It is sometimes asked why does the Orthodox Church celebrate the Sunday of Orthodoxy on the first Sunday of Great Lent. What does this feast have to do with fasting?
First of all, what is celebrated on this occasion? The immediate event is the restoration of the veneration of the holy icons. In the Russian Orthodox Church, it is also established to have a special moleben in which the champions of Orthodoxy, both past and present are commemorated, and anathemas against heresies are pronounced.
The restoration of the veneration of the icons happened on this Sunday, on the first Sunday of Great Lent, in 843. The more important reason for the timing of this feast is that there exists an important tie between the Orthodox teaching about fasting and the veneration of icons.
The veneration of icons is connected with the teaching about the incarnation of the Son of God. Since Christ is God Incarnate, we can see Him and venerate Him through His icon. This is brought out in the service.
Christians are taught to fast in order to sanctify their body and soul, which are connected during earthly life. We have the image and likeness of God and are called to be icons of Christ by grace.
After a full week of very long Lenten services and strict fasting, the Sunday, or Solemnity, of Orthodoxy is a joyous feast. The service of commemorating the “champions” of Orthodoxy, as well as the condemnation of all heresies strengthens and confirms the faithful in their faith. It is also meant to teach and bring back all those who have fallen away from the Church by means of schisms and heresies. It is a service of love, not hatred, love of the truth and of our errant brethren.
His Grace, Bishop Luke, abbot of the monastery, concelebrated the Divine Liturgy together with the clergy attached to the monastery, as well as the moleben for what is sometimes called the Anathema service. However, as has been pointed out, it is much more than a service of anathemas, which are important as a statement to let all know where the borders of the Church are, but it also celebrated the memory of all those who have defended Orthodoxy through the ages and prays for those who today are trying to keep their flocks in the true faith.
During the hours which proceeded the Liturgy, Vladyka tonsured the seminarian, Ivan Golovin, a reader. May God aid him in his service to the Church