Father Joseph Rahal
SAINT GEORGE ANTIOCHIAN ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH
كنيسة القديس جاورجيوس الأنطاكية الأرثوذكسية المسيحية
“You Are a Living Icon”
A Lenten Meditation
During Great Lent, our Orthodox Church celebrate The Akathist (Madayeh) Service every Friday evening during the first five weeks of Lent. During the Service we place The Icon of the Virgin Mary holding the infant Christ the Lord in her arm in the middle of the Solea, adorned with flowers, which we offer salutations to Her. I like to address the role that icons play in our lives.
Since the first century, when St. Luke wrote an icon depicting the image of Mary, the Theotokos, holding the infant Christ, icons have held an important place in our church worship. However, they also play an important role outside the walls of the church.
The literal translation for the Greek word “Ikon,” (or icon) is image. We commonly see icons in churches, in homes, or sometimes even in places of business. Icons usually depict the image of Christ, or His mother Mary, or one of the saints of the church, or even a specific biblical or historic event. However, icons are meant not only to be beautiful historic pictures of religious art. In a real sense, icons are meant to also present a glimpse into a reality that we do not readily see. It is for that reason that icons have been referred historically as “Windows to Heaven.” However, one of the best definitions I have ever heard regarding the purpose of icons is that they are, “The doorway to the awareness of the presence and the love of Jesus Christ and His saints and His Holy Angels.”
Icons remind us that God is present everywhere, in all places, and at all times. Used in worship, these holy icons remind us that God is truly, mystically, and physically present with us right now. Icons are meant to reveal nothing less than the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven. And nowhere is this more visible to us than when we gaze up into the dome of an Orthodox church and see the magnified icon of Christ Pantokrator (ruler of all) inviting us into His heavenly home.
In the gospel of John, Jesus reminds the apostle Philip that “He who has seen Me has also seen the Father...” (John 14:9). And in his letter to the Colossians, St. Paul reminds the Christian people that, “Jesus Christ is that true image (or true icon) of the invisible God.” (Colossians 1:15)
And so we give reverence to the icons and venerate them because in them we are reminded that God has truly revealed Himself to us through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. “He who has seen Me has also seen the Father.”
And so, if we choose to believe that God is truly with us, and that Jesus Christ is really who He said He was, then scripture is clear that through our actions and Christian example to others, we too become living icons of Christ to this world.
In the 25th chapter of the gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus tells a parable of what will happen on the “Day of Judgment,”when Jesus will return at the second coming in all His glory to judge the nations. Beginning at verse 31, Jesus says that when the Son of Man comes, He will separate the people placing some on His right hand side and some on His left hand side, like a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He says that they will be judged according to how well they reflected God’s own love to each other. Those on His right will be invited into the Kingdom of Heaven and those on His left will be cast into eternal punishment. In other words, they will be judged by how well they lived their lives as holy icons (or images) of God’s love to the world. Because, as human beings created in the image and likeness of God, we are created and commanded to love as God loves. Jesus said that we are to, “…love one another; just as I have loved you.” (John 13:34).
We are Holy icons! We are called to reflect God’s love to those around us. We are called to be united to Christ, and to each other through the love we show to one another. We are called to be a witness of the hope of eternal life. And, like the icons that adorn our churches, our homes, and our businesses, we are called to reveal the Kingdom of Heaven to others through our actions and love we show toward each other. As living icons, as baptized children of God united to Christ, this is our responsibility.
Let this be our focus for great and holy lent this year. And, let our life-long goal be to one day find our place on the right hand side of Christ, and to hear Him say to us, “Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matt. 25:34)
Have a blessed Lent!
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