The structure of the holidays and remembrances of Great Lent is surprising in its thoughtfulness.
So, on the first Saturday, called St. Theodore Saturday in honor of the Great Martyr Theodore Tyrone, the Church, using the example of the miracle performed by this saint in Constantinople, celebrates the symbolic victory of Christianity over paganism in the person of Emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363).
Julian for all time became the prototype of the struggle of a godless or anti-Christian state with Christianity and the Church.
Julian for all time became the prototype of the struggle of a godless or anti-Christian state with Christianity and the Church. Historically, the Apostate pursued the goal of returning to paganism. As an emperor, and, at the same time, a philosopher and thinker, having previously been catechumenized in the Church, he knew Orthodoxy well. Therefore, he used many aspects of the external and internal life of the Catholic Church of that time to reform paganism.
In this sense, he became the archetype of the process of secularization, as the use of the religious resources of the Church to create a new ideology, in particular, a civil or state religion. In this context, the celebration in honor of Theodore Tyrone is not just a commemoration of the one-time miracle of this saint in the history of Constantinople. As a symbol and personification of the victory of Christianity over paganism in all its forms, it is extremely important.
In turn, the first Sunday of Great Lent is dedicated to the victory over iconoclasm. The latter persecuted the Eastern Church in the 7th-8th centuries. The leading forces of this process were the imperial power and, paradoxically, the highest church hierarchy of the Eastern Roman Empire, in our times conventionally called Byzantium. Iconoclasm was consistently refuted and defeated by the decisions of the 7th Ecumenical Council in Nicaea. 787, and the Local Council in Constantinople in 843. These two Councils are mostly remembered with gratitude during the Divine Liturgy on the first Great Lent Sunday.
On this day, which is called the 'Triumph', or simply the 'Sunday of Orthodoxy', the orthodox Church simultaneously commemorates the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the most important local Councils of the Ancient Church, as well as the Fathers of the Church, who became the true spokesmen of the Apostolic Tradition in the history of the Church and the Universe.
Therefore, the day of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, the Church proclaims to all of them, Fathers and Teachers, eternal and grateful memory. To remember the saints, and especially the Church Fathers, is a commandment. Moreover, it is an important component of the Orthodox confession. ‘I believe in the Communion of Saints’, - the Church proclaims this dogma through the mouth of the ancient Apostolic Creed.
You are ‘the Rule of Faith and the Image of virtue,’ says the troparion to the saint bishops. Translated into modern language, this means that the Fathers and Teachers of the Church were an example, became a paradigm and a norm, of correct faith and impeccable moral virtue.
Let us recall that, according to the teachings and canons of the Church, the episcopate is the bearer of apostolic succession. Therefore, each bishop is called to become, or, better, to be an Apostle, Father, and Teacher of his flock, and, in the future, of the entire Universal Church. Thus, by the power of divine grace, it happened to John Chrysostom, Augustine of Hippo, and other great holy bishops. Translated into the modern language of the words of the troparion, this means that the Fathers and Teachers of the Church were an example, became a paradigm and a norm, of correct faith and impeccable moral virtue.
The biographies of the Holy Fathers and Doctors of the Church, their vitae, and the veneration of the saint after his departure to God is always part of the vita, are such that it becomes obvious: God tested His saints, as He tests all of us, in the virtue of Orthodoxy and patience. It is important to remember that according to Scripture and Tradition, Orthodoxy is a true virtue! According to Scripture, a Christian is called to “trust God, believe in God, and follow God,” St. Augustine wrote about this.
The Sunday of Orthodoxy at the very beginning of Great Lent is a reminder of the Lord and God to His Church, as a Society of Believers, that we are not alone on the paths of a difficult and long time.
The saints come before God in Christ with us through the Holy Spirit. They incessantly, with the voice of the liturgy and the sacraments, with the words of their works, invite us to share with them the joy of communion that will never end.