Those who do not see their sins will not possess repentance, and those who do not acquire repentance will never draw near to contrition of heart. Those bereft of contrition will never become humble, and those who are not crushed and made tender by the grace of radiant and quiet humility will never see Who Christ—the most meek and humble of heart—really is. Those who do not see God will never know Him, and those who do not know God will never be able to be exalted by insuppressible love for Him.
How is God known? That is the question which St. Gregory Palamas answered in his response to accusations raised by Gregoras, Barlaam, and Akindynos. After four successive synods in the fourteenth century (1341, 1344, 1347, 1351), the teaching of St. Gregory was upheld and that of Gregoras, Barlaam, and Akindynos were condemned. His teaching and their heresies were written in the Synodikon of Orthodoxy
in 1453 and are read on every Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy
(the first Sunday of Lent). The commemoration of St. Gregory on the second Sunday of Lent is like a continuation of the Triumph of Orthodoxy because of his triumph over these heretics.
St. Gregory reposed in 1359 and was canonized in 1368, only nine years after his death and seventeen years after the last synod which upheld his teaching. It is St. Gregory’s teaching on how God is known which will be the subject of our homily today
We are gathered here together on the first Sunday of Great Lent to celebrate the Triumph of Orthodoxy. This feast was originally established to commemorate the victory of the venerators of icons over the iconoclasts, but more generally we also commemorate on this day the victory of the true Orthodox faith over all the heresies that have challenged it throughout history.
There is an interesting fact which we easily overlook about this feast: the original Triumph of Orthodoxy, the triumph of the veneration of icons, was not only a victory in a battle waged within the Church, but also within society and the entire Byzantine Empire at large. You see, when the final victory of the holy icons occurred, the Seventh Ecumenical Council was long over, the bishops had already decreed that the icons are a holy and necessary part of our faith. It was rather the iconoclast emperors who had continued to resist; therefore the Triumph of Orthodoxy was not only a theological triumph, but also a political triumph.
Today, we see heaven and earth passing away. We see them rolled up like a scroll. We see the elements melting on account of the divine fire of Christ the most glorious God-Man Who has come again to His creation in the same manner as He ascended from it. However, now He is seen by every eye. Now the veil of time and space, of heaven and earth, the veil of spiritual blindness, and of willful ignorance, all of these now are taken away, and every eye sees Christ.