Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Sunday of Orthodoxy

This, the first Sunday of Great Lent, is known as the Sunday of Orthodoxy. The dominant theme of this Sunday since 843 has been that of the victory of the icons. In that year the iconoclastic controversy, which had raged on and off since 726, was finally laid to rest, and icons and their veneration were restored on the first Sunday in Lent. Ever since, that Sunday been commemorated as the "triumph of Orthodoxy."

Orthodox teaching about icons was defined at the Seventh Ecumenical Council of 787, which brought to an end the first phase of the attempt to suppress icons. That teaching was finally re-established in 843, and it is embodied in the texts sung on this Sunday.

In a letter addressed to all of the Orthodox faithful throughout North America on the occasion of this Sunday, the Hierarchs of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas included this statement:

"As we celebrate this day in our parishes and communities, we are openly invited to participate in a ministry of the restoration of the truth within our contemporary world. We affirm on this day the power of truth to triumph over falsehood and its harmful influences, recognizing that these influences confuse the mind and attempt to distort the divine imprint upon our lives and all of Creation. We can labor for the restoration of a truth that transforms lives and that leads souls into communion with God. We can guide others to Christ, with the full knowledge that our worship of Him as God is facilitated by our usage of Holy Icons in worship because of the truth that He condescended to become a human being for our salvation.

"As we journey through this Holy Lenten season may we offer a ministry of the restoration of the truth through our communion with God, Who became a human being, and through our worship of Him and our honor to His saints by means of our veneration of Holy Icons."

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory to Him forever!

(the icon for the feast is from the website of the Orthodox Church in America. Additional information came from the website of the Greek Archdiocese.)