The Triumph of Orthodoxy

Sunday (may be 1980)

Today the Orthodox Church is keeping the great feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy over all heresies. It is not the triumph of the Orthodox over other people, of our church over another church. It is the triumph of the spirit of truth within the community of men, the triumph of God in the midst of His people. This triumph was declared when the doctrine of the icons was proclaimed and it signifies once more the vindicating of two things; on the one hand that God has truly become man, God Himself, the God of Heaven, the living God has become a living man, and also that the Lord was made flesh and that it is within the compass of this created world that the divine presence was made manifest and revealed. It is a revelation both about God and about the created world; we recognise in Him the true man and true God, very man and very God, the Lord who makes Himself a servant and the created that unfolds itself in depth, in vastness to be great enough to become the place where God dwells, and more than this to unite itself to God the Lord of all things. The triumph of Orthodoxy was appointed to the day when the dogma concerning the icons was declared, a dogma according to which it its right and legitimate to paint the likeness of Christ our Lord, of the Mother of God and His Saints. And yet it is not simply images to which we attach divine names. An Icon is something far greater than this. We do not possess any likeness of Christ and we are not trying to reproduce His earthly features as accurately as possible. An icon painter displays in an icon the knowledge of the Church of God about the word of God incarnate in human features, in lines and colours what is to be conveyed to us is not the historical likeness of Jesus of Nazareth, but the vision of the divine presence in human features. And an icon is even more than a revelation, a declaration of truth and of faith in lines and colours, it is blessed and hallowed, it becomes within the Church a real focus of presence. And this is why we bow to the icons, we venerate them, we kiss them, not only as likenesses, not only as images that reveal the invisible but as a dwelling place of divine grace and divine power. To declare this means simultaneously to speak of the incredible closeness of God Who unites Himself to man and makes history His own but also unites Himself to the very matter of this world and reveals its greatness and its incredible capabilities not only to become the dwelling place of God but to become pervaded with divine presence, to be filled with it. It is a message of great hope not only about men but about all things around us and we Christians are called to understand this. This is why it is so important for us to try to understand all the depth of the Church’s teaching about God, One in Trinity, about the incarnation of the Word of God, about the Mother of God, about Man and about things created because we are those who should bring the world that has lost the sight of itself, an understanding of itself, not only words of truth, but words of life, not only speak but live with an understanding and depth that the Christian alone should have if we only were of the stature of true Christianity. It is a message of hope but it is also a challenge to us, as long as we do not understand we are still on the fringe of that Church which is life eternal. Let us the try to learn, try to understand, try to live and then we will be able to declare, not in words but in the manifestation of the spirit of God what God has said, what He says day after day about the world He has created, man whom He has loved and willed into the world and Himself which is life and joy and eternity.