(Hebrews 11:24-26, 32-40 John 1: 43-51)
With great brilliance, the Church celebrates today the Feast of Orthodoxy. This celebration was established to honor the Restoration of the Holy Icons after more than 100 years of persecution. The fanatical iconoclasts hatefully fought against the Orthodox clergy and laity who honored the sacred images.
There were numerous Holy Martyrs, Confessors and Defenders of the Orthodox Faith during that period. Eventually, after the 7th Ecumenical Synod and the Great Synod which took place in the year 843, the heretics were defeated. The truth spread as the Sacred Icons were once again placed in all the Churches with peace restored. Thus the Holy Church established on the First Sunday of Great Lent every year, this celebration in all Orthodox Churches of the victory of the Faith against all sects and enemies. That is why in today’s Apostolic reading we hear about the amazing accomplishments of faith in the true God: Moses and his people “by faith passed through the Red Sea as by dry land” (Hebrews 11:29). By faith, others, like the prophet Daniel, “stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire” (verse 33-34) like the three Children in the fired furnace, and so much more!
But faith was also a prerequisite, as the Holy Gospels tell us, for our Lord Jesus Christ to heal those various suffering people, among other miracles.In later Christian centuries this faith is highlighted by the millions of Martyrs and Confessors that we all admire! “We Have seen the True Light...we have found the true Faith” is chanted in our Church!
Every Orthodox believer in our time is called to this same fervent faith. This is because today, the Orthodox Faith is being attacked by various enemies. Heresies, occult oriental religions, international atheist centers and so many other sources of propaganda. The Apostle Peter had warned then: “Your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). That is why we need a lot of attention on our part not to lose that invaluable treasure of our faith. This treasure was kept undistorted for 20 centuries by our forefathers even at the cost of their lives. It is given to us so that we may have a happy life, both here and in eternity. That is why Jesus asked His disciples to have faith: “have faith in God” He often said (Mark 11:22).
The Apostle Paul had experienced great bitterness in his life when one of his beloved associates in the missionary work, Demas, had denied faith in Christ and abandoned him. “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world” he writes with pain to Timothy the Disciple (2 Timothy 4:10). That is why he did not cease to emphasize: “if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel” (Col 1:23). “Above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one” (Ephesians 6:16)
Reading about the Martyrdom of the Saints of our Church, we are amazed by their resolve to keep their faith in Christ. A typical example of this is when the pagans would offer incense to the idols. The witness for Christ refused to do this. The pagans would then force incense into the palm of the martyr’s hand and hold their hand over the fire so the incense would fall onto the altar. But the Martyr squeezed the incense until their hand was burned!My dear brothers and sisters, on this great day of Orthodoxy, let us make the decision to keep the Orthodox faith in our hearts as long as we can, even if it comes at a cost. Let nothing shake us from it. No afflictions, threats, pleasures, wealth or axioms. Let us be willing, if necessary, to sacrifice our lives for the faith of Christ and the glory of our Church. Just as the Apostles did, and the millions of Holy Martyrs, Confessor and Holy Fathers of our Church. That is how we will deserve to enter into the eternal glory and joy of the Kingdom of God.