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The Sunday of Orthodoxy

Homily for

The Sunday of Orthodoxy

Today's Saint: 42 Martyrs of Ammorium

Fr. Marty Nagy

Слава Ісусу Христу!

Слава Україні! Героям слава!

Today is the Sunday of Orthodoxy.

In the eighth and ninth centuries, iconoclasts destroyed icons. The Seventh Ecumenical Council denounced iconoclasm. In 843, under Empress Theodora, veneration of icons was solemnly proclaimed, and the Empress and the faithful processed through Constantinople, carrying icons. We still do that. At the end of Liturgy today, we, too, will process with icons around the church.

We’re all icons of Christ—created in His image and called to mature into His likeness. He asks us to work with Him to mature. This is part of our free will. On the seventh day of creation, God rested from making creation without our cooperation. Ever since, creation has been a joint effort.

The Gospel shows Jesus angry, for example, when Pharisees preferred keeping a man crippled rather than have him healed on the Sabbath. If Jesus is our blueprint, is it okay to be angry? St. Augustine writes: “The Lord himself…was guilty of no sin as he displayed these emotions openly when…saddened and angered by the lawyers because of their blindness of heart.” (The City of God, Book 14)

We’re not meant to deaden our passions as proponents of nirvana claim. The Church Fathers say our passions, like love and anger, are hardwired in us. But, when love is sick it disintegrates into lust. And sickened anger lashes out, drives us to depression, pushes us to restlessness and thoughtlessness. Jesus needs to heal our passions.

Anger plays an important role in the virtuous life. It’s the strength to attack and resist evil. (Joseph Piper) St. Thomas Aquinas writes, “A man who truly and forcefully rejects evil will be angry at it.” St. John Chrysostom says, “Unreasonable patience…fosters negligence, and incites not only the wicked but the good to do wrong” (quoted by Aquinas).

However, St. John Chrysostom also says, “Anger is no different than madness…bringing a certain restless turmoil and never silent storm of fury, through all the night and through all the day, upon the reasonings of his soul (Hom. on St. John’s Gospel, XLVIII.3).

So, there is righteous anger and diabolic anger. St. Paul says, “be angry and sin not” (Eph. 4:26). Anger is an important weapon for spiritual warfare. But, as with every gift of God, the devil counterfeits it. Be careful.

Ukraine was unjustly attacked this past week by the Russian Federation.

Righteous anger is needed to inspire Ukrainians to defend their home against this evil with courage, fidelity, prayer, resolve, generosity, and kinship. They do so imperfectly, like every saint, but also like every saint as icons or imitators of Christ.

As Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy said, they’re fighting for the “victory of light over darkness, of slavery over freedom.” He champions what’s at the core of Ukraine’s history and righteous anger—their faith in God and their conviction that God planted them where they are.

President Zelenskyy said, "Even if you destroy all our Ukrainian cathedrals and churches, you will not destroy our faith, our sincere belief in Ukraine and God.” Literally and symbolically, he called Assumption Cathedral, which was targeted by Russia, a “shelter for all people: believers and non-believers, because everyone is equal.” He said, “We will restore the cathedral so that no trace of war remains there.” Righteous anger is for rooting out and healing every trace of injustice.

And do you know who stands in Independence Square in Kyiv? A statue of St. Michael the Archangel, patron of Kyiv. With Patriarch Sviatoslav, let us pray, “O God send the army of your heavenly angels [and] Archangel Michael to guard, support, and bless our army” (daily addresses from Kyiv).

Evil forces attack us all. Like the people of Ukraine, we just want to raise our families in peace, with love and joy. But the devil viciously tempts us to tear our families asunder; to make us sick emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically.

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in a letter that the point of The Lord of the Rings trilogy is in the last chapter, where Sam marries and settles back into everyday shire life. Tolkien said that sometimes ordinary people must do extraordinary things to keep their ordinary way of life.

You and I are ordinary folks, given extraordinary gifts through baptism. The saints in our icons understood God has a plan for everyone and that the devil also has plans. The saints resisted evil and followed God’s blueprint. Icons help us remember who we are and who we’re called to be.

The dignity of our Baptism in Christ and love in our families must be defended just as ferociously as Ukrainians defend their home. The book of Hebrews says, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Hebrews 12:4).

Ukraine has suffered, but God can bear fruit from it. A priest from our Chicago Eparchy lives in L’viv, Fr. Andrii. His wife, Dobrodiyka Angelika, wrote, “I’m proud of the people of my country who are ready to pay the price of life in order to live in freedom….The war checks our character, beliefs, values. I confess…I feel helpless and fearful in moments….But I also become motivated to fight against this evil. In one moment, I…start to worry.…But in the other moment, I’m filled with strength of Holy Spirit to continue this battle." This describes the interior struggle of all Christians.

(She adds, “Thank you every person in the world for your help and prayers for peace!”)

Bishop Benedict recommends regulating how much news we watch. It’s not healthy to bombard ourselves with these graphic stories. Psychologists say we can develop symptoms of trauma through overexposure.

The best thing? Pray. Pray for those who have died. And ask them to pray for Ukraine. Even when you watch the news, pray for each person and city you see. Even Russians. Jesus said pray for your enemies. To chase away demons, we must love the creatures they’ve settled in.

The devil wants to twist our righteous anger into hate, fear, and resentment. Then he wins. When fighting the dragon, we need to be careful not to become like the dragon. In the face of injustice, God gives us the power to hope, to believe, to forgive, to love, and to pray, and even to be grateful.

When Venerable Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky addressed Ukrainians facing an evil occupation in his day, he pointed to our immortality, to remember God has something beautiful waiting for us beyond this life on earth. When we keep this eternal perspective, our hope, courage, and motivation to fight for our lives become “unbreakable and invincible,” as President Zelenskyy said.

God will triumph.

This doesn’t mean that we ignore our sadness, concern, or grief. Grieving aids our healing. The devil paints an image, and God gives us tears to wash it away. St. Paul says, though, that Christians do not “grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

When Ukraine was attacked, Patriarch Sviatoslav was supposed to be at a bishops’ gathering in Rome. He refused to go. He has given daily addresses from Kyiv since the Russian aggression began. In one of these, he reminds us, “Not hatred but love conquers. Love gives birth to heroes….I encourage all of us: let us learn to love in this tragic time….Let us not be taken captive by hatred. Let us not use the language of hatred….As ancient wisdom says, the one who hates the enemy is already overcome by him.”

He adds, “I sincerely ask: pray not only for peace in Ukraine but for our enemies, for their conversion, for the conversion of Russia, as our Lady of Fatima requested.”

Let us pray with Patriarch Sviatoslav, “Боже, бережи Україну. Дай Боже Україні миру.” “O God, save Ukraine. O God, grant Ukraine peace.”

Слава Ісусу Христу!

Слава Україні! Героям слава!

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