FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT Triumph of Orthodoxy

Today, the first Sunday of the Great Fast, is called the Sunday of Orthodoxy.  We celebrate on this day when the firm establishment of the True Faith was set, which vanquished all heresies and heterodoxy.  Heresies[1] even showed up at the very beginning of Christianity with Christ’s Apostles who themselves warned their contemporaries, and with them, us too, about the danger of false teachers.   The holy Apostle Peter writes the following in his 2nd Universal Epistle: “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.  Many will follow their destructive ways and, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed” (II Pet. 2:1-2). Saint Paul, also returning to Palestine from Greece, made a stop in Ephesus and told the Ephesians: “For I know this, that after my departure, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock… and from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20: 29-30).

Many such false teachers and schismatics already existed in the first centuries of Christianity. They started heresies that troubled the Church for centuries, such as the heresies of the following bishops: Arius, Macedonius, Dioscorus and Nestorius, the monk - Archimandrite Eutyches and the heresy of Iconoclasm too.  These caused so much turmoil, afflicting the Church greatly.  As a result, countless faithful Christians shed their blood, defending the True Faith in their fight against these falsehoods.  Many bold clerics also suffered persecution, and if not put to death, were exiled for the Faith. St. Flavian, Patriarch of Constantinople, gave witness to this during a council chaired by Dioscorus, called the Robber Synod, when he was “beaten so savagely that he died three days later.”

The last in the line-up, the heresy of Iconoclasm[2], was the one that tormented the Church the most.  This heresy started in the early 8th century, during the reign of Emperor Leo the Isaurian.  He ascended the throne with the help of the army, which had many opponents of those who venerated holy icons within its ranks. To appease the army, he started harsh persecutions against Iconophiles (lovers of icons).  This persecution continued on during the reign of Emperor Constantine Copronymus, who succeeded Leo to the throne.  

Following these, there were other Iconoclast emperors who continued the work of their predecessors and tormented the Church even more.  The persecution only ended shortly when Empress Irene ascended the throne of the Byzantine Empire, though this was not yet final.  In 787 she convened the Seventh Ecumenical Council, which set down the orthodox (authentic) teaching on the veneration of holy icons.  Yet after this Council, Iconoclast emperors came to power again. Finally, Iconoclasm was crushed once and for all under the God-fearing Empress Theodora, at the council convened in Constantinople in 842 which defined the Church’s true teaching on the Holy Images (Icons). This council pronounced an anathema on all those who dared to say that the veneration of holy icons was idolatry and that faithful true believing Christians were idolaters.

All of the Seven Ecumenical Councils combined sorted out all the heretical problems that the Church experienced and concretized the foundation of the True Faith.  It may be said that there are many new heresies and schisms today.  Yes, that is right. But we should know that these new heresies are not saying anything new, but are merely repeating what the old heretics have already said.  All heresies were anathematized by and at the Seventh Ecumenical Council.  And though established centuries ago, these Council decisions are enough for us now, especially the Seventh Ecumenical Council. This is why we rejoice today and every year on the First Sunday of the Great Fast because we celebrate the victory of Truth over falsehood and heresy.  It was at this pivotal Seventh Ecumenical Council that today’s feast day was founded and ordained to be celebrated every year on this Sunday. Because of this triumphant victory, we have much reason to thank God for the most treasured gift passed down to us through the ages, i.e. the True Faith.

Now is no different than any time in the history of the Church.  What we are experiencing today echoes the prophetic words of Pope Pius X, who addressed the heresy of our times, namely Modernism in his Encyclical, “PASCENDI DOMINICI GREGIS” translated as “ON THE DOCTRINE OF THE MODERNISTS” which he decreed on September 8, 1907. This heresy, Modernism is nothing new, but rather a comingling of all heresies of the past but presented as “new”, i.e. modern.  Pope Pius X warned the Church then and his words still haunt us now to the fact that the worst offenders of this heresy will be the Magisterium of the Church, i.e. the Church hierarchy and her leaders, no different than most past heretics such as the bishops Arius, Macedonius, Dioscorus and Nestorius.   

In paragraph 2 of the Encyclical, he wrote: “We allude, Venerable Brethren, to many who belong to the Catholic laity, and, what is much more sad, to the ranks of the priesthood itself, who, animated by a false zeal for the Church, lacking the solid safeguards of philosophy and theology; nay even more, thoroughly imbued with the poisonous doctrines taught by the enemies of the Church, and lost to all sense of modesty, put themselves forward as reformers of the Church; and, forming more boldly into line of attack, assail all that is most sacred in the work of Christ, not sparing even the Person of the Divine Redeemer, whom, with sacrilegious audacity they degrade to the condition of a simple and ordinary man.”  


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This year’s upcoming Annual LUC Lenten Retreat is scheduled to be held the weekend of March 11-13, 2016 at the Motherhouse of the Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate in Sloatsburg, NY. The theme of the retreat is "MERICIFUL LIKE THE FATHER", which will be conducted by Archpriest Daniel Troyan.  Fr. Troyan is the pastor of Holy Ghost Ukrainian Catholic Church in West Easton, Pennsylvania where he is also the Youth Director. He has served our Church during his 34 years of Priesthood in such roles as Director of Evangelization and Coordinator for the Shroud of Turin Exhibit for our Archeparchy. Also he has been a member of the LUC since his youth and now is its National Spiritual Director for the Archeparchy.  Note: St. Mary's Chapel in Sloatsburg, NY has been blessed by Bishop Paul Chomnycky as a "Holy Door" for the Jubilee Year of Mercy.  Consider going on retreat to take advantage of God’s blessings and graces that await you.  For more information, contact Marion Hrubec either at 201.843.3960 or


[1] The word "heresy" comes from the Greek αἵρεσις, hairesis (from αιρεομαι, haireomai, "choose"), which means either a choice of beliefs or a faction of dissident believers. It was given wide currency by Irenaeus of Lyons in his tract The Detection and Refutation of False Knowledge (commonly known by the title of the Latin translation, Contra Haereses (Against Heresies) to describe and discredit his opponents in the early Christian Church. He described his own position as orthodox (from ortho- "right" + doxa "glory" or "belief").

[2] Literally, iconoclasm is the destruction of religious icons and other sacred images or monuments, usually for religious or political motives. In Christian circles, iconoclasm has generally been motivated by a literal interpretation of the second of the Ten Commandments, which forbids the making and worshipping of "graven images." This is clearly a misinterpretation of the decalogue because if one continues to read through the Book of Exodus one would encounter the command to Moses to build the Tabernacle: a visible icon of the invisible God.