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 Christ 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 this
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, about man
whom He has loved and willed into the world and about Himself
which is life and joy and eternity. Amen.