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SUNDAY OF ORTHODOXY
fr_basil
SERMON FOR SUNDAY OF ORTHODOXY 2019
In a prayer, St. Patrick, whose memory we celebrate today, said the following:
“O God, my God, Almighty King, I humbly worship thee. Thou art King of kings, Lord of lords. Thou art the Judge of every age. Thou art the Redeemer of souls. Thou art the Liberator of those who believe. Thou art the Hope of those who labour. Thou art the Comforter of those who sorrow. Thou art the Way to those who wander. Thou art Master to the nations. Thou art the Creator of all creatures. Thou art the Lover of all good. Thou art the Prince of all virtues. Thou art the joy of all Thy saints. Thou art life unending. Thou art joy in truth.” 
“Thou art joy in truth.” What does St. Patrick mean? He means that Christ, to Whom the prayer is addressed, is Truth, and for us that means joy. We have joy because we have confidence that Jesus not only speaks the Truth, but is, Himself, the Truth. What did the Lord say concerning Himself? He said: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14: 6). We cannot know the truth, we cannot fully experience the joy of the truth, unless we are united to Christ. And we cannot be united to Christ unless the dross of sin and the passions are cleaned out of our hearts, and we make room for Him to dwell there instead. Unless we live a life in accordance with the loving and healing commandments of Christ, we will never experience the joy of being united with Jesus Who is the Truth. Listen to what St. Gregory of Sinai says:
“To try to discover the meaning of the commandments through study and reading without actually living in accordance with them is like mistaking a shadow of something for its reality. It is only by participating in the truth that you can share in the meaning of truth. If you search for the meaning without participating in the truth and without having been initiated into it, you will find only a besotted kind of wisdom. You will be among those whom St Jude categorized as ‘soulical’ or ‘worldly’ because they lack the Spirit, no matter how much they may boast of their knowledge of the truth” (Philokalia, IV, p. 216:22).
This is precisely what Great Lent is trying to help us with – shoveling out the dung by repentance and confession, and cleaning-up via obedience to the commandments. We are also called-upon to make room for Christ by saying “no” to the stomach in order to say “yes” to Christ in His Holy Mysteries.
The Sunday of Orthodoxy celebrates the victory of the “iconodules” over the “iconoclasts,” true. But more than that, it is the victory of joy in the Truth. Heresy, no matter how “logical,” no matter how “reasonable,” no matter how “theological,” no matter how “comfortable,” it is always the enemy of Truth and therefore the enemy of Christ, and therefore the enemy of Joy. Heresy is the tool of the enemy of our souls, to snag us off of the Ladder to Paradise and instead, send us falling head-first into the yawning jaws of hell. Heresy, such that denies that the divine can be present in the material, therefore also denies that the Second Person of the Trinity, the Logos, the Only-Begotten Son of the Father, could take our flesh,  the flesh of theVirgin Mary, sanctify it, deify it, and take it up into heaven. Such heresy is to be denounced, decried, and anathematized! Hence we hear these frightful words from the Synodikon of Orthodoxy, taken from the “Rite of Orthodoxy,” celebrated in cathedrals and monasteries on this day:
To them who persist in the heresy of denying icons, or rather the apostasy of denying Christ, and are not counseled by the Mosaic law to be led to their salvation, nor are they convinced to return to piety by the apostolic teachings, nor are they induced by patristic exhortations and explanations to abandon their deception, nor are they persuaded by the agreement of the Churches of God throughout the whole world, but once for all have united themselves to the opinions of the Jews and Greeks; for those things wherewith the latter directly blaspheme the prototype, the former likewise have not blushed to insult in His icon Him that is depicted therein; therefore, to them who are incorrigibly possessed by this deception, and have their ears covered towards every Divine word and spiritual teaching, as already being putrified members, and having cut themselves off from the common body of the Church, Anathema! (x3).
And what does this “anathema!” mean? St. Theophan the Recluse says: “an anathema is precisely separation from the Church, or the exclusion from her midst of those who do not fulfill the conditions of unity with her and begin to think differently from the way she does, differently from the way they themselves promised to think upon joining her. Recollect how it happened! Arius appeared, who held impious opinions concerning Christ the Savior, so that with these notions he distorted the very act of our salvation. What was done with him? First he was admonished, and admonished many times by every persuasive and touching means possible. But since he stubbornly insisted upon his opinion, he was condemned and excommunicated from the Church.” Since heresies effect and wound others, and put roadblocks in the path that leads to salvation, the Holy Church must, by necessity, remove such roadblocks. St. John Maximovitch says that “Anathema means complete separation from the Church,” but he also says, “Anathema’ is not a final damnation: until death repentance is possible. ‘Anathema’ is fearsome not because the Church wishes anyone evil or God seeks their damnation. They, (God and the Church), desire that all be saved. But it is a fearsome thing to stand before the presence of God in the state of hardened evil, (because) nothing is hidden from Him.”
So beloved, let us now return to the previous topic, the joy in truth. We Orthodox cannot but rejoice because we have been given the fulness of truth, the clear path to the Kingdom, and complete access to the Saviour. “We have seen the true light. We have received the heavenly Spirit. We have found the TRUE faith!” Isn’t that what we sing? As David danced with joy before the ark of the covenant (2 Samuel 6:14) which was adorned with the images of the holy angels, today we too dance with joy at the restoration of the Holy icons, and the re-affirmation of the Incarnation of the Son of God. I’ll end with another quote from the Synodikon of Orthodoxy:
As the prophets have seen, as the apostles have taught, as the Church has received, as the teachers have set forth in dogmas, as the whole world has understood, as Grace has shone forth, as the truth was demonstrated, as falsehood was banished, as wisdom was emboldened, as Christ has awarded; thus do we believe, thus we speak, thus we preach Christ our true God and His saints, honoring them in words, in writings, in thoughts, in sacrifices, in temples, and in icons, worshipping and respecting the One as God and Master, and honoring the others, and apportioning relative worship to them, because of our common Master for they are His genuine servants. This is the Faith of the apostles, this is the Faith of the fathers, this is the Faith of the Orthodox, this Faith hath established the whole world.” Amen.