REV. REMUS BLEAHU 'Triumph of Orthodoxy' to celebrate respect for icons Sunday
The first Sunday of Eastern Orthodox Lent, which falls this year at the same time as the Western Lent, is called the Sunday of Orthodoxy.
On this particular Sunday, Orthodox churches all over the world celebrate the "Triumph of Orthodoxy" to commemorate the victory over iconoclasm and the restoration of the veneration of icons.
This celebration is historical and first took place on the first Sunday of Lent in 843 A.D.
The iconoclasm fight took place in the Christian Orthodox church long before 787 A.D.
In 726 A.D., Emperor Leo III, who was also called Isaurian, ordered the destruction of all Christian images.
Those who wanted to keep the icons in the churches were called Iconophiles. A large number of the iconophiles, mostly ascetics and monks, were persecuted and martyred.
Finally the Empress Irene, with the support of the patriarch of Constantinople and the pope of Rome, called a new Ecumenical Council. It was recognized as the 7th Ecumenical Council in Nicaea II in 787 A.D. and restored the icons.
The 7th Ecumenical Council marked the end of the official determination of theology in the Eastern church. The Orthodox today confess they believe in the "faith of the Seven Ecumenical Councils and of the Fathers."
It took more than half a century to stop the destruction of the images and persecution of Iconophiles. In 843 A.D., the Byzantine state and the church went in the same direction, protecting the images of the saints and of those who contributed tremendously to the Orthodox Christian faith.
Indirectly, the image of Jesus Christ Our Lord, Mary, plus others gives us the logic of the incarnation.
"Those who see Me," said Jesus Christ our Lord, "see My Father in Heaven."
That means Jesus came as a human being, just like any of us except with no sins, to sacrifice himself for us in restoring the relationship with God the Father in Heaven.
The veneration -- respect -- for the icons is not referring to the material of which it is made or even to the image. It refers to the person behind it. It is just like keeping pictures today of loved ones -- with us or who have passed away -- that remind us of those in the pictures.
This idea is not venerating an idol; it is respecting a person for what he or she did in the faith.
The other meaning of the icons is didactical, or teaching. Icons are similar to children's story books that have a large number of images and very few words. But icons are addressed to various generations and a large number of believers.
The Orthodox churches are painted all over to give us the impression that during the services in the house of God, we are surrounded by the angels, by the saints and by the presence of God himself.
This year, the celebration of the Sunday of Orthodoxy by the Eastern Orthodox Clergy Association of the Mahoning Valley is at 6 p.m. Sunday at St. John Greek Orthodox Church of Boardman.
The guest speaker is Auxiliary Bishop of Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America, Bishop Irineu Duvlea.
The bishop was born in Romania and came to the United States a few years ago, and along with a group of monks from Transylvania, formed The Holy Ascension Monastery in Detroit, Mich. He was educated and trained at Sambata de Sus Monastery in Romania, where he was the abbot before coming here.
In this journey of Lent toward the Passions of Our Lord Jesus Christ and toward his Resurrection, we wish to every Christian of the Mahoning Valley, a wonderful, blessed, spiritual journey. May God our Lord bless you with forgiveness and the assurance of eternal life in paradise.
XRev. Remus Bleahu is the parish priest at Holy Trinity Romanian Orthodox Church in Youngstown.