This homily was given at Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church in Clinton, MS. All of the Orthodox Churches in MS gathered at Holy Resurrection on the First Sunday of Great and Holy Lent (2-25-07) to serve the Vespers of the Triumph of Orthodoxy together. The service may be found here.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be! It’s a great pleasure to be back at Holy Resurrection, at the parish where I was received into the Orthodox Church to celebrate the Triumph of Orthodoxy. And now to be able to serve at the altar with Fr. Paul and the other priests, it’s really a great joy to be here. And a great honor to be asked to give the homily. Obviously, we’ve completed the first week of our Lenten journey, and at the end of what is quite a rigorous week, we have the blessing to celebrate the Sunday of Orthodoxy. The Triumph of Orthodoxy. As I’m sure you all heard this morning, historically the celebration of today refers specifically to the Seventh Ecumenical Council and to a later council in Constantinople that ultimately enforced the 7th Council. The council that re-instated the Tradition of the Church—that allowed Holy Icons again into the Churches. Many of the hymns for today refer to this, and we just heard portions of the declaration of the Seventh Council read. So instead of just repeating what you’ve already been exposed to already in the services of today, I’d like us to think for a moment about the Triumph of Orthodoxy in our own lives. Of course, the maintenance of the fullness of the Tradition of the Church, the preservation of the deposit from Christ, is a triumph of Orthodoxy.But it’s not enough. It’s not enough for the Church to preserve the fullness of the Teaching of Jesus Christ. It’s not enough because in order for the work of Christ to be fulfilled, I have to live the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The goal that Christ sets before us is union with Him—salvation, deification. But we aren’t saved by what we know. And we aren’t saved by simply being members of the Church that continues to carry in Her the Fullness of the Faith. This is why the preservation of the fullness of the faith is not enough—we must become participants in the fullness of the faith. Think of the Pharisees—they knew everything of the Old Covenant. They knew, and even practiced, what God commanded them to. But when Christ comes, He says murderers and tax-collectors will enter the Kingdom before they will. They were trusting in their works and in the fact that they were descendants of Abraham. They were part of God’s chosen people, therefore they assumed that God would save them. But Christ says that God could raise up descendants of Abraham from the rocks. What they knew, what their position in life was, what their ethnicity and religion was—none of these things could save them. So, in our glorious celebration of the Triumph of Orthodox Christianity, we can never be led to think that by our simply being in this Church, that we’re doing all we need to do. It’s a wonderful thing the Fathers have done, to put this celebration on the first weekend of the Great Fast. We get to remember and celebrate what it took others to hand us the pearl of great price. And in this remembrance, we’re also called to look inward. “Am I living in my life the Triumph of Orthodoxy?” “Am I participating fully in the life that Christ offers?” As St. Silouan the Athonite said, to be with Christ we must enter the stream of the Tradition of the Church. We celebrate the Triumph of Orthodoxy today because the stream of the Tradition of the Church must be preserved and protected. But Christ calls us to enter this stream, and allow ourselves to be filled with the fullness of His life. To be shaped and changed, and formed into the image of Christ. And this isn’t done by simply being Orthodox. It’s done by daily living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By taking up my cross and following Christ. By not allowing my passions to rule my life, but rather allowing commandments of Christ to be the rule in my life. And, of course, we don’t do this alone. The Tradition of the Church is the life of the Holy Spirit as He guides the people of God. When we enter the stream of the Tradition of the Church, we’re entering the mystery of the very life of God. And in this we’re sustained by the all encompassing love and grace of God. We’re sustained by all the things God has given for our salvation—Sacraments, Services, Saints, our brothers and sisters in Christ. And as we live the life in Christ, the True Triumph of Orthodoxy takes shape in us. We renew the image of God in us, and we become for those around us, icons of Christ. Today we celebrate the restoration of icons into the Holy Churches. But let us not forget that we are created in the image of God. We are icons of Christ. So as we’re being made perfect in Christ, let us pray that the light of Christ will shine forth from us, illumining the world around us darkened by sin. That in us, as unworthy as we are, the Triumph of Orthodoxy may be made known to others. Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

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