What is Truth
What is Truth?
We live in a relativistic society where we no longer value truth. The internet and airwaves are filled with “fake news” and we don’t know where to turn to find what is really true. Philosophically speaking, many don’t even believe in absolute truth anymore. We trust more in our feelings. We believe our opinions. We’re influenced by what the majority of society says. We’ve lost faith in most public institutions, including even the Church and what she has proclaimed as truth over the centuries.
We don’t know where to turn. Basically, we’re confused about “truth.” I often think that in some ways we are a bit like Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who condemned Jesus to crucifixion.
Do you remember the story, when Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate at his final trial? Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you a king?” To which our Lord responded, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the Truth. And everyone who is of the Truth hears my voice.”
Then Pilate asked, “What is Truth?”
Obviously, Pontius Pilate was confused because he was not of the Truth nor ready to hear any truth. Imagine, he was standing right in front of “Truth Itself,” Truth Incarnate in a Person. God, had become human in Jesus Christ and was standing right before him as revealed Divine Truth, yet Pilate couldn’t understand, didn’t want to see, and wasn’t ready to hear. Instead of Truth, he only saw some pathetic, deranged Jewish messianic preacher being condemned by his own people. And as a result, he rejected Truth and put his stamp of approval on condemning to death Jesus Christ, the One who said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” In other words, he put Truth Itself to death!
Aren’t we sometimes like Pontus Pilate, not wanting to hear, not ready to see, not willing to understand Divine Truth? Don’t we sometimes choose to listen to the enticing voices of society and believe their slick lies and sweet deception about life? Their lies that tempt us to put ourselves first, to believe that we will find happiness in material possessions, to believe that success in life is about acquiring more money, fame, and power; to believe that strength comes when we control others; to believe that some political messiah will save the world. These are just some of the many lies that society promotes, and which we so readily believe.
We can see throughout history many examples of society ignoring Divine Truth and following the easy and deceptive path of society. Yet, despite what the majority may believe, the Church must still proclaim the Divine Truth that has been revealed.
This proclamation of truth is what we celebrate on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, which is the first Sunday of our Great Lenten journey. We highlight an actual event from the 9th century when the Church restored icons as a part of its life and worship. You see, for 120 years in the 8th and 9th centuries there was deep confusion and an ongoing battle about the “truth” of icons in the Church. Some thought that the use of icons was idolatry, blasphemy against God because it was contrary to the Mosaic Law. Others, however, explained how the theology of icons reflected the truth of God’s incarnation, that because God became a human being, a material being, we could depict Him in an icon. This debate didn’t just have to do with beautiful art but dealt with a deep theological issue of how we understand God, and how we understand our humanity. Finally, in 843 St. Theodora the Empress supported the belief that icons proclaimed the fact that God became a human being, and as a result we could depict Him in an image. All agreed that Almighty God is beyond any description and can’t be depicted. Yet because He became a man in the person of Jesus Christ, this allowed one to depict Him in an icon. Icons celebrate the fundamental fact of God’s Incarnation!
Thus, the Church began to celebrate this victory of truth on the first Sunday of Great Lent, which we now call the Sunday of Orthodoxy. This Sunday of Orthodoxy is sometimes called the Triumph of Orthodoxy and can actually be understood as the Triumph of Truth.
So now, back to the idea of society ignoring absolute and Divine Truth and following the easier and deceptive path of our fallen world. Compare the ways of the world with the Truth of God that we proclaim:
- - The ways of the world tempt us to proudly put ourselves first; the Truth of God teaches us that we must deny ourselves, crucify our egos, and sacrifice for others.
- - The ways of the world say we will find happiness by amassing more and more material possessions; the Truth of God teaches us that deep and eternal peace comes when we are content with simplicity, seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness above all else.
- - The ways of the world say success is judged by acquiring more and more money, fame, and power; the Truth of God calls this foolishness. True success is when we stay faithful to God’s commandments and live according to them.
- - The ways of the world say that we are strong when we control others and hold positions of power; the Truth of God teaches us that “God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness.” We are truly strong when we humbly rely on God for everything.
- - The ways of the world make us believe in some political messiah who will save the world from destruction; the Truth of God says, “Don’t put your trust in princes and the sons of men” but turn to the One who said, “I am the Way, the Truth, the Life.” (John 14:6)
The WAY of Jesus Christ is a life of divine and unconditional love, a life of mercy and grace, a life that offers forgiveness and hope, a life that can restore whatever is broken, sick, ugly and even evil and offer a new beginning, a new start, a promise to become a new creation.
Today on this Sunday of Orthodoxy, let us celebrate the Triumph of Truth by remembering who is Truth Incarnate – Jesus Christ.
May we all make His life and His way become our life and our way. Let us allow His Truth to be the guiding factor in our lives not only throughout our Great Lenten journey, but throughout every day of our lives.
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Our Orthodox Faith