And the declaration of anathemas against the iconoclasts
The Old Testament God was revealed to us by Christ Jesus. Prior to the incarnation of the Logos, God’s people were forbidden to make any image of Him, for no one had seen His face. Yet when Christ said to His disciples, “he who has seen Me has seen the Father”, the fullness of this loving God was revealed to His creation.
Early Christians used icons to depict this truth of the incarnation. The very first icons showing the Holy Virgin and the Christ Child, were painted by non other than the holy Apostle Luke. Since Christ is revealed in His saints, even the Holy Virgin and the Martyrs were soon depicted in images, worthy of veneration by the early Christians. The icons are not worshiped, nor are the saints worshiped, for adoration is reserved only for God. They are venerated because Christ dwells in His saints.
Orthodox, from the very first century, have venerated the holy icons as windows into eternity, representing as they do, the deified state of those who’ve won the good fight and are in Paradise with God. Our icons are not seen as religious art, but indeed windows into the other world. Perhaps a better description would be to say the icons are doors into the Heavenly Realm, for God infuses into the icons His Divine Energies, whereby we are lifted up into a place where there is neither time nor space. When we venerate the icons, our devotion and love is passed on to the archetypes, where we are connected to the saints who are in the Church Triumphant, together with the heavenly hosts, and Christ is glorified in His Saints.
The iconoclasts (literally meaning “image-smashers”), by denying the veneration of icons, deny the Incarnation of Christ. The image as depicted in the holy icons of Christ is a confession of faith in the historical Incarnation. An historical Christ is necessarily visible and depictable. The Seventh Ecumenical Council stated plainly and concisely: “If one does not venerate our Lord Jesus Christ depicted in an icon, according to the human form, let him be anathema”. Although the complete set of anathemas declared encompass more than the iconoclasts, for brevity, I am choosing to concentrate on the iconoclastic heresy.
In order to remember this day the holy Church decreed that on the First Sunday of Lent we celebrate the “Triumph of Orthodoxy” over its enemies, whether open and direct, as is the case with the iconoclasts, or subtle and devious, as are some of the Church’s contemporary enemies.
It is important for us to remember that the anathemas are not to be interpreted as condemnations, for in condemnations there is a strong element of hatred, and an innate desire for revenge and destruction. Thus, the Church does not condemn, but simply separates from its midst those who do not see themselves as belonging to the Church, for they refuse to accept her teachings.
In her wisdom and love, the Church wishes that those who have put themselves outside the Body of Christ, recognize their error, and return to Orthodox teachings. It is not about the Church separating from them, but that they have separated themselves have set themselves apart from the Church, and in the pronouncement of the Anathemas on The Sunday of Orthodoxy, the Church solemnly announces that fact.
With love in Christ,
Sunday March 8, 2020 / February 24, 2020
First Sunday of the Great Lent: The Triumph of Orthodoxy. Tone five.
Great Lent. Food with Oil
“Cyprus” Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos from the village Staromniy, Moscow region (movable holiday on the 1st Sunday of the Great Lent).
First (4th c.) and Second (452) Findings of the Precious Head of St. John the Baptist.
Venerable Erasmus of the Kiev Caves (1160).
Uncovering of the relics (1486) of St. Romanus, prince of Uglich.
Martyrs Montanus, Lucias, Julian, Victoricus, Flavian and their companions at Carthage (259).
St. Cummain Ailbe, abbot of Ilona (669) (Celtic & British).
The Scripture Readings
Luke 24:12-35 (5th Matins Gospel)
Hebrews 11:24-26, 11:32-12:2
2 Corinthians 4:6-15 Forerunner
Matthew 11:2-15 Forerunner
1) Isaiah 40:1-3,9; 41:17-18; 45:8; 48:20-21; 54:1
2) Malachi 3:1-2,5-7,12,17; 4:4-6
3) Wisdom of Solomon 4:7,16,17,19,20; 5:1-7