is my rest and my joy; He is my faith, hope, and love; He is my food and drink, my raiment, my dwelling place”.
This Sunday is a historic day in the history of our Church for it commemorates the restoration of icons to the Great Church of Constantinople in 843 AD, as an important way of living and expressing our Christian faith. On this day a procession is held in our churches with children carrying icons while the hymns of this day are sung. In accordance with this tradition, the Proclamation of our Faith is recited after which the priest intones the words of the Great Prokimenon, “Who is so great a God, as our God; thou art are God who does wonders, Our God who does wonders”!
Icons are symbols, not idols. Icons are venerated, not worshipped. When we venerate icons, we venerate Christ, the Theotokos or the Saint depicted on the icon, not the wood, paint, or colors on its surface.
Icons teach us about Christ and His ministry, as well as about the saints and martyrs and their testimonies of faith in the Lord. It has been said, icons are windows to heaven, they seek to symbolize the transfigured universe and victory and redemption of creation by the Glory of Christ.
Remember the words of St. John of Damascus who defended icons at the 7th Ecumenical Council who wrote, “the icon is a song of triumph, and a revelation, and an enduring witness to the victory of the Saints”.
Let us rejoice this day for the power of icons is spiritual, for it is a working of God’s grace in the act of a personal expression of faith through the intercessory prayers of the saints who live in God’s glory.