Truth versus Falsehood
What is true and what is false? In our world today, anyone can post anything they want on the internet, and with slick marketing along with the big tech algorithms, they can fool countless people to embrace totally false information. We see this happen continuously in America in politics, in social issues, in countless ways. What about the war in Ukraine and the horrible images of violence, destruction and death we see every day? Most of the world sees an unbelievable and heart-rending war that is destroying the cities of Ukraine while traumatizing and killing countless innocent people. Meanwhile, how many people in Russia have a completely different image of what is happening because of the limited and distorted state-controlled propaganda they receive?
What is true and what is false? We all can be deceived with events happening in the world around us just as we can be deceived in our understanding of faith and its place in our lives. Remember, the devil himself is known as the Great Deceiver and he tries to confuse people so that they don’t know the Truth. Contrast the Great Deceiver with Jesus Christ our Lord who said, “Know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
Yet too many people, including plenty of people within the Church, fall victim to the Great Deceiver and instead of seeking after the Truth that will set us free we listen to the lies of the devil.
The Sunday of Orthodoxy took place during a time when the Great Deceiver had fooled many people - from bishops and priests to emperors and political leaders to many of the faithful. For more than 100 years there was a terrible fight within the church and within the Roman/Byzantine society as a whole about the proper place of icons in the worship of the Church. People were confused to the truth and role of iconography and this confusion and deception led to terrible division among people, which fueled violence and even death for many.
The Sunday of Orthodoxy commemorates the end of this era of confusion, it marks the triumph of truth over falsehood in relation to the veneration of icons in the 8th and 9th century. That’s why the Sunday of Orthodoxy is often called the Triumph of Orthodoxy, or the Triumph of Truth. In past years, I’ve talked about this triumph of truth in relation to icons themselves.
Today, however, I want to draw our attention to the Triumph of Truth that we seek during our journey through Great Lent. Fr. Alexander Schmemann, one of the great theologians from a generation ago, describes Great Lent as “a school of repentance” to which we go every year “to deepen our faith, and to re-evaluate and change our lives.”
Great Lent as a school of repentance means it is a school that teaches us to turn away from all the lies in our lives and to turn to the Truth of God. Our society deceives us in countless ways to think that we will be happy and fulfilled if we take the easy, broad path of life – to chase after whatever desires we have and fulfill our egocentric pursuits. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, reveals to us that the path of life is a narrow and difficult one, a journey in which we must fast by denying ourselves, by controlling our passions, and through this by making room for God’s Spirit to dwell in us. The path of life is a journey in which we must carry a cross, struggling and fighting to crucify our egocentric desires in order to allow God’s love to guide and govern us in our lives.
Great Lent calls us to return back to the “new life” we received at our baptism. “As many as have been baptized in Christ have put on Christ.” Saint Paul tells us this new life in Christ is a life where God’s Spirit inspires and empowers us to live as Jesus lived, to love as Christ loved, to serve as He served, to sacrifice ourselves for others as Christ sacrificed Himself for the entire world. This new life in Christ is the only life that leads to eternal life.
Yet, as Schmemann says, unfortunately, too many Christians “live as if Christ never came. This is the only real sin, the sin of all sins, the bottomless sadness and tragedy of nominal Christianity.” We may call ourselves Orthodox Christians, yet we live our lives as if Christ never came. We have turned a living faith that transforms and transfigures lives into a nominal faith that has little to no impact in our actual lives.
This is the greatest deception and falsehood of our day. For someone to call themselves a Christian, which means a follower of Jesus Christ and a member of His Body, the Church, and yet to change this life-transformative faith into a nominal faith that does little to nothing in one’s life.
The saints offered examples of lives that were transformed by Christ. The martyrs discovered a treasure so precious that they willingly died for Christ. Countless men and women found the deepest meaning and purpose in life through their faith in Christ, a faith that taught them that they were beloved children of God who in turn were to share God’s love with every other person in the world. We are loved to share God’s love. We are blessed to share God’s blessings. We are light to enlighten a darkened world.
If your faith is not challenging and changing your life as it did the saints, then it is not a living, true Christ-centered faith. It is a lie. It is something false. It is something deceiving you. It is a nominal, meaningless Christianity.
On this Sunday of Orthodoxy when we celebrate the Triumph of Orthodoxy and the Triumph of Truth, let’s reflect on and remember this fundamental truth. Jesus Christ came to change lives, to change OUR LIVES, to make them more and more like His! If we live life as if Christ never came and if He has no major and fundamental impact in our lives, then our nominal Christianity is an indictment and points to the deception that we live under.
Use this season of Great Lent to honestly and bluntly evaluate your faith and your life. If your faith does little to impact your life, to change your life, to transform and transfigure your life into a life like Christ’s, then you are living a lie. Repent from this deception, asking God for forgiveness and seeking His inspiration to show you the path of a true life in Christ.
Facing Our Uncertain Future
THE SIGN OF THE CROSS
Our Orthodox Faith
House of God: An Explanation of the Interior of Orthodox Churches