20th Sunday after Pentecost (Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council)
This Sunday, the closest to the date October 11 (24 Gregorian Calendar), the Church celebrates the memory of the Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council which was held in 787 in Nicea (today in Turkey). This was the council that formulated the doctrine of the veneration of Icons.
In their zeal to avoid idolatry the opponents of Icon veneration neglected a crucial part of the Gospel. They failed to realize that the Incarnation of the Divine Logos, God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, changed forever the way humans may view matter and time. When God the Son became the human Jesus of Nazareth (without ever ceasing to be God the Son) He entered into matter and time. These were forever changed by that entry. Matter and time were no longer separate entities from God. God had entered them - He had incorporated them into Himself through the historical person - Jesus.
From that time on matter and time became Spirit-bearing. To say we can not honour matter that, in space/time, has become consecrated in the form of an Icon, is to say that God did not really incarnate - He only appeared to; the reality is not what it appears to be. But we do not say that. We truly believe in the Incarnation. We truly believe that space, time and matter have been altered by Jesus' entry into them. Hence we venerate Icons and believe that the honour we show them passes on to the One or ones they represent (and honour to holy beings is honour to the Author of Holiness, God Himself).
Not only do we venerate Icons - we also consider every human being to be an Icon, that is a likeness of God Who is our Creator and our Sanctifier. That means ourselves, too! When we look at the face peering at us from the mirror, we are aware that we are looking at a living Icon. The proper attitude to this revelation is humility, gratitude and alertness to the process of the unfolding of the glory of this Icon.
Icons are said to be windows which make it possible for us to gaze at the unseen world of the eternity and the Spirit. But everyone's window needs cleaning! No matter who we are, no matter how dedicated to the Church - or to the sort of "honesty and sincerity" which says "I don't need the Church to be a good person" - there is still a lot in us that needs working on.
One of the aims of prayer - alone or in a community such as the parish - is to clean off the impurities that have attached themselves to us because of our wrong thoughts, words and actions - as well as the absence of good thoughts, words and actions. We pray and clean the windows of our soul. We worship, and thus clean the Icons that we are making it possible for the Divine Likeness to shine through to strengthen and energize our selves and to help heal the brokenness of the world we live in. And we dedicate ourselves to serve God and our fellow humans by good works and by penitent activity for any wrong we may have done others - knowingly or unknowingly.
V. Rev. Ihor George Kutash