In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit!
Glory to Jesus Christ!
Greetings, beloved brothers and sisters. Today is the First Sunday of Great Lent. It is also the day when we celebrate the restoration of the Holy Icons.
In order to understand the essence and relevance of this event, we should look into its history. It all started like this: in the eighth century, people appeared in the Church who began to spread false views about the veneration of icons. They argued that when a person venerates icons, he commits the sin of idolatry. Of course, priests and bishops repeatedly came to the defence of icons and explained why we venerate them. However, there were many iconoclasts, including some Byzantine emperors, so the struggle was difficult and prolonged. Many churches and icons were burned, destroyed and lost during the conflict.
- Sermon by Fr. Taras Gorpynyak on the Meatfare Sunday (Sunday of the Last Judgment)
- Bishop Mykola’s homily on the Sunday before Epiphany
- Sermon by Fr. Andriy Mykytyuk on Sunday of the Prodigal Son
Finally, the Lord looked down on his faithful. The year 787 came, and 367 bishops at the Seventh Ecumenical Council in Nicaea decreed: “We define that the holy icons, whether in colour, mosaic, or some other material, should be exhibited in the holy churches of God, on the sacred vessels and liturgical vestments, on the walls, furnishings, and in houses and along the roads, namely the icons of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, that of our Lady the Theotokos, those of the venerable angels and those of all saintly people. Whenever these representations are contemplated, they will cause those who look at them to commemorate and love their prototype. We define also that they should be kissed and that they are an object of veneration and honour (timitiki proskynisis), but not of real worship (latreia), which is reserved for Him Who is the subject of our faith and is proper for the divine nature, … which is in effect transmitted to the prototype; he who venerates the icon, venerated in it the reality for which it stands.”
And the final victory came in 843. It was then that on the first Sunday of Lent, processions of the cross were made as a sign of victory over iconoclasts and all other heretics. From that time to this day, the Church remembers and commemorates these events.
Over the centuries-old history of the Church, countless cases are known when people received healing, recovery and other miracles through prayers in front of a holy icon. There have been examples of weeping icons, bleeding icons, myrrh-streaming icons and icons that self-renew.
Often we hold in our hands a photograph of a person dear to us. When we show it to others, we will say, “This is my mother, my father…”. And, of course, everyone will understand that it is not the paper that is the mother or father, but his or her image depicted on the paper. Likewise, when we kiss an icon, we are not kissing glass, fabric, paint or wood, but the image that is depicted.
And finally, if even we do not understand some truths or cannot explain them to others, it does not mean that we are on the wrong path or that the truths do not exist. After all, if we do not understand from where the sun gets its energy to shine and warm, this does not mean that it does not shine and warm.
There were times when many people could not read. During these times, many came to know God precisely with the help of icons, mosaics and frescoes. To this day, looking at an icon promotes a prayerful mood and changes us… And to whom would our children offer their sincere prayers and ask for gifts if they did not see the icon of St. Nicholas?
So, today let us rejoice together with all those who approach the icons in a godly manner, kiss them, bow down and kneel before them. Let us raise children in the same spirit, let us keep these eternal truths so that no one can lead us astray. May the holy icons help everyone on the difficult path to salvation and may the Lord protect us today, tomorrow and forever and ever. Amen.