We celebrate the Sunday of Orthodoxy with a grand celebration of Holy Icons. With great pride we hold our icons high, but the Sunday of Orthodoxy is much more than just a historic celebration. We are celebrating the truth of God. Holy Icons are proof that God came as a human being to save us. We have seen Him, and now we invite others to come and see Him too.
My brothers and sisters today. The Sunday of Orthodoxy is not just a historical celebration. We are not simply celebrating some time in history when icons were brought back into the church. We are celebrating the truth of God and that is very important for us as Orthodox because even today there are people in the world who question whether or not God actually became a human being. And the Sunday of Orthodoxy, my brothers and sisters, celebrates the fact that He came as a real man and He came to save us and we have seen Him. We, the church.
I don’t know how many of you have ever noticed there’s a plaque in the narthex and on the plaque, I believe it shows President Roosevelt’s name, a very famous United States president, and that plaque commemorates something in history. It commemorates that President Roosevelt visited here and that plaque commemorates that. Why is that important? Because people saw the event. You see, my brothers and sisters history is passed down from people who have witnessed it. It’s not some paragraph that we read in a book. All of us have witnessed parts of history, not just political history, not just religious history, but our own familial history, our own families, our own Church history. We’ve witnessed it with our eyes.
And I can’t tell you now, I’ve been here a little over six years. I’m always hearing stories of the past and those stories always include what we’ve seen. This bishop came here and walked this way. And it’s bringing into my mind the true vision of the history of our church. This is what we’re celebrating today, that’s coming into our mind, the reality that Jesus Christ, God Himself, came to save us. The gospel begins that He went and saw Philip and said, “Follow me.” And Philip found Nathaniel and said, “We have found Him, of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And Philip said, “Come and see.” Come and see for yourself. Come and look with your own eyes.
And this, my brothers and sisters is the invitation for us today to come and see God. How many times have we reached out to our friends or to our neighbors and invited them to church? Might be for something special, but it’s always an invitation. Come. But how many times do we invite people to come and see Christ? It might be to come and see a wedding. It might be to come and see epiphany. It might be to come and see a baptism. But how many times do we play the role of Philip and say, “Come and see Christ”? Because we can see Him. We have paintings of Him because He’s real. This is what we’re celebrating today and this is why the world has tried so diligently to get rid of holy icons.
We know in our own past, of course, influenced by Islam, our own people fought, should we have icons? Should we not have icons? And we’re going this morning and again tonight we’re going to go outside with our icons to show the world that Jesus is real. It’s not about the paint and the wood and the gold trim. It’s about Christ. But we have a greater icon than wood can ever depict. We are the icons of Christ. My brothers and sisters, when we go outside and we’re holding our wooden icons high, ask yourself, when was the last time that we showed ourselves as the icon of Christ? Because this is who we are, not just as Orthodox, but as human beings. And so now that the first week of Lent has completed, we’re getting used to fasting now.
The church is asking us to remember that what we’re fighting for is greater than anything the world has ever done and shown. We’re fighting for our relationship with God and we’re fighting to be able to look with our own eyes and gaze upon Him in heaven. When we finish holy communion today, my brothers and sisters, we’re going to sing a hymn. We have seen the light, the true light. We have seen it. And in response, Christ says to Nathaniel, “Most assuredly I say to you, hereafter, you shall see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the son of man.” This, my brothers and sisters doesn’t get any better than being able with our own eyes to look upon God. Think of God when you look at your icons. Think of God when you look at each other.
And when Father Theofanis I bring out the chalice for holy communion, not just think, but know that God is there, in front of us, for us to see, and in the case of holy communion, of course, to taste and to receive and to become one with him. Glory to God for all things.