I can’t proclaim the Victory of Orthodoxy


 

The first Sunday of Lent is called the Sunday of Orthodoxy, or the Victory of Orthodoxy. Historically, this Sunday commemorates the restoration of the use of Icons in worship in 843 AD. 

Someone will always ask how the Orthodox came by all of this icon business. Surely, they maintain, the word “icon” is not in the Bible. In fact, it is – St. Paul wrote in Colossians: “Christ is the image of the invisible God.” The word “image” is “icon” in Greek. The issue of icons is more than how we look at art. The issue of icons is the truth that God became flesh and dwelt among us. The Incarnation is the victory of Orthodoxy.  In Christ, God wrote the first icon. God became visible. He, who had no form before and could not be represented in any work of art, has now taken shape. When we look into the face of Christ, we see the Father. Therefore, we can represent God in art because he has represented Himself. To claim that such representation is wrong is to reject the truth that God became flesh lived among us. It is to leave God in the invisible realm.

 Orthodoxy is not just an ancient faith, a museum piece meant to arouse curiosity. This faith, which until recently seemed to be the quaint, old world faith of minorities and immigrants, has become a faith that not only answers the questions of 21st century North Americans, but challenges the self-identity and pre-suppositions of those of us raised in the West. We believe that we are beginning to witness the rise of American Orthodoxy. We are not sure of its course, but we have no reason to doubt its victory, for in all cultures and in all places the Faith has held its ground. It withstood pagan Rome and transformed it. It suffered and survived Islam and the Turkish Empire. It suffered greatly under communism, but emerged purified and triumphant.

So, I recognize and affirm the image of God in the Incarnation is the victory of Orthodoxy. I recognize and affirm that the Holy Church has weathered every storm and repelled every heresy thrown against it and has been victorious. I recognize that Orthodoxy in America is gaining ground and moving towards a brighter future. I have faith in the victory of Orthodoxy.

Yet, I cannot proclaim the victory of Orthodoxy for myself. Why? -because Orthodoxy has not yet been victorious in me. You see at this point I cannot say what St. Paul said: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” I know that I am created in the image of God, yet the icon of Christ has not yet been made in me. This icon is being written in me and it’s a work in progress, but it is not finished. The victory of Orthodoxy is not yet in me, though I long for it.

Well, I say that I long for it, but in fact, I am an iconoclast.  I am a slave to my passions, and so smear whatever image of Christ there is in me. By my selfishness and love of pleasure, I refuse to acknowledge the reality of the image of Christ in others. Even more, I set myself up as a judge and by condemning others, I smash the image of Christ in them (at least in my own mind). I demonstrate my belief that God is invisible, and being invisible, He is certainly not in you or in anyone else. As John the Beloved would say, “How can you love God whom you cannot see…”

Against this sinful old iconoclast, the Spirit struggles to write the image of Christ in me. May God gain victory over me, so that someday, others might look at me and see God made manifest in Christ in me. May the day come when this image is so complete that I can say with St. Paul, “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.”

I look forward to the Victory of Orthodoxy.

 

 

 

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