My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
FIRST SUNDAY OF GREAT LENT THE SUNDAY OF THE TRIUMPH OF ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY
'This is the Faith of the Apostles, this is the Faith of the Fathers, this is the Faith of the Orthodox, this is the Faith which has supported the whole world.'
On this Sunday of Great Lent, our Church celebrates the Triumph of Orthodoxy, of the True faith, which has overcome all heresies and has been established once and for all. This is why it's called the Sunday of Orthodoxy.
The word 'orthodoxy' doesn't refer to any particular system, or any folk tradition or art. Orthodoxy is 'right thinking', the right faith in God. It's the Church, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It's the body of our Lord. The definition of the Church was given to us by its founder Himself, the Lord, through the voice of Saint Paul, who, in his letter to the Ephesians reveals that: "...And He has made Him the Head over all things for the Church, which is His Body, the fullness of Him Who fills all in all" (22-23). It should be stressed that there is no Orthodoxy outside the Church.
This is why the Holy Fathers of the Church emphasize the fact that faith, Tradition, worship, and healing are all interwoven. They're so unified that it's impossible for people to live in an Orthodox Christian manner if they come adrift from even one of them. It's only within this context that we can talk about Orthodoxy.
But why is it called the Sunday of Orthodoxy? Because we celebrate the restoration of the Holy Icons and the triumph of the Orthodox Christian faith over the terrible heresy of the iconoclasts. The Sunday of Orthodoxy is the feast of the victories of the Orthodox Church in the past. These past victories are the moral capital of the Orthodox Church, its Cross, and its nourishment according to Saint Nicholas of Ochrid.
In 787, at the request of Patriarch Tarasios of Constantinople (honored on 25 February), Emperor Konstantinos VI and his mother Irene the Athenian convened the 7th Ecumenical Synod in Bithynia. The Synod decided in favor of the restoration of the holy icons and condemned both the iconoclast heresy and the idea of the depiction of the invisible and immaterial Trinity.
The dispute finally came to an end when Emperor Theofilos passed away in 842 and was succeeded by his infant son, Michael III. Because the boy was underage, his mother, Empress Theodora (+11 February) took over the reins of power. Theodora appointed three commissioners to ensure that, by God's grace, this heresy would cease to exist. Their first act was to remove and defrock the iconoclast Patriarch Ioannis Grammatikos, who was the main champion of the iconoclasts in their struggle against the iconodules. (Mount Athos - Wisdom - Holiness. Rafael Ch. Misiaoulis, Theologian)
Pan Orthodox Vespers (Sunday Evening)
You are all invited to worship and celebrate the Triumph of Orthodox Christianity on Sunday evening at 6:30 p.m. at our church. There will be fellow Orthodox Christians from our sister churches, Saints Peter and Paul Serbian Orthodox church of South Bend, and from the newly formed St. Joseph Bulgarian Orthodox church in Michigan. The priests participating will be Fr. Demetrios Harper and Fr. Gregory Owen. Father Demetrios will offer the homily.
A Lenten supper will be offered immediately following Vespers.
You are all encouraged to bring your favorite holy icon from home and participate at the procession of icons at Vespers.
Please do not disappoint us by not attending the celebration of our Holy Orthodox Church. It would be most embarrassing if only very few are in attendance from the host church, our parish.
In Christ's service,