The Triumph of Orthodoxy

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The Feast of Orthodoxy (also known as the “Sunday of Orthodoxy” or the “Triumph of Orthodoxy”) is celebrated on the first Sunday of Great Lent in the liturgical calendar of the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church of the Byzantine Rite. The Feast is kept in memory of the final defeat of Iconoclasm and the restoration of the icons to the churches.  The heart of the victory of Orthodoxy in the restoration of iconography—as well as our veneration of the same—is found in the incarnation of Jesus Christ.

The name of this Sunday reflects the great significance which icons possess for the Orthodox Catholic Church.  They are not optional devotional extras, but an integral part of Orthodox Catholic faith and devotion.  The debate involved important issues: the character of Christ’s human nature, the Christian attitude towards matter, and the true meaning of Christian redemption.  Icons are held by the Orthodox to be a necessary consequence of Christian faith in the Incarnation of the Word (John 1:14), Jesus Christ.

Icons are considered by Orthodox Christians to have a sacramental character, making present to the believer the person or event depicted on them.  However, the Orthodox always make a clear doctrinal distinction between the veneration (Greek: προσκύνησις “proskynesis”) paid to icons and the worship (Greek: λατρεία ” latreia”) which is due to God alone.

Since Iconoclasm was the last of the great Christological controversies to trouble the Church, its defeat is considered to be the final triumph of the Church over heresy.  All subsequent heresies tend to be merely offshoots of the earlier great heresies.  The Seventh Ecumenical Council recognized the eternal significance of venerating icons, and the Council’s ancient and holy words have been repeated by us on every Sunday of Orthodoxy since that day in 843:

“As the prophets beheld, as the Apostles have taught . . . as the Church has received . . . as the teachers have dogmatized . . . as the Universe has agreed . . . as Grace has shown forth . . . as Truth has revealed . . . as falsehood has been dissolved . . . as Wisdom has presented . . . as Christ Awarded . . . thus we declare . . . thus we assert . . . thus we preach Christ our true God, and honor as Saints in words, in writings, in thoughts, in sacrifices, in churches, in Holy Icons;  on the one hand worshipping and reverencing Christ as God and Lord; and on the other hand honoring as true servants of the same Lord of all and accordingly offering them veneration.

This is the Faith of the Apostles,

this is the Faith of the Ancestors,

this is the Faith of the Orthodox,this is the Faith that has established the Universe.”

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