SUNDAY OF ORTHODOXY
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS
Sunday of Orthodoxy, Removal of the relics of Nicephorus, Patriarch of Constantinople, Pouplios the Martyr, Bishop of Athens, Christina the Martyr of Persia, Gerald, Bishop of Mayo
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE HEBREWS 11:24-26, 32-40
Brethren, by faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.
And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets — who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign enemies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated — of whom the world was not worthy — wandering over deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
At that time, Jesus decided to go to Galilee. And he found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael, and he said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.”
The first Sunday of Great Lent is called the Sunday of Orthodoxy because it commemorates the restoration of the Holy Icons and the triumph of the Orthodox Faith against the terrible heresy of the Iconoclasts, i.e. those heretics who refused to honor the Holy Icons. For more than a hundred years the Church was disturbed by the evil doctrine of iconoclasm.
The first Emperor to persecute the Church was Leo the Isaurian, and the last was Theophilos, the spouse of Saint Theodora (February 11), who reigned after her husband's death and re-established Orthodoxy in the time of Patriarch Methodios (June 14). Empress Theodora proclaimed publicly that we do not kiss the Icons as a sign of worship, nor do we honor them as "gods," but as images of their prototypes.
In the year 843, on the first Sunday of the Fast, Saint Theodora and her son, Emperor Michael, venerated the Holy Icons together with the clergy and the people. Since that time this event has been commemorated every year, because it was definitively determined that we do not worship the Icons, but we honor and glorify all the Saints who are depicted on them. We worship only the Triune God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and no one else, neither a Saint, nor an Angel.
Originally, the Holy Prophets Moses, Aaron, and Samuel were commemorated on this Sunday. The Alleluia verses appointed for today’s Liturgy reflect this older usage.
Saint Nikēphóros was a dignitary at the court of the empress Irene (797-802), and then after receiving monastic tonsure, he became known for his piety. In the year 806 he was elevated to the patriarchal throne. The saint was a zealous defender of the holy Icons. When the Iconoclast emperor Leo the Armenian (813-820) came to rule, the saint in 815 was exiled to Prokonnis, where he died in the year 828.
In the year 846 the holy relics of Patriarch Nikēphóros were opened, and were found incorrupt and fragrant. They transferred them from Prokonnis to Constantinople and placed them for one day in Hagia Sophia, and then transferred them to the Church of the Holy Apostles. The saint’s hands are preserved in the Hilandar monastery on Mount Athos.
The saint left behind three writings against Iconoclasm. The main Feast of Saint Nikēphóros is celebrated on June 2, but today we commemorate the finding and transfer of his holy relics.
The Holy Martyr Sabinus suffered in Egypt in the year 287.
The Holy Martyrs Africanus, Publius, and Terence suffered in the third century at Petrium. Their memory is celebrated also on April 10.
Saint Puplius was Bishop of Athens (after Saint Narcissus) during the second century. He was one of the Seventy Apostles (January 4), and a disciple of Saint Dionysios the Aereopagite (October 3). The God-pleasing hierarch ruled his flock as a good shepherd, and he gave his life for his rational sheep, after he had perfected it by a martyric death during the persecution of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180).
The Holy Martyr Alexander was a presbyter in the city of Pidna, not far from Thessalonica. The saint converted many pagans to Christianity by his preaching. During the persecution against Christians under the emperor Maximian Galerius (305-311), Saint Alexander was subjected to fierce tortures, and then beheaded.
The Holy Martyr Christina of Persia was scourged to death for confessing her faith in Christ, during the fourth century.
See March 18 for Saint Aninas' life.