Source: New Ostrog
by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo
Today, the Sunday of Orthodoxy, we celebrate more than the “Triumph of the Sacred Icons.” We rejoice in the redemption of the whole cosmos. We fill our hearts with love and hope in our Saviour Who has restored our wholeness of being, and brought us back to the destiny for which we were created.
At the heart of the struggle to restore the use of icons in the Church, after the long and brutal period of iconoclasm (the battle against sacred icons), is the truth of the Incarnation of God the Word, and the wholeness of man’s being. God the Word was Incarnate in the fulness of the human nature, both body and soul, and so sanctified in Himself the whole human nature and being; and being also perfect God, He reunited God and man in Himself. In so doing, Christ also proclaimed that “matter” can be grace-bearing.
As we celebrate the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy during this period of the Great Lent, we continue to proclaim the Incarnation of God Who, because of His co-suffering love of mankind, entered into our nature to re-sanctify it and provide the gift of everlasting life. More than this, let us contemplate another meaning to the Pre-sanctified Liturgy and understand that God the Word pre-sanctified Himself, His Incarnation, for our redemption, even before we were created, before the cosmos came into being. In his Divine foreknowledge, God had presanctified, as it were, His own suffering, His own self-sacrifice, to redeem us from the bondage into which we would fall. His love for all mankind pre-existed the creation of mankind. The love of God for mankind is not a love than can be defined in any human terms, but His pre-sanctification of our salvation is a testimony to the reality that God is love, and not just “love,” but a co-suffering, all encompassing love, that embraces the whole of existence, and man, as the point of unity in creation, in particular.
When we celebrate the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy, we participate in the pre-existing love of mankind; and today, on this Sunday of Orthodoxy, we proclaim the unity of Creation itself, bound together in the transfiguring and transforming love of the Creator. We proclaim that God created all that exists, saw that “it was good,” and redeemed not only mankind, but the whole of creation. The Holy Icons proclaim this great mystery of the unity of creation in its Creator, of the sanctify of not only the earth, but of the whole universe. Today, for us, the Sacred Icons proclaim that ineffable co-suffering love of the uncircumscribable God who confined Himself in our humanity, and embraced it in that awesome and all-encompassing love. God made matter to be grace-bearing, proclaiming that He Himself had created it and sanctified it from the beginning.