Hebrews 11:24-26, 32-12:2
John 1:43-51

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!

Today is the Sunday of Orthodoxy. The Sunday of right belief, of proper and true worship of the One True God. This is what we mean when we call ourselves “orthodox” – that the Church possesses the fullness of the truth about both man and God, and that we offer proper worship to the One True God. Today we celebrate the Triumph of Orthodoxy – the victory of the fullness of the truth over anything less. The victory of the Church of Christ over heresy.

Specifically, in the hymns for today and in the service of the Triumph of Orthodoxy that we’ll serve after the Liturgy, we remember the victory of the Church over iconoclasm. For several hundred years there were factions in the Empire and even in the Church that tried to get rid of the Holy Icons. Obviously (if you look around in our temple), the icons were restored in the Church. But not only is today’s celebration about the holy icons; it’s about the Orthodoxy of the Church. Everything that’s part of the Tradition of the Church is to be maintained and passed on from generation to generation. The people who wanted to remove the icons from the Churches denied the Incarnation of Christ. They would talk about the person of Jesus Christ in many ways, but not as perfect God and perfect man.

So the removal of icons wasn’t just about getting these pictures out of the Churches – there was a deeper theological reason behind the move. If Jesus wasn’t really man, then you couldn’t depict Him on the icons – the 10 commandments forbade the depiction of anything unseen in heaven or on earth. We have icons of Christ because He became man and was seen on this earth. We have images of God in the flesh, because Christ was truly man [we don’t have icons of things that haven’t been seen, that’s a basic principle of iconography]. So the people who wanted to destroy the icons were denying much deeper Truths from the Tradition of the Holy Church.

With heretics of any sort, at the base of the problem is a denial of that very powerful statement we heard in the Gospel reading from the Apostle Nathanael – “Thou art the Son of God! Thou art the King of Israel!” That’s the faith that we’re given; that is the Triumph of Orthodoxy. The Son and Word of God became man and lived among us, died on the Cross, was buried for three days in the tomb, rose from the dead, and ascended to the right hand of the Father in glory. That’s the Orthodox Christian faith. We preach Christ, St. Paul says several places in his letters. The Gospels are only about Christ. The denial of anything of the truth about Christ threatens to collapse everything in the Christian Church because Christ is the center and foundation and focus of everything for us.

Today we really give thanks that the fullness of the Truth of Jesus Christ has been preserved and passed on and lived in the Orthodox Church. This celebration of the Sunday of Orthodoxy is really magnificent. It’s an opportunity for us to praise God for His mercy and His grace in preserving His Holy Body in the world in the midst of enormous temptations and sin. But for each of us, to simply be a part of this Tradition is not enough. It’s not enough for to simply be Orthodox, what we celebrate today has to be a part of us. We have to believe this fullness of the Truth, and we have to struggle to live in it. We have to be transformed by the person of Jesus Christ. We have a vision of this living Orthodoxy from our Epistle reading this morning. Moses had the opportunity to be the son of the pharaoh in Egypt, but St. Paul writes, “he chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward” (Hebrews 11:25-25). And then we’re given a list first of people who persevered in the Faith, and then a list of the characteristics of these people who held to nothing but Faith in God. This is how we’re struggling to live. We give thanks for the Triumph of Orthodoxy – but we can’t sit back and rest and be content to simply be a member of this Church. We also must take up our crosses daily, and follow Christ.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

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