Great Lent and the Sunday of Orthodoxy 2019

On the first Sunday of Great Lent, March 17th, we commemorate the restoration of the holy icons to the Church marking a significant reaffirmation of our Orthodox belief concerning the relationship between God and creation. Throughout this great struggle the major issue was the exact nature of our Lord Jesus

Christ’s incarnation and its implications in the life of those who have believed and continue to believe in Him. In declaring the fullness of human nature assumed by the Son of God as expressed in the holy icons, the Church also affirms that human nature is a fundamental icon of God Himself. Human beings have been created in the image of God and are called to reflect God in themselves. And, by becoming true images of God, faithful Christians point the way for others to worship the Creator and not creation.

The season of the Fast that begins on March 11th, reminds us of the great responsibility we have to restore in ourselves the image of God that may have become dim and dull through sin or negligence. We are admonished to pray more often, to fast diligently, and to give to those in need. These virtues aren’t restricted to Great Lent. However, they are placed before us just like our goal of the Resurrection, to be- come more present and real. There is a double effect to this spiritual exercise: one is inward and the other is outward. By praying more we come into close and more intimate contact with our Creator; by strengthening our relationship with Him, and through Him all of our other relationships become strengthened. By fasting, we transfigure the material things in life: food, drink and entertainment. We learn to distin- guish between true life that comes from God and the illusion of life that the world offers. And finally, by making the giving to those in need a high priority we recognize the blessings God has given us and see the material world in its proper perspective: as a means for substance while giving glory to God.

When we celebrate the triumph of Orthodoxy over the heresy of those who would limit the fullness of our Lord’s incarnation, I hope we pause to fully understand what that means for us living in the United States. First and foremost, we can point the way to a spiritual renewal that takes seriously the full meaning of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Christians have al- ways challenged the societies in which they have lived. Through the preaching of the Good News of salva- tion and through a life lived in harmony with those evangelical principles they transformed and transfigured those societies to reflect more completely God’s original intention. The modern world in general, and our society in particular, have lost their bearing. The hope and faith that should be reserved for God has been replaced with political and economic systems. As these systems disappoint and fail, people lose heart and become apathetic. Wittingly or unwittingly, they have fallen into the trap of worshipping the creation in- stead of the Creator.

As the Apostles brought hope and life to a world grown old and cynical through their proclamation of new life in Jesus Christ, so we too have the very same calling. As they convinced people of the power of Christ’s Resurrection by the holiness of their lives, the love in their action, and the sacrifices they endured so we too can proclaim the triumph of Orthodoxy by restoring the icon of our own person and living the hope of Christ’s Resurrection in everything we say and do. Truly this is the faith that sustains the universe.

Have a blessed Lenten Journey!

Fr Christopher P Foustoukos
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