Saturday, February 24, 2018

Met Georges Khodr: May Our Faces Become Icons

Arabic original here.

May Our Faces Become Icons

The first Sunday of Lent is known as the Sunday of Orthodoxy because the veneration of icons triumphed in 843, after war having been waged against it for a century, greatly preoccupying the Eastern Christian world. The Orthodox were fiercely persecuted, killed and driven from their homes for their veneration of the holy icons until the Byzantine Empire finally became convinced that it must preserve this dogma. Then icons were lifted up in the churches, just as we process with them today, confessing our Orthodox faith.

But what does it mean for us today to be Orthodox? The word, as you know, means a person with correct belief, who has sound and undeviating faith in what Christ once delivered to the saints. It is someone who sees that novel opinions have nothing to do with the faith and that they might be harmful. The faith is confronted by many false dogmas that come to us from outside the Church, brought by man's lusts, such as lust for glory, lust for money and the like.

An Orthodox person is not content to only have sound dogma, but properly glorifies God, because if dogma is not transformed into worship, it is a useless belief. The fundamental thing for the believer is to become a worshiper of his Lord. He hands his soul over to Him in obedience and at that point he is transfigured, is enlightened and becomes a new creation. Therefore we can boast that we have creatures that preceded us and that God carved the saints and made them living images of Himself, good models for us to imitate. And so today's Gospel reading says that when one of the apostles was amazed that a prophet came from Nazareth, another apostle answered him, "come and see."

It is possible for the Son of God to appear from a poor and wretched place. He appeared from this dust that we wear. From this flesh and these bones, it is possible for a saint to emerge, someone who has purified himself for God, in whose heart the graces of God have been poured, like a new god appearing in the universe. Did our Lord, may He be exalted, not say, "You are gods and children of the Most High"? Our calling is to become like God, filled with His holiness and wondrous light. It is said at the end of today's Gospel reading, "you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."

The Orthodox faith was delivered to us once and we do not deviate from it for another dogma. The splendor of this faith first of all means that we have come to resemble God. Heaven is full and God pours it all out upon us as grace and peace. An Orthodox person is precisely someone who believes that he has a connection with God and that God is not merely an alien power resting in the heavens whom we cannot attain. God is given, poured out, extended to us and He is here in hearts, flesh and bone. For this reason we symbolize our faith with icons, because they reveal to us the face of Christ. They tell us that His face looks down upon us not only in a picture, but His light is depicted on our faces.

The question doesn't stop at our venerating icons. The question begins with our faces becoming icons of God. That is, if someone looks at our faces, he will see God depicted upon them as grace and light.

The light of the holy Church must shine in this erring world. Your light must "shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). Therefore, if we all become animate icons the world can confess that the Orthodox faith is the faith delivered by the apostles for the salvation of the world.

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