The Sunday of Orthodoxy (2016)

The Holy Prophets

“But there is more that we can take away from this commemoration today. Before the first Sunday of Lent commemorated the restoration of the icons, it was given over to remembering the prophets. This is why we had the readings from the Gospel (John 1:43-51) and Epistle (Hebrews 11:24-12:2) that we had today and why we heard much about the prophets in the hymnography last night. In a very real sense, the confirmation of the icons is a reaffirmation of the prophets: what they had foretold, the icons confirm. So we just heard Philip telling Nathaniel that ‘ We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote – Jesus of Nazareth’ (John 1:45). It is this that the icons confirm: Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ spoken of by the prophets, has come visibly in flesh.

Prophet Amos

When we turn our attention to the Epistle reading, we are taken a step further. There we heard of the sufferings endured by the prophets as they looked to the things that God had planned for us; or as we sang last night: ‘they refused to worship the creation instead of the Creator; they renounced the whole world for the Gospel’s sake, and in their suffering they were conformed to thy Passion which they had foretold.’ The prophets, by concentrating all their hearts and strength on the promise of God – the gospel – by refusing to compromise with the world and enduring all the suffering that this entails, were themselves conformed to Christ’s Passion, becoming images of Christ. Make no mistake about this. It is to this that we also are called: to be icons ourselves, by being crucified with Christ, by being conformed to his image, by living the life that he opens up for us, the life of God himself.

Prophet John the Forerunner

The Epistle concluded by reminding us that, surrounded by a cloud of witnesses – all these icons, saints who have conformed themselves to Christ – we are ourselves to throw off everything that hinders us from running the race set before us, to lay aside every weight that holds us back, every sin and passion that attaches our heart to things in this world rather than to Christ. We are, the Epistle says, to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the Cross, despising the shame, so that he now sits at the right hand of the Father.” (John Behr, The Cross Stands While the World Turns, pp 28-29)