01 March 2009


Well, here we are on the first Sunday of Lent. In the Byzantine tradition it commemorates the restoration of icons at the Seventh Ecumenical Council in Nicaea (AD 787). In 754 the "robber council" of Hieria banned icons. This led to "iconoclasm", the destruction of icons and the persecution and murder of those who adored them. During iconoclasm many icons from the East were taken to West (Our Lady of Grace, Perpetual Help to name two).

Icons are not simply a devotional preference, but an integral part of Byzantine Catholic faith and devotion. They remind us of the incarnation of the Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity, in Christ. They make present to the believer the person or event depicted on them.

To celebrate victory over heresy, St. Theodore of the Studium composed a canon which is sung during Matins. The following is from an interpretation of it by English hymn writer John Mason Neale.

Awake, O Church, and triumph
Exult, each realm and land!
And open let the houses,
The ascetic houses stand!
And let the holy virgins
With joy and song take in
Their relics and their Icons,
Who died this day to win!

Assemble ye together
So joyous and so bold,
The ascetic troops, and pen them
Once more within the fold!
If strength again he gather,
Again the foe shall fall:
If counsel he shall counsel,
Our GOD shall scatter all.

The LORD, the LORD hath triumphed:
Let all the world rejoice!
Hushed is the turmoil, silent
His servants’ tearful voice:
And the One Faith, the True Faith,
Goes forth from East to West,
Enfolding, in its beauty,
The earth as with a vest.

They rise, the sleepless watchmen
Upon the Church’s wall;
With yearning supplication
On GOD the LORD they call:
And He, though long time silent,
Bowed down a gracious ear,
His people’s earnest crying
And long complaint to hear.

No comments: