My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
THE VENERATION OF THE HONORABLE AND
“Let all the universe venerate the Cross, through
which it has learned to pay homage to Thee, O Logos/Word.
Since during the 40 days of the Great Fast, we are also IN A CRUCIFIED, MORTIFIED TO THE PASSIONS, some may have sentiments of bitterness, or of despondency, or of lapsing. Therefore, the Precious and Life-Giving Cross IS OFFERED TO US AS REFRESHMENT AND SUPPORT. The Cross calls to mind the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who suffered and was crucified for our sake. Our own pangs pale and deafen before His since our afflictions have been assuaged through the Master’s afflictions. We are also reminded by this commemoration of the hope ushered in for us through the Cross of glory. For as our Savior mounted the Cross, being glorified through dishonor and grief, so should we also endure our sorrows in order to be glorified with Him.
As those who have undertaken a long and hard journey, so now in this time of the Fast have the Holy Fathers planted the Life-Giving Cross FOR OUR RELIEF AND REFRESHMENT TO ENCOURAGE AND MAKE EASIER THE LABORS THAT LIE AHEAD. It is the same as when there is a royal procession, the king’s scepter and banners precede his entry. He, then, makes a triumphant appearance himself, radiant and joyous to his victory. This also rebounds to rejoicing in his subjects. Our Lord Jesus Christ, desiring to show His sure trophy over death and His glory on the day of the Resurrection, sends o ahead His Scepter, the Sign of His Kingship, the Life-Giving Cross. It is not only to gladdens and refreshes us but ALSO FORTIFIES AND ENABLES US TO BE PREPARED TO RECEIVE THE KING WITH ALL POSSIBLE STRENGTH, AND TO PRAISE HIM IN HIS RADIANT VICTORY. This week lies at the middle of the holy Forty-day Fast.
We bring to mind how Moses plunged the branch in the bitter waters of Marah, thereby sweetening them. In like manner, God, Who has led us through the spiritual Red Sea away from Pharaoh, THROUGH THE LIFE-GIVING WOOD OF THE PRECIOUS AND LIFE-GIVING CROSS SWEETENS THE BITTERNESS OF THE FORTY-DAY FAST. He consoles us during our course through the desert of the Fast, carrying the noetic Jerusalem. Since the Cross is called and indeed is, The Tree of Life, it is fitting that the Holy Fathers have planted the Tree of the Cross in the Middle of the Forty-Day Fast. Today, the Third Sunday of the Fast, IS A REMINDER NOT ONLY OF HOW PARTAKING OF THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE LED TO DEATH BUT ALSO OF HOW VENERATION OF THE Tree of the Cross LEADS TO LIFE.
Through the power of Thy Cross, O Christ God,
preserve us also from the temptations of the evil one.
Vouchsafe us to venerate Thy Divine Passion and Life-bearing
Resurrection, having traversed to the end of the course of the
Forty-days with ease and dexterity, and have mercy on us, as
Thou alone art good and the Lover of mankind. Amen.
Saint Athanasios wrote: “We read that ‘thy life shall be suspended before thine eyes’ [Deuteronomy 28:66]; and elsewhere in the psalms: They dug into My hands and My feet; they reckoned up all My bones, and they observed well and watched over Me’ [Psalm 21:15]. They parted among themselves My garments for themselves, and upon My clothing, they cast a lot’ [Psalm 21:16]. Now a death raised aloft and that takes place on a tree could be none other than the Cross: and again, in no other death are the hands and feet pierced, save on the Cross only. But which of the holy Prophets died on a cross for the salvation of all? Or who was wounded and destroyed for the healing of all? Or which of the righteous men, or kings, went down to Egypt, so that at his coming the idols of Egypt fell?”
1. What is “the breadth and length and depth and height?” [Ephesians 3:18].
“The length and breadth of the Cross is the equal of heaven’s span. By
means of Divine grace, it hallows the universe. And, the Cross is lifted up and the
entire cosmos is sanctified. For while throned with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
by stretching out Thy hands upon it hast Thou drawn the whole world to Thyself.”
