On the first Sunday of Great Lent, also called the Sunday of Orthodoxy, Patriarch Daniel pointed to the importance of holy icons in the Orthodox Church. They are not ‘a mere adornment in the church, but rather the full profession of the true faith in the Church: witness through words and witness through sight, because in the New Testament our Saviour Jesus Christ Himself is called the Word of God and the Image of the invisible God.’
Therefore, ‘faith is expressed through the words of the Gospel and the Church painting. Church painting confirms the words in the Holy Scripture so that through faith we not only hear about God, but also mystically observe His presence among us. That is why holy icons confirm the Saviour’s truth and promise before He ascended to heaven: I will be with you always, even until the end of the world,’ the Patriarch of Romania explained Feb 25.
On the commemoration of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel of Romania presided over the Divine Liturgy at the Patriarchal Cathedral in Bucharest, having as concelebrant his auxiliary bishop Varlaam of Ploiesti.
Addressing the believers, the Primate of the Romanian Orthodox Church offered his reflections on faith.
‘Faith is knowledge above the senses, above physical vision. It is not only intellectual knowledge, but a relation with the known.’ Faith, as Patriarch Daniel explained, ‘is a living tie between the believer and God who enables us to know and love Him, because He loves humans first.’ Thus, ‘the profession of the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth is the right or true faith.’
The Patriarch pointed to the reason why the Holy Fathers of the Church ordained the Sunday of Orthodoxy on the first Sunday of Great Lent: ‘The Sunday of Orthodoxy is set at the opening of Lent to show us that in order to acquire salvation and holiness we first need to profess the true faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of the eternal God Who became a Man to deify us humans through grace.’
‘This is Orthodoxy calling us to correct living’
His Beatitude also pointed to the presence of Christ in His Church, which is confirmed by ‘the Matins Resurrection Gospels read every Sunday and through the icon of the Resurrection, as well as all His icons.’
Although we cannot see Christ the way His Apostles saw Him, ‘we are able to see Him in the holy icons and we rejoice with an unspoken, glorious joy,’ a joy that gushes forth when we meet Christ.
‘What brings the unspoken, glorious joy to the hearts of the believers standing for hours at the divine service? It is the love of Christ Who is present in His Church.’
‘The Sunday of Orthodoxy is the Sunday of the joy of genuine faith’
‘On the Sunday of Orthodoxy we go to profess our faith carrying holy icons in procession, showing that the Saints in heaven are not isolated but together with Christ, with the All-Holy Trinity, the Mother of God. They are in communion because the Church in Heaven is linked to the witnessing Church on earth. Thus, the Sunday of Orthodoxy is the Sunday of the joy of genuine faith, of the holiness and provision of glory, the light of eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven,’ His Beatitude said.
Ending his speech, Patriarch Daniel asked God to ‘grant everyone the joy to feel and see Jesus Christ and all His Saints present in the Church and in our lives with the spiritual eyes of the soul.’
The Sunday of Orthodoxy is an important date for Patriarch Daniel since 28 years ago he was ordained to the episcopate on March 4, 1990, being appointed assistant bishop to the Archdiocese of Timisoara.
Photography courtesy of Robert Nicolae / Basilica.ro