St Herman of Alaska Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
161 N. Murphy Ave. Sunnyvale, CA 94086
The Triumph of Orthodoxy

First Sunday of Lent - Triumph of Orthodoxy


Today is the first Sunday of Great Lent. This past week the Church prayed the Canon of St Andrew of Crete – an extended lamentation of repentance that brought before our eyes the whole history of God’s interaction with mankind. This beautiful and deeply moving work of St Andrew sets the proper tone for our Lenten journey… in the fourth Canticle we hear, “The end draws near, my soul, the end draws near; yet thou dost not care or make ready. The time grows short, rise up: the Judge is at the door. The days of our life pass swiftly, as a dream, as a flower. Why do we trouble ourselves in vain?”

Great Lent is a time for us to take stock of where we are in our spiritual life. We are called to “be watchful, to close all the doors through which the passions enter, and look up towards the Lord.” There is so much that distracts us in our lives – some of this is difficult or impossible to avoid: the noisy chaos of the city, the demands of our job, our studies, and our family responsibilities. Such things as these we must simply accept as the arena in which we are called to live out our Christian lives. We must approach these inevitable responsibilities with as much peace and love as possible – carrying out our duties with honesty and integrity and not falsely consoling ourselves that these upsets are somehow okay, because they are our ‘pious resentments’… No, we need to banish such disturbance from our soul and look upon all things with humility.

Many of these sources of noise and ‘static’ are perhaps unavoidable in our busy lives, and we have to work toward guarding that inner kingdom within our soul from being tossed to and fro from these winds. But we also need to be honest and evaluate how much of the distractions and noise are of our own making. Great Lent is a time given to us to slow things down a bit, to reduce the onslaught of noise and worldly stimulations that assaults us practically 24/7. Take advantage of the opportunity to attend the more frequent church services that are provided during Lent. If such an opportunity is not possible, then at least let us turn off the TV or the computer for a while and spend some time in spiritual reading, prayer, and reflection. These quieter moments are an incredible gift to a ‘stimuli addicted’ world… I encourage you to make a discipline during Great Lent to work on this. This constant hunger for data, for news, for input is indeed a new kind of addiction and coming off of it can be difficult – but the rewards of those quiet moments in the presence of God are a foretaste of heaven!

On this first Sunday of the Great Fast, we celebrate the Triumph of Orthodoxy. We recall the victory of the Orthodox understanding and proclamation of the truth of the incarnation and the appropriateness of the veneration of icons - that God became man, and that through doing so, all of creation bears the stamp of Divinity and may be redeemed.

In the Compline services that we heard each evening this week, we heard the refrain ‘God is with us!’ Through the victory of Christ and through the workings of the Holy Spirit, this is a great and profound truth.

‘God is with us’… think about that!...

Think about what this means as we behold the icons displayed triumphantly before us. God has renewed and redeemed all of creation and all of creation rejoices in Him.

Think about what it means that ‘God is with us’ as we work to observe the Fast… purifying our bodies through Lenten foods and through more disciplined eating; standing at prayer at home and in church, surrounding ourselves with a greater atmosphere of devotion to God.

On this Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy we realize the presence of God in the world and the possibility of the transfiguration of physical things. God is with us here and now. Next week we will celebrate St Gregory Palamas and we will see further how God is with us through His grace and energies. Surely one of the most wonderful things that Great Lent offers to us is the realization of the nearness of God in our lives. He stands at the very door of our heart and knocks…

May we work to remove the din of noise and static in our lives that prevent us from hearing that knocking at the door of our heart. Let us rejoice in the recognition that God is with us and let us assure that we are doing everything possible in return to be with Him.

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