[September 14th, Orthros Exapostelarion, Mode Two]
Saint Gregory of Nyssa interprets as well for us: “The Apostle is describing by the figure of the Cross the power that controls and holds together the universe when he expresses a desire that they may be exalted to know the exceeding glory of his power, calling it height, and depth, and breadth, and length” [Ephesians 3:18]… It manifests a great mystery: that both things in heaven. and things under the earth, and all the furthest bounds of the things that are, are ruled and sustained by Him Who gave an example of this unspeakable and mighty power in the figure of the Cross.”
“Rejoice, O Cross, thrice-blessed and Divine Wood, a light to those in darkness. Shining
on the four corners of the earth, thou dost prepare us for the dawn of Christ’s resurrection. O
grant to all the faithful that they may come to the Feast of Pascha.” [Third Sunday in the Great Fast,
“The Lord Himself,” Saint Gregory Palamas observes, “when He was going to ascend the Cross, openly referred to it as His lifting up and His glory, ‘Even as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, thus it is needful for the Son of Man to be lifted up, that everyone who believeth in Him should not perish, but may have everlasting life [John 3:14-15]. And He announced that when He came again and manifested Himself, this sign of the Son of Man appear in the heaven, and then the tribes of the earth shall mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the heaven with power and great glory [Matthew 24:30].
Saint John Chrysostom, commenting on this verse, notes: ‘And Then shall the Sign of the Son of Man appear in the heaven’ [έν τω ουρανώ], that is, the Cross, being BRIGHTER THAN THE SUN–SINCE THE LATTER SHALL BE DARKENED AND HIDE ITSELF–WILL APPEAR… BRIGHTER THAN THE RAYS OF THE SUN.” Blessed Theophylact asks: “What need is there for such a sensory light since there is no night and the Sun of Righteousness has appeared? But even the powers of the heavens shall be shaken, that is, they shall be astounded and shudder seeing creation altered and all mankind, from Adam up till then, about to give account.”
Saint Paul boasts in the Cross and who ‘decided not to know anything among the Corinthians, ‘EXCEPT JESUS CHRIST, EVEN THIS ONE WHO WAS CRUCIFIED’ [1 Corinthians 2:2). Saint Paul says that ‘WE PROCLAIM CHRIST WHO HATH BEEN CRUCIFIED, TO JEWS, ON THE ONE HAND, A STUMBLING BLOCK, AND TO GREEKS, ON THE OTHER HAND, FOOLISHNESS’ [1 Corinthians 1:23]. For, the Jews, do not believe in the saving Passion and the Greeks value transitory things above all else because of their complete disbelief in God’s promises regarding Christ crucified: ‘But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ, God’s power and God’s wisdom [1 Corinthians 1:24].
“THIS IS THE WISDOM AND POWER OF GOD: TO BE VICTORIOUS THROUGH WEAKNESS, EXALTED THROUGH HUMILITY, RICH THROUGH POVERTY. Not only the word and the mystery of the Cross are divine and to be reverenced, but so also is its Sign. For it is a Holy, Saving, and Venerable Seal, able to hallow and perfect all the good, marvelous, and indescribable things that God has done for the human race. It can take away the curse and condemnation, destroy corruption and death, bestow Eternal Life and blessing. It is the Wood of Salvation, the Regal Scepter, the Divine Trophy of victory over visible and invisible enemies, even though the heretics’ followers are insanely displeased. They have not attained to the Apostle’s prayer, given in Ephesians, wherein he writes: “I bow my knee to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ… that He would grant you, according to the wealth of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that the Christ might dwell in your hearts THROUGH FAITH, HAVING BEEN ROOTED AND FOUNDED ON LOVE, in order that ye might be able to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ which SURPASSETH KNOWLEDGE OF HIS COMING IN THE FLESH, AND CONTAINS WITHIN IT THE WHOLE MYSTERY OF THIS DISPENSATION. Extending in all directions, it embraces everything above, below, around, and between” [Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church]
(To be continued)
“Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George