All of God’s creation is to be redeemed and glorified
“I do not worship matter, but the Creator of matter, who for my sake became material and deigned to dwell in matter, who through matter effected my salvation (Saint John of Damascus)”.
Unlike angels, who are entirely spiritual beings, God has made each of us as creatures dwelling in a material world. To be whole, we must worship God both in body and soul. This teaching is central to our Christian faith and is an affirmation of the sacramental nature of this material world. Because of this truth icons have played a central role in Christian history, for they proclaim Jesus Christ’s physical reality as God Incarnate.
Our Lord told his disciples that “he who has seen me, has seen the Father”. Icons depicting the Holy Virgin show the Christ Child with bare feet, reminding us that he walked the earth among us. He (the Logos) through Whom all that is was brought into existence, condescended to take on our flesh and walk among us. He joined His divinity to our humanity, that we might become gods.
The Lord Jesus Christ was born, lived, died and rose from the dead in this material world. He broke bread with disciples, ate fish with his friends, and invited His disciple Thomas to feel the wound in his side, after His holy resurrection. Most of the miracles He performed were in the nature of physical healing.
Because of the Incarnation, our use of icons bring our whole nature, body and soul, into the material world. This physical aspect of prayer is what connects us to our true self, composed of body and soul. This is where God reaches down to embrace us.
Icons are wonderful aides in our communion with God because they serve as bridges to Christ and links with the Holy Virgin and the saints. They are by no means the only means , for sitting on the top of a mountain, or walking on the seashore, eyes open, allows us to behold the beauty of God’s creation, and His love for us. The icons, like the glory of creation, are windows into eternity, and invite us who live in this material world, into an encounter with God.
Icons are necessary and essential because they protect the full and proper doctrine of the Incarnation. While God cannot be represented in His eternal nature (“…no man has seen God”, John 1:18), He can be depicted simply because He “became human and took flesh.” Of Him who took a material body, material images can be made. In so taking a material body, God proved that matter can be redeemed. He deified matter, making it spirit-bearing, and so if flesh can be a medium for the Spirit, so can wood or paint, although in a different fashion.
The seventh and last Ecumenical Council upheld the iconodules’ postion in AD 787. They proclaimed: Icons… are to be kept in churches and honored with the same relative veneration as is shown to other material symbols, such as the ‘precious and life-giving Cross’ and the Book of the Gospels. The ‘doctrine of icons’ is tied to the Orthodox teaching that all of God’s creation is to be redeemed and glorified, both spiritual and material.
With love in Christ,
Thursday February 16, 2017 / February 3, 2017
Week of the Prodigal Son. Tone one.
Afterfeast of the Meeting of Our Lord.
Holy and Righteous Symeon the God-receiver and Anna the Prophetess (1st c.).
St. Nicholas, enlightener of Japan (1912).
New Hieromartyr John, Timothy, Adrian priests and Martyrs Vladimir, Michael (1938).
St. Romanus, prince of Uglich (1285).
St. Symeon, first bishop of Tver and Polotsk (1289).
Prophet Azarias (10th c.B.C.).
Martyrs Papias, Diodorus, and Claudianus at Perge in Pamphylia (250).
Martyrs Adrian and Eubulus, at Caesarea in Cappadocia (310).
Martyr Blaise of Caesarea in Cappadocia (3rd c.).
St. Ansgar, bishop of Hamburg, enlightener of Denmark and Sweden (865).
St. Laurence of Canterbury, bishop (619) (Celtic & British).
Venerable Werburga of Chester, abbess (700) (Celtic & British).
St. Ia, virgin of St. Ives.
St. James, archbishop of Serbia (1292) (Serbia).
Martyr Paul the Syrian, who suffered under Diocletian (4th c.).
St. Sviatoslav-Gabriel and his son St. Dimitry of Yuriev (1253).
St. Sabbas of Ioannina (15th c.).
St. Ignatius of Mariupol in Crimea, metropolitan of Gothia and Kafa (1786).
Greek New Martyrs Stamatius and John, brothers, and Nicholas their companion, in Chios (1822).
The Scripture Readings
1 John 4:20-5:21
Obedience by Faith
20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
5 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
The Certainty of God’s Witness
6 This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. 7 For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.
9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. 10 He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. 11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue tobelieve in the name of the Son of God.
Confidence and Compassion in Prayer
14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
16 If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. 17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.
Knowing the True—Rejecting the False
18 We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.
19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.
20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.
21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.
Jesus Faces Pilate
15 Immediately, in the morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council; and they bound Jesus, led Him away, and delivered Him to Pilate. 2 Then Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”
He answered and said to him, “It is as you say.”
3 And the chief priests accused Him of many things, but He answered nothing. 4 Then Pilate asked Him again, saying, “Do You answer nothing? See how many things they testify against You!” 5 But Jesus still answered nothing, so that Pilate marveled.
Taking the Place of Barabbas
6 Now at the feast he was accustomed to releasing one prisoner to them, whomever they requested. 7 And there was one named Barabbas, who was chained with his fellow rebels; they had committed murder in the rebellion. 8 Then the multitude, crying aloud, began to ask him to do just as he had always done for them. 9 But Pilate answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy.
11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd, so that he should rather release Barabbas to them. 12 Pilate answered and said to them again, “What then do you want me to do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?”
13 So they cried out again, “Crucify Him!”
14 Then Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?”
But they cried out all the more, “Crucify Him!”
15 So Pilate, wanting to gratify the crowd, released Barabbas to them; and he delivered Jesus, after he had scourged Him, to be crucified.