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1st Sunday of the Great Fast - Defense of Icons

"One of Us" The Sunday of Orthodoxy

"What if God was one of us? Just a slob like oneofus? Just a stranger on the bus, trying to make his way home?" These questions come from one of the most popular songs of 1995, "One of Us" by Joan Osborne. Isn't it fascinating that a question of theology would inspire a hit song?

The Orthodox Church has always seen presence of icons in the Church as an answer to the question. "What if God was one of us?" In the words of the holy evangelist John, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father." The Second Commandment prohibiting images was given before the Word became flesh. With the Incarnation, the mysterious union of divinity and humanity, the relationship of God and his people changed St Paul wrote, "Yon are no longer strangers but sons, and if sons, then you are heirs of God."'

There are two consequences of the Incarnation, expressed in the themes of the first two Lenten Sundays. The first is that God identifies with us and with human suffering. "I feel your pain," is a comment often attributed to our current president. God feels our pain, because he became one of us. He truly suffered rejection by his own people, and the physical ordeal of death by execution. The second is that he gives us an opportunity to rise above the level of mundane existence. "God became man so that man might become god," was the saying of the Church Fathers. St. Gregory Palamas, who is honored next Sunday, exemplifies the human desire to become God-like.

Adherents to the other great monotheistic religions. Judaism and Islam, are offended by the doctrine of the Incarnation. For them, God could not possibly be one of us. He is and always will be transcendent, above it all For the Christian, however, the Incarnation is God's most profound confession of his love for humanity.



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