Link to Gospel Reading: Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
JOHN 1:43-51At that time, Jesus decided to go to Galilee. And he found Philip and said to him, "Follow me." Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael, and he said to him, "We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" Jesus answered him, "Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these." And he said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man."
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
both now and ever and unto ages of ages, Amen.
The Church put for us this Gospel today because we are celebrating the triumph of the Orthodox Faith. this Gospel had the word see repeated six times. Sight is important to our Faith. The faith that is based on what Christ told us in Mathew 6:22-23 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is evil, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
We can clearly see the reality of Christ’s words when we see somebody being hurt in real life, or an inappropriate seen on TV, or listen to loud music that has profanity. We truly feel that our soul is deeply disturbed. Because our senses are created to see heavenly things. Anything that is not heavenly is not meant for our senses.
Hence, when we listen to the beautiful Hymns on the Church, and when we see the words of Christin His Gospel, when we see Christ in the Icon, we are edified, and we feel at home. Because we are created to be worshipping Creatures.
Hence the Church not only insists, but actually shed her blood for 120 years through the iconoclasm era that all our senses must be purified through the correct belief in Christ and the teachings of His Church.
The first Iconoclasm period ended in 780 by Empress Irene, and the position of the Church was upheld by the seventh and last Ecumenical Council (787), which met at Nicaea. Icons, the Council proclaimed, are to be kept in churches and honored with the same relative veneration as is shown to other material symbols, such as "the precious and life-giving Cross" and the Book of the Gospels. In that council, the word Orthodox was given to the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ.
A new attack on icons, started by Leo V the Armenian in 815, continued until 843 when the icons were again reinstated permanently by the Empress Theodora. This memory we celebrate today in Sunday of Orthodoxy.
The Church is not only celebrating an event that happened back in the old past, but she has conquered the devil all her life and she knows well his evil ways. In her wisdom, the Church knows that the devil is always trying to remove the icons away from the eyes of the faithful. As we see now most churches today without icons, and in the daily life the icons of the saints are replaced by false idols. If you look today, the Orthodox Church is the only Church that still has icons prominent in her life. There is a reason for that. The Church knows that if you have a real relationship with someone who you see daily, You will slowly become like them. The Church today is asking you: Who do you see most daily?
If you ask a married couple that have been married for so many years, not only you would see their personalities become melted together, but you would see them more and more look alike each other.
Who do you see most daily?
The icons are in the Church not for decoration, the icons are not here because they look nice, or they are aesthetically pleasing. The icons are a calling, an invitation, a proof, a loving voice for you and me to keep on fighting in your spiritual life as they have done before us, and remind us that the reward that we will have is way more than our current fight. These saints are from all walks of life, poor and rich, week and strong, doctors and unlearned, they all share one thing, they became the image of Christ, as you and me should. They preserved His image through their life of repentance and struggle against the adversary. The icons in the Church are for all the saints from the first century till the current century, hence when entering the Church we are outside of time in the realm of heavenly worship. The icon of Christ and the Theotokos are not the imagination of an artist, these are the real portrayals of them. This is what they look like indeed, and hence the Church offers you to worship Jesus in fulness, not the idea of Jesus, but the real person of Jesus Christ.
Who do you see most daily?
Do you wake up to see politicians, artists, musicians, scientists, actors, celebrities, business people whose made up glory will fade away. Or do you wake up to worship Christ, and venerate His holy mother and his saints… In both cases, whom you see most and listen to the most daily, you will turn into eventually.
St John of Damascus writes:
"A certain tale too, is told, how that when Augarus was king over the city of the Edessenes, he sent a portrait painter to paint a likeness of the Lord, and when the painter could not paint because of the brightness that shone from His countenance, the Lord Himself put a garment over His own divine and life-giving face and impressed on it an image of Himself and sent this to Augarus, to satisfy thus his desire.
For as Basil, that much-versed expounder of divine things, says, the honour given to the image passes over to the prototype. Now a prototype is that which is imaged, from which the derivative is obtained. just as we do not worship the material of which the Gospels are made, nor the material of the Cross, but that which these typify. For wherein does the cross, that typifies the Lord, differ from a cross that does not do so? It is just the same also in the case of the Mother of the Lord. For the honour which we give to her is referred to Him Who was made of her incarnate. And similarly also the brave acts of holy men stir us up to be brave and to emulate and imitate their valour and to glorify God."
May God give us the perseverance, to put Christ and His saints always in front of our eyes, so that we might see them in person later in His heavenly kingdom, through the intercessions of the Most Holy Theotokos, Amen.