Sunday of Orthodoxy - 1st Sunday in Lent

Gospel: John 1:44-51

Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote - Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." And Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said to him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!" Nathanael said to Him, "How do You know me?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." Nathanael answered and said to Him, "Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" Jesus answered and said to him, "Because I said to you 'I saw you under the fig tree,' do you believe? You will see greater things than these." And He said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."

FYI (For further information and resources visit family.goarch.org.)

This first Sunday in Lent is known as the Sunday of Orthodoxy. For over 100 years, icons were banished from Christian worship by the Iconoclasts and either destroyed or desecrated. On this day we commemorate the triumph of Orthodoxy in the restoration of the holy icons to their proper veneration in the life of the Church. This restoration took place at the beginning of Great Lent in the year 843 AD.

At first glance, this Gospel passage appears to be little more than a historical account of Jesus meeting Nathanael, but when we look closer we see there are important lessons for each of us as we begin our Lenten journey. When Nathanael is curious about how Jesus knows him, Jesus responds, "I saw you." How important it is for us to remember that Jesus "sees" all of us. He does not just see us where we are but He sees into our hearts and knows where we stand with Him. Nathanael is overcome by Jesus's intimate knowledge of him and believes that He must be the Son of God. As we start the second week of the fast, let us remember that God knows us better than we know ourselves. He wants us to "come and see" so that we can know who He is - our everything, our Savior, our God.

For Consideration

  • How does Jesus know Nathanael? What does this prompt Nathanael to proclaim?
  • What does Jesus tell him? Is Jesus saying the same thing to all of us?
  • What does this Gospel passage mean for our lives?

To Do Together

  • Make a Family Icon Tree - Gather small paper icons of your family's patron saints and an icon of Christ. Most of these can be ordered from Holy Transfiguration Monastery at www.thehtm.org. Draw a tree with a branch for every member of your family; place Christ in the trunk. Mount the icons on a piece of wood or a large rock using Mod Podge (available at most arts and crafts stores). Decorate as you like.
  • What Would Jesus See Journal - For one week, have each member of your family keep a brief daily journal. In this journal, each person should write down what Jesus saw them do that day, what He saw in their hearts, and how they think it made Him feel. These journals are personal, so children should not be forced to share what they wrote in them. Try to encourage a family discussion on the topic at the end of the week.
  • Have Icons Blessed - If you have icons that have not been blessed, take them to church with you on Sunday. Be aware that the priest will want to keep the icons in the altar for 40 days. Make sure to put a tag on the back of each icon with your name and the date. Write a note to remind your family to pick up the icons 40 days later.

Final Thought

According to Tradition, the origin of icons is a gracious story. Avgar, king of a province in Mesopotamia, entered into correspondence with our Lord, Jesus Christ. Avgar begged our Lord to come and heal him from a severe sickness. Christ refused the invitation, telling Avgar that His mission on earth was nearing completion. Avgar then sent his royal artist to paint the likeness of Christ, but the artist was unable to fulfill his task because he was dazzled by the brilliance of Christ's Divinity. In His mercy, the Lord took a handkerchief, placed it against His face; miraculously, the outline of Him was traced onto the cloth: this is believed to be the first icon, "Not Made By Hands." It is this likeness, however derived, we find in all authentic icons of Christ. Thus, icons were not only blessed by our Lord, but the first one was, according to tradition, made by Him, and of Him.

- Adapted from IKONS by John Tavener and Mother Thekla

A Closing Prayer

Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever. Amen.

Advancing from ungodliness to the true faith, and illumined with the Light of knowledge, let us clap our hands and sing aloud, offering praise and thanksgiving to God; and with due honor let us venerate the holy icons of Christ, of the all-pure Virgin and the saints, whether depicted on walls, on wooden panels or on holy vessels, rejecting the impious teaching of the heretics. For, as Basil says, the honor shown to the icon passes to the Prototype it represents. At the prayers of Your undefiled Mother and of all the saints, we beseech You, Christ our God, to bestow upon us Your great mercy.

- From the Vespers of Sunday of Orthodoxy

For Further Information

  • The Open Door: Entering the Sanctuary of Icons and Prayer by Frederica Mathewes-Green - This book brings to life how we pray with icons using pictures, stories, prayers, and scripture. Published by Paraclete Press.
  • How to Pray with Icons by M. Tataryn - This activity book for children has a dozen full-color icons that can be removed and glued to their place in the book. Each icon has reflections and prayers along with it. Published by Gracewing.
  • Family Worship: Creating and Using a Place in Your Home - This tool guides families in creating and using an iconostasion, a place for worship in the home. It affirms the value of prayer in the life of the family. Available from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Center for Family Care (family.goarch.org).

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