Why we venerate icons, and what it means to us today

The eternal nature of God's love

October 28, 2021

The eternal nature of God's love

In the history of our Church, there were seven ecumenical councils, where people from all corners of the world arrived to find out the will of God. They came to establish God's truth so that the Church would not step away from it. On 24 October, we commemorate the church fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. One of the central questions of the council was the veneration of icons. Many at the time viewed icons in a secular way, as a material object, a piece of board with something drawn on it. To them, venerating icons made little sense - even if they depicted a sacred image. They would not bow to anyone but the One and Only God.

Yet the Holy Fathers of the Council ruled that if flesh can be a medium for the Spirit, so can wood or paint, although in a different fashion. We do not worship matter or the talent of the painter, but the Creator of Matter. We venerate the Mother of God and the saints.

We are all members of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. We are members of the Body of Christ, standing under His banner. Above us is the battle standard of the image of our Saviour not made by hand, one that appeared on a towel when He wiped His face. That image was the first icon.

Our second icon is ourselves. We gaze into our image and ask ourselves if we recognize God in it. Is it God talking through this person or some devil?

Sometimes, it could be the devil. And it can happen more often than we think. We know it is the devil when we are wrathful or envious, or when we judge other people. We see it in others, too. Someone normally calm and balanced has an untoward thought, and immediately, his face darkens, and he becomes wrathful. His Godly image is defiled by sin. He falls into the devil's trap; the devil talks through him. Such moments are not uncommon.

But let me tell you something: when you see someone in such a state, you do not see the real person. What you see is the sin talking through him. You see that man or woman at their moments of weakness, but with your life, you can help them go back to normal. Sooner or later, your kindness and prayer will bring him back to his senses, and he will look back and exclaim, "that was not me! I did not mean to hurt you. I love you."

We also must remember to forgive. To reply to that person, "I am even worse. It was my fault." When people stop arguing about who is more at fault but ask for forgiveness instead, they begin to make peace.

Repentance and making peace with others are two cornerstones of our repentance. It is wonderful to hear from a person, "I was wrong. I acted in an impulse. I had not thought well and had not reined in my passions. Now I am going to change my life, repent and come to God."

We are standing united at the Church. We are the body of Christ. But when we leave the church and go home, we may lose our connectedness with God. We lose it when we sin, entertain a bad thought or make a rash remark. Immediately, we are no longer in the body of Christ but in the isolation of our disdain and sin. But the Lord is waiting patiently for our return, however deep our fall. He holds us dearly to His heart, and He loves us. And so we do not despair. At Church, we find a wealth of God's love - seas and oceans of it. It takes a lot of love to transform our crowd into the Holy Church and an army of Christ. But God has enough for all of us. Believe me.

Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok

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