Homily Sunday of Orthodoxy 2011

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.  Glory to Jesus Christ!  Glory Forever!

As the prophets beheld, as the Apostles have taught, as the Church has received, as the Teachers have dogmatized, as the Universe has agreed, as Grace has shown forth, as Truth was revealed, as falsehood has been

dissolved, as Wisdom has presented, as Christ awarded, let us declare, let us assert, let us preach in like manner Christ our true God and honor His Saints in words, in writing, in thoughts, in deeds, in churches, in Holy Icons...

and worshipping Him as God and Lord and honoring them a His true servants.



Thus the Church Fathers declared at the Seventh Ecumenical Council, affirming the use of icons in the Church.  These are some strong words which come from a strong Church, the Church of our forefathers, East and West.  It has been nearly 1,100 years since these words were first spoken.  The Fathers then followed the injunction of St. Paul to “hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.”  We are fond of quoting that passage from Scriptures often.  It is, and rightly so, one of the proof texts used to support the very concept that the Church has an unwritten Tradition as well as a written Tradition…or even that there is a Holy Tradition at all.   Many forget, though, that those words were spoken within a specific context.  St. Paul was writing about the delusions of the times just before Christ returns, those things which would tear people away from the Truth and the Church.  He tells the Thessalonians that the beginning of that deception had already begun in their own day.  The people were not to despair, though, but rather to hold onto the Tradition that they were taught.  The Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council would have known this and recognized the heresy of iconoclasm as being a work of Satan that they had to resist.

          Today we celebrate the Triumph of Orthodoxy.  Today we remember the heresy of Iconoclasm’s defeat.  The Church was faced with a teaching that, in its seeming attempt to follow the letter of the Scriptures, the prohibition against graven images and idols, did not find the spirit of the Law.  They missed the theology of the icon which is the theology of the incarnation.  It is true that man cannot paint an image of the indescribable God; a spirit cannot be depicted.  He can, though, paint an image of the incarnate Lord.  True His divinity is not depicted, but within the incarnation one sees the incarnation of the Person.  St. John of Damascus was the great defender and expounder of the Theology of the Icon.  He wrote, “When the Invisible One becomes visible to flesh, you may then draw His likeness.”  He wrote eloquently about the condescension of the Logos who clothed Himself in flesh like ours.  The Word did not cease to be the Word because He had taken on flesh for our sake, and so one can draw a picture of the Word become flesh. 

          There was another aspect of the heresy and this was a pragmatic one:  Islam berated the Church for its use of images and belief in the Trinity.  It called the Christians idolaters for this.  It was politically expedient for the current emperor who succeeded the first iconoclast (anti-icon) emperor to continue the heresy for his own ends.

          Does this not sound familiar today?  I do not mean, simply, the capitulation to Muslims in order to gain ground, but rather a general atmosphere that is politically charged against the Church and Her beliefs.  First of all, I am not one to adhere to conspiracy theories, nor do I believe that the government should play favorites where religion is concerned.  By political I mean the general sense of the polity, the community and how we interact with each other.  Political Correctness would be a better term to describe the general situation.  We live in a time in which the foundations of our beliefs are, if not outright ridiculed by popular bestsellers and blockbuster movies, then are minimalized into irrelevance.  We are made irrelevant by relativity.   The truth becomes “my truth” or “his truth;” mere concepts.   “The Truth is not an idea or an opinion.  The Truth is a person, the Person Jesus Christ.”

     We need a new Triumph of Orthodoxy!  We need to be the Church, unafraid of what people will think of us. Let us be like Philip in today’s reading when faced with the question, “What can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  Let us say, “Come and see!”  Because, the truth be told, we too have found Him of whom the prophets wrote!  We too have found and are united with the creator of the universe who became one of us for us and our salvation.  How can we not say come and see to everyone we meet?  How can we not be overflowing with joy at what we have received from Christ Himself?  How can we be indifferent in our Church attendance or prayer or good works when it is in the Church that we are united body and soul with our great and awesome God; how can we be indifferent in our prayer when it is through our prayer that we speak and are spoken to if we listen rightly, to the same God who made us; how can we fail to do good works for our neighbor when those good works are the means by which we see our God face to face, for in each person we meet, we are meeting a living and breathing icon of the One True God and when we show veneration towards the icon, that love passes on to the prototype as well as we learned on the Sunday of the Last Judgment.

When we say come and see will we be able to show someone Christ or just another Church service?  Will those we meet see Christ in us? 

Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh gave a wonderful homily on confession.  In that homily he described the conversation he has with the penitent and what follows from the questions he asks.  He said, and forgive me for reading such a long quote, but it’s very good:

‘What do you know of Christ? Does He attract you? Do you like Him? Does He mean anything to you? And the answer is varied. Some say, ‘No, I know Him from afar off, I know Him from the Church, from what I was taught, but I never had a personal attitude to Him.’ Then the answer is, ‘Find out. Read the Gospel and try to find out what Christ is like.’

And the next move: ask yourself, ‘Do I like Him? Would I wish to be His disciple, His friend? If the answer is ‘no’, then begin to think about your whole situation, because if Christ means nothing, if you dislike Him, if He is no image of what you would like to be, then you must start a long, long way away. But if you can say, ‘Yes! I like Him, I can respect Him, I can admire Him. Yes, I would like to be His personal friend if He was here,’ then my next question will be, ‘Do you know what friendship is?’

          Friendship consists most of all in choosing someone among all the people to be to you the one you treasure above all, whom you admire, by whom you are prepared to stand in case of danger or unpleasantness; one to whom you wish to give joy.

          Ask yourself these questions with regard to Christ; and ask yourself, in what way have you tried in the past week to give some joy to the Lord Jesus Christ, or in what way have you been for Him a cause of pain. ‘I have loved him to the point of giving My life and My death to him and he does not care at all.

          Not for My suffering or My death, but for Me’.

If that is the conclusion, begin to re-examine all your status as a Christian. If you can say, ‘yes, I choose Him as a friend,’ begin to ask yourself every day, every day: what have I done, said, thought, felt, been, which can be to Him a joy or a pain?

     Our children, our friends and our family (and we ourselves) are being seduced away from the Church by the spirit of the times.  We need another Triumph of Orthodoxy.  This triumph can only come by humility and love within our hearts married to fervent prayer.  It must be a triumph without triumphalism.  We need to hold fast to the Tradition which has been handed down to us and we must live it and hand it on to our children intact without compromise or mixture.  Orthodoxy is not just one path among many that leads to God.  It is the path that was cut by Our Lord Himself who became flesh for our sake.  He was not one incarnation of God among many.  He was and still is the one and only incarnate Lord who founded the Church.  As we heard in the reading for the Last Judgment, the kingdom was prepared for man before the foundation of the world.   We have such a great treasure.  We must hold onto it.



In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.

Glory to Jesus Christ!  Glory Forever!





©  2011 Fr. Philip Kontos