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Homily for 2/21/10 - L1 - confessing the faith, St Theodora

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  • Fr David Moser
    Hebrews 11:24-26 & 32-12:2 The first Sunday of Great Lent is dedicated to the celebration of the triumph of the Orthodox faith over the attacks of error and
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 21, 2010
      Hebrews 11:24-26 & 32-12:2

      The first Sunday of Great Lent is dedicated to the celebration of the
      triumph of the Orthodox faith over the attacks of error and falsehood.
      Throughout the history of the Church, the evil one has attempted to
      destroy the Gospel by distorting it through the addition of erroneous
      beliefs or the distortion of the truth. Whenever this occurs there are
      always those who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, stand firm in the face of
      persecution and danger and confess the true faith. Though the trials
      brought on by such heresy may endure for years and generations, these
      confessors of the faith stand firm and are never alone for God is with
      them. Through their steadfast witness and by the grace of God the errors
      do not supplant the true faith, but rather they die away and the truth
      remains unsullied and unconfused. On this day, the bishops, who by the
      grace of their ordination are given the responsibility to “rightly
      divide the word of the truth” and thus to defend and proclaim the true
      faith stand before the whole world and from the ambo of the cathedral
      proclaim the truth and condemn the various errors which have presented
      themselves throughout the centuries. We, the faithful, confirm their
      confession and pray for them and for ourselves that the Holy Spirit will
      continue to preserve us from error. We also pray for those who have
      succumbed to error, falling into the delusion of some heretical belief,
      that God will preserve them from their errors and that He will enlighten
      them and lift them out of their errors. Thus, while it is the task of
      the bishop to proclaim the faith and condemn the heresies, it is our
      task to hold fast to that which has been given us and to pray for the
      enlightenment and salvation of those in error.

      The Apostle reminds us of the host of saints who have stood fast in the
      truth, ordering their lives according to their faith in the One True God
      and confessing that faith even in the face of opposition and suffering.
      These saints he reminds us are a “great cloud of witnesses” who surround
      us. One of those saints, whose confession we particularly remember
      today, is the Empress Theodora. This feast was brought about by the
      final resurgence of the Orthodox faith over the iconoclast heretics. The
      iconoclasts taught that the holy icons were no different that the idols
      worshipped by the pagans of old and that they should be forbidden and
      removed from the Churches and the homes of the faithful. They did not
      differentiate between the honor given to the images of the cross and the
      saints on one hand and the worship due to God alone on the other. This
      error denied the essence of the incarnation that God Whom no man could
      see had become man and dwelt among us and had taken on a form that could
      not only be seen, but depicted as well. Their error also implicitly
      denied that men and even matter itself could be sanctified by the grace
      of the Holy Spirit and therefore be transformed and come to reflect the
      true image of God. This cuts to the core of our salvation. Even some of
      the emperors at that time were convinced of this error and so began to
      persecute those who held honor and veneration for the holy icons. The
      last and greatest of these iconoclast emperors was Theophilus. His wife,
      the empress Theodora, however, was a confessor of the Orthodox faith.
      Whereas her husband sought to gather the icons to destroy them, she
      sought them out and hid them, protecting them from the wrath of her
      husband the emperor. This she did in defiance of his law condemning to
      death those who preserved the icons and who prayed before them.
      Throughout her husband’s lifetime, God preserved the empress Theodora
      from discovery and honored her courage and acts which were motivated by
      the true faith. Never did her husband discover the icons which she had
      hidden from him.

      Soon enough, God’s patience was exhausted with the emperor and he fell
      into a fatal illness. Oh his deathbed, he experienced a vision from God
      calling him to repentance and he mercifully responded. His wife brought
      to him one of the icons which she had kept hidden and laid it upon him.
      At the moment that he venerated that icon, his suffering was eased and
      he was able to die peacefully. After his death, his wife ascended to the
      throne to rule the empire as the protector of their son and the heir,
      Michael, who at the time was only six years old. She acted to restore
      the true faith to its rightful place, rescinding the laws persecuting
      those who preserved the holy icons and who confessed the truth. With her
      help the heretical patriarch was replaced by a true confessor for the
      faith and those who had stood firm in the true faith were placed in
      positions of responsibility so that the heresy of iconoclasm might not
      rise again.

      The empress also asked that the Church would pray for the soul of her
      husband who had persecuted them so greatly that he might not be forever
      lost in the torments of hades. The patriarch and other hierarchs
      embraced this chance to exhibit the love of God which tells us to love
      even our enemies and to do good to those who persecute us. By their
      fervent prayers the soul of the repentant iconoclast emperor was
      delivered from the wrath of his sins. The effectiveness of their prayers
      was revealed when, by a miracle his name miraculously disappeared from
      the list of heretical emperors kept under the altar of the Church
      indicating that God had accepted his repentance and the prayers of the
      Church on his behalf and had delivered him from the torment of his sins.

      Today, like the empress confessor Theodora, we too proclaim openly the
      true faith, worshipping the undivided Trinity. We proclaim the truth
      that God truly became man and dwelt among us and that by the suffering
      and victory over sin death and the devil of the God/man Jesus Christ, we
      are rescued from death and by the grace of God are transformed and made
      anew into His likeness. Also like the empress Theodora, today we are
      called to pray for those who are in error that God might preserve them
      and deliver them from their delusion. Let us then remember this duty to
      pray not only for ourselves and our own brethren but for the whole world
      that God may have mercy even upon those who would persecute us and kill
      us for our confession of the true faith. Let us exhibit the love of God
      today to the whole world by praying that all might be enlightened and
      saved by the Light of Christ which illumines all men.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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