The 2008 Pan Orthodox Sunday of Orthodoxy Vespers at Ss. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Palos Hills, Illinois, March 16, 2008 was served by His Eminence Metropolitan Christopher, His Eminence Metropolitan Jakovos, His Eminence Archbishop Job, His Eminence Archbishop Nikolai, His Grace Bishop Mark and His Grace Bishop Ilija, 56 priests and 10 deacons. The Great Vespers responses were sung by the Pan Orthodox Choir of Greater Chicago.
On the Sunday of Orthodoxy the Church commemorates the triumph of Orthodoxy. The celebration of this triumph is associated with the restoration of the icons in the year 842. An icon of Christ is a manifestation of the truth of the Incarnation. Orthodoxy triumphed because the faithful understood the truth and were prepared to and did defend the right to manifest this truth.
The Orthodox of greater Chicago celebrated this triumph together at the Lenten Vespers in brotherly love and unity. The diversity of the pan Orthodox faithful was reflected in the beautiful variety of languages, melodies and voices. The solemn and beautiful icon procession was a moving reminder of our roots and responsibilities.
The sermon was given by His Grace Bishop Mark. He began with the words from Metropolitan Anthony Bloom of Sourozh:
“We must think of ourselves and ask ourselves: are we worthy; are we capable of being called 'icons', images of God?
Can we see in others the shining of the presence of the Holy Spirit, see God revealing Himself in the humble form of a human being? Do we realize the Triumph of Orthodoxy is not the Triumph of Orthodoxy over other people?
Are we capable of being such a shining vision to those who surround us?
When we keep the feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy we must remember that God has conquered, that we are proclaiming the truth, God's own Truth, Himself incarnate and revealed.”
Bishop Mark emphasized the interesting points and questions of His Eminence Bloom, questions which require a look inward to ourselves and outward to others. We are all created in the image of God. We are living icons written by the Holy Spirit. Bishop Mark challenged us to be all Christ called us to be. His Grace Bishop Mark mentioned concrete ways to proclaim the whole truth of Orthodoxy. He quoted Metropolitan Bloom:
“Let love prevail. Others can see the presence of the Holy Spirit in us. The Holy Spirit is manifested by our love and commitment one to another our ability to serve one another, to be gracious. The term Christian was originally used as an adjective. We must no only call ourselves Christians – we must be Christian, we must be Orthodox. We must repent, we must change. Yes we have beautiful icons but if we are not that living icon written by the Holy Spirit then the icons are only to our own condemnation. Saint Paul says, 'We are living epistles as others read us.' Let us consider that we may be the only Gospel some of them will ever read.
"Let us focus on things internal. Let us forgive one another and seek forgiveness one to another. As we continue our lenten journey let us cleanse that inner icon from the filth that has obscured the image of God within us. Let us show love and respect for the divine image in our brothers and sisters in our local parishes, the Orthodox community in Chicago and all who bear a human face. We have many weeping icons among us, people who are lonely, people who are hungry, people who are poor. If we really want to be the witness that Christ has called us to be then we should look outward instead of inward and reach out in this city to be that bright and shining light and minister to those who are the image of Christ, those weeping icons so we might share the Gospel.”
Following the services, a Lenten reception was served by the Ladies Philoptochos to the faithful in the auditorium.