Photo Credit: Pinterest
The Sunday of Orthodoxy service was always one of my most favorite times of the church liturgical year. And for awhile, I could not give you a straight answer why…or at the very least a decent Orthodox answer. Just an answer that I grew to know as a twenty-first century girl baptized into an ancient faith. I grew to know as that was one of the first few times my mom and I attended church twice that day without a grumble and we made sure not to have much of anything going on either. After church,we relaxed for a few hours before we had a quiet drive from church either just us (or we would drive some people from church) on the interstate up to the cathedral to Wilkes-Barre, PA where services were almost always held.
Wilkes-Barre is a city in northeastern Pennsylvania encased by rural towns and hamlets all around it. For a teenager or early twentysomething over ten to twenty years ago and still, most people love to go to Wilkes-Barre to shop or see a concert or finally go to a decent mall without driving to Allentown or Philadelphia. You may have went up to college up there and hung out or developed memories with your college friends at the college or nearby ones. And when you were a teenager growing up outside of Wilkes-Barre, it was hard not to extract yourself away from this entertainment. You can imagine my temptations, at once.
I was a teenager and into my early twenties when we shared our tradition. Early on, I wish we had a little more time where I can stop by the makeup store, the mall or Barnes and Noble but my perception changed when I arrived into the cathedral and stood between the beautiful stained glass windows and the iconography peering from all around me from me from 360 degrees. I felt drawn into a heavenly kingdom that I never really obtained walking into Ulta or the mall.Seeing the attending clergy every year as they would march around the nave of the cathedral holding an icon of a saint tied the main reason why what all brought us there that evening together. In Orthodoxy, we don’t worship the saints. We study how these people came to be saints, and we commemorate their feast days and venerate them. Most saints were poor, not rich and were either martyrs or ascetics for Christ.
In the Orthodox church, Lent means more than marshmallow peeps and giving up or restraining yourself from social media. In fact, if you’re still referring to the season as Easter to your Orthodox relatives and friends, you’re wrong. In the Orthodox church, we identify the season better known as Pascha and it cannot be truly experienced or felt if we don’t take the Lenten journey seriously to the best of our abilities. We are usually in church twice on Sundays and there’s a service twice a week with sometimes a morning service on Saturday for All Souls. You’re in church – a lot – but you are expected to try to make some effort.
After Forgiveness Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent is what brings us here to Orthodoxy Sunday. You heard me mention how the attending clergy will march with icons and I am going to explain more on the history behind that. The meaning behind Sunday of Orthodoxy has been the victory of icons since 843. It was since 726 that great controversy arose over the icons. It was in the year 843 that the controversy was laid to rest and the icons and their veneration were restored on the first Sunday of Lent. Orthodox teaching about icons, as defined by the Seventh Ecumenical Council of 787, is embodied in the texts sung on this Sunday.
If you cannot get to church for illness or just cause, you can log onto the Greek Archdiocese website to listen to the troparion and apolytikion in tone 2 and the Epistle and Gospel readings are:
Epistle: Hebrews 11:24-26, 32-40
Gospel: John: 43-51