March 21, 2016

The Victory of the True Faith

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Metallinos

On 11 March 843, which then was the first Sunday of Great Lent, a synod in Constantinople "restored" once again onto the pillars of the churches the holy icons, thus bringing to an end the political and religious upheavals of Iconoclasm (726-843). This was pioneered by one woman, the Empress Theodora, confirming the fact that women, as a permanent institution of culture, save faith! Theodora had a venerable ending to her life in the Monastery of Gastria, and perhaps some may not know that her incorrupt and imperishable relic can be found in Kerkyra.

It came to be called the "Feast of Orthodoxy" as the "victory of the true Faith", which is offered to humanity as a possibility for salvation, namely theosis. According to the patristic description, Orthodoxy is a "factory of holiness", which is to say that it is a factory that produces saints, people transfigured by means of divine grace, that they may be able to live together, capable of creating relationships of equality and fraternity. An authentic society cannot exist unless such people are preserved. In Orthodoxy, wherever it exists, there is a threefold system of offering to God, one another, and ourselves, which constitutes the unity and integrity of the people. In the Orthodoxy of our saints, no one is saved as an individual, but "through our neighbor". This is what we celebrate today.

"We Have Found Jesus"

Orthodoxy, however, is about finding Christ, as God and Savior. This is what the words of today's Gospel means: "We have found Jesus" (Jn. 1:69). It is the fulfillment of the redemptive expectation of the whole of humanity. The Apostle Peter, responding before the Jewish Sanhedrin, dared to say: "Salvation is found in no one else" (Acts 4:11). This means that no one except Christ can lead to the knowledge of God, to the true union between humans and God, between creation and the Uncreated. In Orthodoxy we do not know God intellectually, through contemplation and the scattering of our brain as if He is an inaccessible spirit, but we know Him in the God-man Christ, who belongs to historical reality and became a human being like us, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). Sin was not part of the original nature of man, as he was created by God. For this reason one cannot find in the true Christ features and behaviors similar to our own, we who are experiencing the tragedy of the fall. "For humans the human" proclaims the patristic word. Christ voluntarily assumed the "blameless" passions: hunger, thirst, pain, death, all of which are consequences of the fall, assuming our historical path, in order to save humans and sanctify history. The Christ who saves is the Christ of our saints, being both the "Christ of faith" and the "Christ of history". This is the Christ we encounter in His Body, the Church.

Personal Approach

Of course, anyone can approach Christ in their own way, shaping Christ arbitrarily according to the contents of their own hearts and intellects (their metaphysical understanding). In this way, however, we create a Christ of our own passions and we "honor" the Christ of our passions (remember the twelve gods of the Greeks). The problem of approaching God always has to do with people. "Show me your man, and I will show you my God" replied the ancient second century apologist Theophilos to his interlocuter Autolycus.

If we do not purify our hearts and are not "filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4), we will "see" Christ through the prism of our sick imagination.

The saints, both men and women, saw Christ "with pure hearts", proclaiming the true Christ, and did not contribute like we do to distorting holiness, so that "God is blasphemed by the nations" (Rom. 2:24). I really don't know, whether or not when Christ is slandered, we so-called Christians will seek the cause in our own antichristian behavior (cf. Rom. 2:17-23).

Missionary Testimony

The true relationship of people with the Savior Christ is attested within the history of the Church as a missionary testimony and call: "Come and see" (Jn. 1:46). "Woe to me, if I do not proclaim the gospel", confessed the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 9:15). Moreover, we owe to Paul the illumination in Christ of all of Europe. To him who, though in a different way, continued the work of Alexander the Great westward. This is why those who attack Christ also attack Paul! But how Europe ended up with the Christianity and Christ of Paul is another thing. Missionary work, however, is aptly connected with the Sunday of Orthodoxy, as an expression of the "experience in Christ" ("we have found Jesus") and the call to salvation "in Christ" ("come and see"). But "see" means to "live".

Source: From the newspaper Ἡ Καθημερινή, 19 March 2000. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.