We celebrated Orthodoxy Sunday at church this week and what a joy to see the children’s procession around the sanctuary with their icons brought from home. I’ll bet we had 50 to 60 kids participating! Images of Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. George and the dragon, Guardian Angels, among others were being carried by small hands. Most often the children had a sheepish grin on their joyful faces as they diverted their eyes from the onlooking congregation.
Orthodoxy Sunday is the day we celebrate the triumph over the iconoclasts and icons were restored to their proper place in our worship. Orthodox teaching about icons was established at the Seventh Ecumenical Council in 787, but controversy stewed for over a hundred years regarding their place and use in worship.
Fast forward twelve-hundred years to rural Appalachia and I will tell you a controversy still exits over icons. Thankfully though, not in the Orthodox Church. I still find myself on guard when a friend or acquaintance asks me why I’m Orthodox now. I find it a difficult question to answer in the few words I know they’re seeking. They want to know if I pray to statues or worship pictures. They want to know why I’ve fallen for “bells and whistles”. And so, because it’s been several years since attending the Orthodox Church and over a year since my chrismation, I think I'm due to spend some time writing my answer(s), ...succinctly.
We are in the season of Great Lent, the 40 days prior to Pascha (Easter) when we fast and spend time in prayer, meditation and take personal inventory of our innermost self - you know, that self that likes to think it doesn’t exist, the self that hides from truth. To aid my walk through Great Lent, I am reading Frederica Mathewes-Green’s First Fruits of Prayer: A Forty Day Journey Through the Canon of St. Andrew. It’s a modern day journey through an ancient hymn that will feed your soul. Like incense, it’s a book to be enjoyed slowly, thoughtfully in order to absorb each pearl of wisdom. With every page I am reminded of how glad I am to be “home” in the Orthodox Church.
With that, I will post more in the days to come about why this Baptist raised gal fell for the “bells and whistles” of Orthodoxy.
*pictured above is one of the beautiful crosses on top of my home church, St. George Orthodox Cathedral