As we draw near to the end of the Great Fast, I have spent some time reflecting on the Sundays of Lent and the realities that The Church placed before us as milestones in the journey. Of particular note to me this year is the Sunday of Orthodoxy with its procession of icons. The icon is more than simply a pretty picture that speaks a deeper spiritual meaning. The many layers of the icon are laid up with colors made from minerals in a base of egg on a foundation of deep red clay which represents the origins of mankind. One of the things that this foundation process gives us is an image that must be regularly tended to and restored. An icon left untended flakes away and returns to dust.
How does this apply to stewardship? The fathers who vigorously defended Holy Images at the Seventh Eccumenical Council (Nicea, 787AD) preserved for us an opportunity to steward one of the most vibrant pieces of the faith. The way we preserve an icon for the next generation is to interact with it, venerate it, and renew it to original beauty as it requires. The same care applies to ourselves. We continually tend to our souls and bodies through prayer, work in the Liturgy, confession, and repentance. This extends to the parish, our community, and beyond. The only way to maintain the vibrancy of Orthodoxy is to tend to it constantly.
This tending to the community is wearying work as each of us struggle to regain some level of original beauty while trying to offer mercy to the world around us. I am so encouraged by the growth in our parish. One Monday evening Compline service recently was chanted by seven chanters which is half of the chanters our parish has in training. Our choir barely fits in the choir transept. Young men and women are coming to serve in the Church for Divine services. Myrrh-bearing women are gathering to pray. Men are gathering to pray and fellowship at early hours of the morning. Broken individuals are gathering to offer strength and encouragement in their struggles. Parishioners are serving in local community outreach centers. The list goes on and on. Our parish is literally overflowing with people giving of themselves.
I wholeheartedly echo St. Paul in Philippians 1 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with you, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Glory to Thee O God, Glory to Thee.