"...And be certain of this! There is no Christianity without iconography. Icons are not an addendum to the Orthodox faith. Icons are an integral and necessary expression of true belief in God and in the Gospel. Icons are the visible Word of God. The Holy Gospel has been proclaimed to man in God’s will by two means: in word (Holy Scripture) and in images (Holy Icons). We can no more dispense with Holy Icons and believe we have Christianity than we can dispense with the Bible.
Icons proclaim and preserve the fundamental truth of the Gospel that God has become man. The presence of the Holy Icons in the churches is the pre-eminent sign of God’s new covenant with mankind, that the desire of Israel and of the nations has come to earth. It is no wonder that the Jews and the Muslims, incessant deniers of the Saving Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ, have always attacked our icons, and it is no wonder that iconoclasts in the church have been branded as Judaizers. To live without icons is to live in the Old Covenant, to live under the shadows of the law as though God has not permanently and irrevocably yoked Himself to creation and made Himself visible! This is why the hymnody for this Sunday of Orthodoxy says that iconoclasm is the “worst of all heresies…subverting the incarnation of our Savior”.
The Triumph of Orthodoxy: Like all of the precious aspects of the faith the Evil One despises the sacred icons. He despises them because they are the means by which his overthrow is proclaimed. He despises them because they lead men to the knowledge of the true God and proclaim in a loud and material voice the Gospel that God has become man, reconciling the world to Him. How he laments the day when the envoys of Prince Vladimir gazed upon the Sacred Iconography of Hagia Sophia, and found themselves unable to discern whether they were in heaven and on earth which led to the conversion of the Russian nation to Orthodoxy. Truly in this the words of St. John of Damascus, that great champion of icons, were fulfilled when he said, “If a pagan asks you to show him your faith, take him into church and place him before the icons” (On the Divine Images).
The Evil One despises icons because they instruct the illiterate, and make the mysteries of Orthodoxy clear to all of the faithful. The Evil One despises icons because they assist the faithful so greatly in their quest for salvation, serving as a point of contact with the heavenly world, beckoning and calling all to strive for the divine life and the next world, giving birth to all sorts of devout emotions and inspiration, and actually sanctifying the faithful and healing the sick! For these reasons and more the Evil One stirred up a great tumult in the church for some 150 years, as he encouraged phony bishops, priests, monks and emperors to attack iconography and charge the venerators of icons with idolatry! Can you imagine?! The Church, which wiped idolatry from the face of the earth, is being charged with idolatry! It is this pernicious and soul-destroying heresy which was definitively overthrown when on the First Sunday of Lent in AD 843 the Empress Theodora and her pious son Michael re-established the icons for the last time in Hagia Sophia. Today we join that celebration and proclaim the victory of the Holy Icons!
(Click on the title to read this most excellent sermon in it's entirety)