St Tarasios: Unity and Icons

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, we remember the Patriarch Tarasios of Constantinople, who was supportive of holy icons, and of love for Church unity with Rome and Oriental Orthodox brethren. Saint Tarasios, pray for us.

This is Clean Week, the first week of Great Lent, and we march forward in faith and discipline, to attempt to cleanse our passions and bring our attention to our Lord and God. As we fast, we remember those in need, the lesser among us, and extend our arms in care and love for them, through deeds and prayer. When we fast, let us remember Holy Scripture that we are to fast not as hypocrites or appear sad, but we are to celebrate this season as it is springtime, with a joyous face (St Luke 24:16-18). And in Great Lent, we don’t celebrate the Divine Liturgy on weekdays until after Pascha, and we read from the Old Testament. It is also a season of repentance, as we examine our sins and passions, and bring to our attention, and pray for the forgiveness from God.

This Sunday is also the Great Feast Day of the Triumph of Orthodoxy (or Sunday of Orthodoxy), which is celebrated on the first Sunday of Great Lent. This is an iconic and profound feast day for the Church, as we celebrate the defeat of iconoclasm and the return of icons in the Church. We must remember that our Fathers among the saints, who already taught us about the meaning of icons as religious writing, in the 7th Ecumenical Council, which we recognize as the last such councils in the Church (Genesis 1:26).

While some people may deride the place of icons in Christian worship, I would like to tell you a personal story. My granny-in-law accepted Christ, and since she is illiterate, I gave her a small Diptych of Christ and Theotokos, so that she can pray and venerate anywhere she is. Indeed, St Gregory of Rome in his epistle to Bishop Serenus of Marseilles, said “For what writing presents to readers, this a picture presents to the unlearned who behold, since in it even the ignorant see what they ought to follow; in it the illiterate read.” There is nothing quite visual and powerful in reminding us of the Truth of God, and His salvation, and the many saints who walked commandingly in the Ways of Christ, as the icons we venerate. Saint Gregory of Rome, pray for us.

We also remember Saint Patrick, Enlightener of Ireland, for the feast day on March 17. Saint Patrick was best known for the Breastplate prayer, or the Lorica, which reminds us to leave our burdens and worries with God, and lean only on God for all things, and in Him, our strength is found. Saint Patrick made the declaration of faith, hope and loving charity, through his Lorica. Saint Patrick of Ireland, pray for us.

Lorica of Saint Patrick

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

I arise today through the strength of Christ with His Baptism,
through the strength of His Crucifixion with His Burial,
through the strength of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
through the strength of His descent for the Judgment of Doom.

I arise today through the strength of the love of Cherubim
in obedience of Angels, in the service of the Archangels,
in hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
in prayers of Patriarchs, in predictions of Prophets,
in preachings of Apostles, in faiths of Confessors,
in innocence of Holy Virgins, in deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through the strength of Heaven:
light of Sun, brilliance of Moon, splendour of Fire,
speed of Lightning, swiftness of Wind, depth of Sea,
stability of Earth, firmness of Rock.

I arise today, through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me, God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to secure me:
against snares of devils, against temptations of vices,
against inclinations of nature, against everyone who
shall wish me ill, afar and anear, alone and in a crowd.

I summon today all these powers between me (and these evils):
against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and my soul, against incantations of false prophets,
against black laws of heathenry,
against false laws of heretics, against craft of idolatry,
against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
against every knowledge that endangers man’s body and soul.
Christ to protect me today
against poison, against burning,
against drowning, against wounding,
so that there may come abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.
Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of Christ. May Thy Salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.

When we journey on everyday as a pilgrim, everything we do can become a space and a moment for inner prayer. We can pray: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.

Let us close by praying the thanksgiving prayer:

It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.

O virgin Theotokos, rejoice; O Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fr Raphael+

Genesis 2:4-19
Isaiah 2:11-21
Proverbs 3:1-18