THE FRUIT OF THE LIFE-GIVING TREE, THE CROSS, IS SALVATION FOR MANKIND

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

THE FRUIT OF THE LIFE-GIVING TREE, THE CROSS,
IS THE SALVATION FOR ALL OF MANKIND

{ON THE SUNDAY OF THE VENERATION OF THE HOLY CROSS]

Resurrectional Stichera. Mode 2.

Every breath and all creation glorifies You,
O, Lord. For by means of the Cross You rendered
death powerless, so that You might show the
people Your Resurrection from the dead, as the
only One Who loves humanity.

Let us joyfully cry aloud, and in odes let us
magnify the All-Precious Cross and salute it
with a kiss. And let us cry out to it and say, O
Cross Ever-Venerable, by the power you possess,
sanctify us in every way, soul and body too.
From all manner of injury arising from our
enemies preserve us who VENERATE IN PIETY.

The support of the Church are you, and the
strength of the emperors, boast of the monastics
and their deliverance are you, All-Venerable Cross
of Christ. And now as we venerate you today,
our hearts and souls are illuminated ineffably by
the grace divine of the Lord Who was nailed to
you and brought down the dominion of the sly
one, and Who abolished the ancient curse.

Glory. From the Triodion.
Mode pl.4.

To flee in the high-minded opinion of the
Pharisees most wicked, the Lord of all things

taught us by way of Parable, and instructed us
all not to think of ourselves more highly than
we ought. He Himself became our Model and
Example, having EMPTIED Himself even unto the
Cross and death. IN thanksgiving, then, with the
Publican let us say, "YOU ENDURED THE PASSION
FOR US AND YET REMAINED DISPASSIONATE GOD,
FROM OUR SINFUL passions free us, and grant
salvation to our souls.

On the Third Sunday of Holy and Great Lent, we celebrate the Veneration of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross. This solemn celebration of the veneration of the Cross on the Third Sunday in Lent prepares the faithful for the commemoration of the Crucifixion which is soon to follow in Holy and Great Week. The spiritual lesson taught to us on this sacred day is that the entire Lent is a period when we are crucified with Christ. As the Synaxaristes reads, "Through the forty-day Fast, we too are in a way crucified, dying to the passions." The Cross of Christ is understood as a symbol of triumph and glory.

We, Orthodox Christians, see in the Cross of Christ God’s revelation of His unconditional love to save the human race. Do we need any further proof of His agape for us? It is His Cross that saves us and not ours. From the height of the His Cross, He asks His Father, "Father, forgive them, for they DO NOT KNOW WHAT THEY DO" (St. Luke 23:34). We see the Son of God offering the magnificent prayer, showing once again the boundless mercy of the crucified Christ. Both the Jewish religious leaders, the Pharisees and pagan Romans, have no conception that they are crucifying the Lord of glory. Saint Paul says, "…which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, THEY WOULD NOT HAVE CRUCIFIED THE LORD OF GLORY" (1 Corinthians 2:8). The Incarnate Son of God; who clothes Himself "with light as with a garment" (Psalm 104:2), stood naked before human judges receiving blows from hands which He had fashioned. The Lord of Glory, the Son of the Father, was crucified in His humanity (Acts 2:36).

Every authentic Christian identifies himself with the Cross. There is nothing more powerful, more glorious, more noble, and more sacred than the Cross of Christ. While hanging on the Cross, our Lord brought salvation to the repentant thief (23:43). "Jesus said to him, ‘Assurdly, I say to you, TODAY YOU WILL BE WITH Me in Paradise" (St. Luke 23:43). This miracle is as great as any He performed and shows that He indeed is the True Judge and is above any human law. On one side we witness the magninamous mercy of God, and on the other side, the unquenchable hatred and evilness of man toward God Himself.

The question is, why did Christ have to suffer and why did He desire the Passion and the Cross?

"First, Christ became incarnate in order to correct Adam’s error. Where the Old Testament Adam failed to attain theosis (deification), the New Adam, Christ, succeeded. Additionally, Christ conquered death in His flesh, so that MORTAL MAN may receive immortality and be cured. The discovery of a medicine for some bodily illness gives hope to every man who suffers from that particular illness, that he too may be cured. The punishment in the Old Testament, the law, the Prophets, the signs and the changes in the earth, the sky, etc. could not cure man of the various illnesses and idolatry, because "a stronger medicine was needed." This stronger medicine is the Logos/Word of God, Who became Incarnate (takes flesh) and died for man (Saint Gregory Palamas). Thus, IT IS ONLY THROUGH CRHRIST THAT ONE CAN CONQUER DEATH."

Now you all see and understand that when our Holy Orthodox Church treats certain holy days with such reverence and solemnity, it is not to blindly offer you another so-called "ritual," but so that you, the disciples of Christ, may personally experience a specific event and reality in the life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The purpose of the commemorations and celebrations conducted in the divine services of our Church is to strengthen your faith and relationship with our Savior. Through these services, as Orthodox Christians, we are transported through time to the exact place in order to experience, as much as possible, what our Lord Himself experienced to save us. We are there to actually feel what He felt when He was spat upon, to feel the blows at His head when slaped, to feel the weight of the Cross as He was carrying it, to feel the agony and pain as they pierced His hands with the nails, to taste the gall and the vinegar on the sponge as it touched His Divine lips, etc. Some of our faithful, unfortunately, have missed the point. They see it as a theatrical peformance or as entertainment for their amusement. Somehow, the original purpose has been lost and this is why hardly anyone is spirituallly impacted or inspired. Some say, ‘it is just an old Greek custom,’ while they look at the time on their watch to convey that the service is very long.

For over a year now we have faced the issues of the pandemic and how Orthodox Christians can continue to commemorate these holy days, but WITHOUT THE VENERATION OF EITHER holy icons or the Cross. That is, as some are telling us today, because these same sacred symbols and blessed objects that have been venerated over the centuries under various and other epidemics and pandemics without any fear or concern, will now somehow transmit the virus from person to person? Without faith and belief in our sacred objects, why hold the commemorations or the feasts at all? What is the purpose? What is the benefit derived from it? Is this the "new normal" of conducting services, sacraments, and worship within the Orthodox Church ? Each Christian must answer this question on his own.

(To be continued)

__________________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George

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