The first Sunday in Lent is the Sunday of Orthodoxy. I feel so blessed to live in a true melting pot of Orthodoxy. We have so many parishes and monasteries in easy driving distance. So much variety. So much unity. It is something I try never to take for granted.
This year, the service to celebrate this day was held at the Ukranian Cathedral. So lovely…
The Sunday of Orthodoxy remembers the restoration of icons to the churches. The fight over images of Christ and the Saints was a long and bloody battle. That battle still rages today for many people.
We must fight for the icons, for if we deny the image of Christ, we deny the Incarnation. We do not make images of God in His essence. That is impossible. But God became man, and it is that flesh and blood that we show.
It is a well known fact that I cry like a baby at every Sunday of Orthodoxy. Seeing the priests and children carrying their icons overwhelms me.
All Christians are icons. We all have Christ in us. And in that picture…what is it that we see? It is not appropriate to say that an icon is painted. We say that it is written. It is more than a pretty work of art. It is God. My icon…how is it written?
I see the Saints. I am overwhelmed by the portraits of men and women who gave their lives for Christ under horrendous, unspeakable persecution. They were undeniable. How often do I deny Christ in my words? In my actions?
I see the Saints. I am awed by the renderings of men and women who lived simple, unassuming lives of peace and prayer. No outward battles, but inspiring ones of the spiritual war. They were steadfast. How often do I waver in my commitment to prayer? In my wandering, fickle heart?
I see the Mother of God. I am humbled by the sight of this woman who followed God when it didn’t make sense…when it seemed impossible. She was faithful. How often do I question God’s ways? How often do I choose my own path? In my choices? In my decisions?
I see Christ. I am brought to my knees, face down before this image. This is God….this is God. How can I ever be like this image?
If an icon is written, what story does the icon of me tell? Is it a tale of my accomplishments, failures, dreams and disappointments? Or is my icon instead the story of Christ? The Word who became flesh. The suffering servant who gave Himself up willingly to be crucified. The triumphant One who rose again. Love. So much love. Is that my story? Giving and receiving love?
As I stand in this church, I look around me, and I am surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses. They witness to the strength and power and truth and unshakable love. They witness to the pain and the sorrow and the wisdom of the struggle. They witness to Christ. What is my witness? What is my truth? Is it my own icon I’m writing, or instead, am I allowing myself to be written?
I fight for my icons. I fight for the witness. This day, I pray that I will never forget my own icon. The picture of Christ in me. The picture of Christ in everyone I see this day. So many faces everywhere I look. So many pictures. From the first buds of spring shooting up from the ground still chilled from snow. From the newborn breath. From the dying breath. From the ups and the downs and the struggles and the triumphs. This world is an icon. I am an icon. Lord, may I look less and like me each day and more and more like You. A picture of faith. A portrait of love. Christ…an image written on my heart.