Augustine Sokolovski

Each Lenten Sunday is dedicated to a special memory. So, the first of them is called the Triumph of Orthodoxy.

The historical reason for this celebration was the overcoming of the heresy of iconoclasm by the Orthodox Church. The Sunday of Orthodoxy is one of the very few celebrations when in the Orthodox service not only the historical remembrance of the event is performed, but the theological significance of the celebration itself is comprehended.

In a historical sense, iconoclasm was a phenomenon in the Byzantine Church. Historians and theologians have still not come to a consensus about the reasons for its occurrence. Most likely, it represented one of the first attempts at religious reformation of Christianity. The rapid spread of Islam then plunged the Byzantine emperors into panic. Apparently, believing that the cause of the Arab conquests was the Orthodox Christians themselves, Leo III the Isaurian (717–741) and his successors, for a century, from 730 to 843, with a break in 787-815, consistently persecuted and destroyed sacred images.

Supporters of icon veneration were persecuted. Our liturgical calendar contains the names of many martyrs and confessors of this persecution. It became the longest systematic persecution for faith in the history of the Orthodox Church. Among the martyrs there were many monastics and laymen. The monks kept holy icons; those in power believed that the monasteries served as a refuge for those who did not want to serve in the bureaucracy and army of the Roman Empire. Among the confessors is the holy monk Theokteristus (+770), in whom tradition sees the author of the prayer a Canon to the Theotokos “Sustainer in Many Misfortunes.” A canon in the Orthodox liturgy is a long litany to the Lord, or saints, and the rare Greek name Theokteristus is translated as “approved by God.”

In 843, at the Local Council in Constantinople, icon veneration was finally approved, and iconoclasm was condemned and rejected. It was this date that became the main reason for the Sunday of Orthodoxy.

Over time, this historical remembrance during the Sunday of Great Lent began to acquire additional theological contours. Thus, on this day we remember the Ecumenical Councils, the Fathers of the Councils, as well as those Fathers of the Church who did not take part in them, but whose contribution to the formation of Orthodox doctrine was colossal. According to tradition, their names are pronounced in a separate prayer song during the service. Then dogmatic truths are proclaimed and those who deny them are condemned.

“My age, my beast, is there anyone. Who can peer into your eyes”, - wrote Osip Mandelstam in 1922. In recent times, in various Local Churches, the names of new false teachings have been added to the rite of the Triumph of Orthodoxy. This practice is very significant. It allows us to determine what new challenges this or that Church considers important for itself in our time.

The Church is a Society of Believers, the Church is a community of interpreters. The calling of Christians at every historical moment is to feel the gravity of the meanings of the apostolic heritage. This makes it obvious that the concern for preserving the correct doctrine is not a tribute to the past, but a commandment for all times, transmitted by the Fathers of the Church to those who now believe in Christ.