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Home / SERMONS FOR THE DAY OF THE LORD / 1st Sunday of Lent, Sunday of Orthodoxy: Jn 1:44-52

1st Sunday of Lent, Sunday of Orthodoxy: Jn 1:44-52

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“We have found Him of whom

Moses in the law, and also the

prophets, wrote – Jesus of Nazareth,

the son of Joseph”

This declaration of a faithful man of God

to his colleague, dear sisters and brothers,

is not a mere figure of speech . It is not a

mere thought. It is a confession of faith. And

today, the Sunday of Orthodoxy, is the day of

Faith par excellence. Those of us who have

been baptized and ‘put on Christ’, God incarnate,

must today at least concentrate and see

the meaning of such a central part of today’s

Gospel reading.

“What Moses has written in the

law and the prophets, we have

found, Jesus”

This comes as an answer to all the philosophies,

all the theories, all the mythologies of

the ancient peoples, who believed that the

Divine is far away, because it is invisible.

Sometimes they also believed that it is nonexistent.

They did not believe that God could become

a human being. They would more easily

and more often believe that a mortal

person could become God, and so we see

Nero and Hitler, and so many subsequent gods by their own imagination, denying the true

God who made all things visible and invisible.

We do not believe in a God who is merely

an idea. We believe in a God who, out of such

love for humanity, became Himself a human

being, in order to teach true humaness. Because

the entirety of true humaness leads directly

to deification.

The Church now testifies, within history,

to God, whom philosophers conceived as a

mere idea.

Prophets proclaimed Him. Notice in a few

days, during Holy Week, the readings of the

Prophets. You will see how they describe

Him many centuries before His Incarnation.

They describe in detail the Son of God, the

son of Mary, who was to come in the flesh.

They describe Him because they ‘foresaw’

Him, envisaged Him, sensed Him coming.

“I am the one who is and was and is to come”

(Rev. 1:8). I am the One who is and moves all

things. I am the One who always existed.

And I am the One who is coming, and who is

to come at the end of the ages, to meet, to refine,

to elevate, to sanctify the human person.

This is the great truth, then, that we are

celebrating today, sisters and brothers. Soon

we shall carry the Icons in a procession. Similarly

this evening, during the Vespers of Orthodoxy, we will bring our Icons to Church

as all Orthodox celebrate together every year.

It is a solemn confession on the part of the entire

people of God, that God became man for

our sake. And we saw Him, and we heard

Him, and we touched Him, and we tasted

Him, and we taste Him today, and every day,

unto eternity.

Christ is food and drink. “Taste and see

that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8). We commune

of His Blood and eat His Body in order

to taste immortality through our mortality.

This fundamental truth was rejected by several

so-called ‘progressive people’ during

Byzantium, who said: “What do you want

Icons for? They are idolatry”. Thus arose the

great struggle of Iconoclasm. And how

greatly the faithful suffered! And what they

went through to save the Icons they venerated

and prayed before! Because we do not

worship the paint and wood of the Icon, but

the grace of Him who took human form,

in order to bring consolation to chaos – the

chaos made by us, you and I, together.

Chaos

is all we manage to make. And whoever can

bring some form to the chaos, consoles those

therein.

“We venerate Your pure Icon, Good One…”

It is because He ‘appeared’ that we are comforted

by the Icon. If we were simply to imagine

Him, we would have made Him in our

own image. We would have given Him our own image. We would have given Him our

features. But we do not imagine Him – we

have seen Him! He was made known to people

like us. He lived among us.

He “dwelt among us, full of grace and

truth. We beheld his glory, the glory which

he received as the Father’s only begotten

Son” (John 1:14). This is not idle talk. The

God of the philosophers was idle talk! The

God of the Christians is the living God who

became human, who comes to heal infirmities,

to make the blind see, to make the lame

walk, to make the sinners repent, to make enemies

love one another, to make those who

have lost their way Saints.

This great truth and victory of God over

the chaos of the world, is what we celebrate

today, brothers and sisters, in honouring the

sacred Icons. The Iconoclasts did not understand

the Church’s Faith. For whoever rejects

the Icon also rejects the Incarnation. Can anyone

be a Christian while denying the Incarnation

of Christ?

For so long, in fact for over a century of

aggression and suffering caused by the Iconoclast

Emperor of Constantinople, the faithful

were forced to throw their sacred Icons

into the wells of the city, into the water, so

that the enemies would not find them.

This is why Constantinople has so many sites with holy water. One may ask: ‘How come

there are so many

sources of holy water? Is that the only place that holy water

springs forth?’ No. But it was because the Icons were hidden in so

many wells. And so, as a result, the waters were sanctified, and

can still be found today in Vlacherna, Baloukli, Potira and many

other churches of that longsuffering and glorious City of Christians,

Constantinople.

Today, then, is not simply a Sunday located within Great Lent;

it is the Sunday of triumph for the Faith. The triumph of the love

of God, who came side by side with the human so as to draw towards

Himself the fallen, the sinful and the lost, since we all have

a tendency towards sin. He came for all of us.

Therefore we will

always honour the Sunday of Orthodoxy, the restoration of the sacred

Icons achieved by Emperor Michael and his Mother Irene,

who are especially mentioned in the Synodikon of Orthodoxy, in

which we confess:

“This is the Faith of the Apostles,

this is the Faith of the Fathers,

this is the Faith of the Teachers,

this Faith has upheld the Universe”.

By Archbishop Stylianos of Australia, St Andrew’s Theological College – The first two decades (St Andrew’s Orthodox Press, Redfern, 2007), p. 71-79.

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