Anyone who uses a personal Computer is familiar with an “icon.” Point click on an “icon” and a program or document opens. So, an “icon” is a symbol which represents an application or a document.
Centuries before the PCs were in vogue, the term “icon” signified a stylized painting of Christ, the Virgin Mary, Saints, Angels, or events from the Gospel or the life of the Church. An icon is not merely a religious picture, but a depiction done according to definite techniques, most often referred to as a “Byzantine style.” In the Orthodox Christian Church, an icon acts as a window into heaven. In itself it is as visible and real as anything in everyday life, but it also reveals another, invisible dimension.
For Orthodox Christians, an icon is intended not as a work of art, but a medium of prayer. It is given veneration – people kiss it – but it is not worshipped. It is treated with reverence because it points to the holy person or event depicted.
According to the Orthodox Christian calendar, each Sunday of the Lent has a specific theme. The first Sunday of the Lent is dedicated to the “Triumph of Orthodoxy” which commemorates the victory of the true faith over false doctrine, specifically dealing with the teachings of sacred images. Icons have been used in the church and home from early times. There is a tradition that Saint Luke painted icons of the Virgin Mary and Christ Child which still exist to this day.
At the beginning of the eighth century a persecution arose against sacred images and those who venerated them. Thousands of devout Christians were tortured and martyred for their belief that God took human form in the person of Jesus, and therefore God can be depicted in a stylized icon as the man Jesus. For more than a century the battle of Iconoclasm (icon-bashers) took place in the Byzantine Empire. Finally, in 842, those who defended the use of icons were vindicated and the Empress Theodora put an end to the unrest.
On February 19, 843 which happened to be the first Sunday of the Lent that year, a solemn procession was held in Constantinople with the sacred icons being restored to the churches and homes. Since that day, the first Sunday of lent has been called, the Triumph of Orthodoxy. In this commemoration, the Church reaffirms its belief that the material world is good, because God created it and incarnated in it, and continues to manifest himself to us in material forms: in icons, in Gospel, the Cross, and relics of the saints.
In our area the commemoration of the 9th century event will take place at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, located at 4705 Fairhaven Ave. NW, Canton on Saturday, March 8th at 5:00 p.m., when the special Vespers service with the procession of icons, event in which all Orthodox churches of Stark County will participate. All are invited.
Fr. Eugen Rosu