Our small Parish of St. Elias in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, celebrated the Sunday of Orthodoxy yesterday and as the weather was warm for this time of year and the ground dry we we left our temple and made procession outside holding our icons, led by our cross, the smell of incense in the air and the ancient song “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal…” on our lips.
In months of firsts since by the grace of God or the madness of the Church or some combination I was made Priest this was the first procession. Of course I have been in others, you can’t be Orthodox without processing around something sometime, but this was the first as Priest and there was a holiness to it that escaped words as we circled the little church building in the rough part of LaCrosse.
The grass was gray as winter still held a grip and the wind swirled down the valley and over the river but there was a sense of being removed from all that and drawn in to something ancient and beyond us. All over the world in small wooden churches like ours or grand cathedrals people were holding icons, led by the cross, smelling the incense, and singing the timeless songs. And as we walked we told the world that by the grace of God we still believe,
still remember, still hope, and still call the world to heaven.
There is a formal Sunday of Orthodoxy with its liturgies and rituals reminding us of the official pronouncements of a long ago Council restoring the veneration of icons to the faithful but in truth the triumph of Orthodoxy is also written in the hearts of all those who through the ages have kept the faith alive often under grievous circumstances.
Our small procession lasted just a few minutes but in those passing moments all of what had gone before, all of what we faced in these times, and all of what we long for in the Kingdom of God became present. So, too, did the memory of all those who have gone before us, the tall shoulders on which we stand.
And as they pray for us we walk on through Lent and towards resurrection sustained by what has been given to us, the faith that established the universe.