On the Precious and Life-Giving Cross

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,


On the Precious and Life-Giving Cross

"But God forbid that I should boast except in the Cross of
Our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been
crucified to me, and I to the world" (Galatians 6:14).

Throughout the history of the Church, Christians have preached the Cross, displayed the Cross in their homes and altars, venerated the Cross in the Divine Liturgy, worn the Cross on their person, signed themselves with the Cross in the worship of the Holy Trinity, and during times of danger and temptation.

On the Third Sunday (Sunday of the Cross) during Holy and Great Lent. On this day the service of Orthros (Matins) concludes the solemn Veneration of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross; the ceremonies are closely parallel to those at the feasts of Exaltation of the Cross (14 September) and the Procession of the Cross (1st August). The Veneration of the Cross on this Third Sunday in Lent PREPARES US FOR THE COMMEMORATION OF THE Crucifixion which is soon to follow in Holy and Great Week, and at the same time it REMINDS US THAT THE WHOLE OF LENT IS A PERIOD WHEN WE ARE CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST: as the Synaxarion at Orthros (Matins) says, ‘Through the Forty-Day Fast, WE TOO ARE IN AWAY CRUCIFIED, DYING TO THE PASSIONS.’ The dominant note on this Sunday, as on the two Sundays preceding, is ONE OF JOY AND TRIUMPH. In the Canon at Orthros (Matins), the Irmoi are the same as the Pasch Midnight, ‘This is the day of Resurrection…’, and the Troparia are in part a paraphrase of the Paschal Canon by Saint John of Damascus. No separation is made between Christ’s Death and His Resurrection, but the Cross is regarded as an emblem of VICTORY and Calvary is seen in the light of the Empty Tomb.

On the Precious and Life-Giving Cross Saint Gregory Palamas writes, "The Cross of Christ was mysteriously proclaimed in advance and foreshadowed from generations of old, and no one was ever reconciled with God except by the power of the Cross. After our First Parents transgressed against God through the tree in Paradise, sin came to life, but we died, submitting, even before physical death, TO THE DEATH OF THE SOUL, its SEPARATION FROM GOD. After the transgression we lived in sin and according to the flesh. Sin "is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Romans 8:7-8).

The first mystery of the Cross is flight from the world, and parting from our relatives according to the flesh, if they are a hindrance to piety and a devout life, and training our body which Saint Paul tells us is of some value (1 Timothy 4:8). In these ways the world and sin are crucified to us, once we have fled from them. According to the second mystery of the Cross, however, WE ARE CRUCIFIED TO THE WORLD AND THE PASSIONS, once they have fled from us. It is not of course possible for them to leave us completely and not be at work IN OUR THOUGHTS UNLESS WE ATTAIN TO CONTEMPLATION OF GOD. When, through action, we approach contemplation and cultivate and cleanse OUR INNER MAN, SEARCHING FOR THE DIVINE TREASURE WHICH WE OURSELVES HAVE HIDDEN, AND CONSIDERING THE KINGDOM OF GOD WITHIN US, THEN IT IS THAT WE CRUCIFY OURSELVES TO THE WORLD AND THE PASSIONS. Through MEDITATION OF THIS A CERTAIN WARMTH IS BORN IN OUR HEART, WHICH CHASES AWAY EVIL THOUGHTS LIKE FLIES, INSTILLS PEACE AND CONSOLATION IN OUR SOUL, AND BESTOWES SANCTIFICATION ON OUR BODY. One of our God-bearing Fathers taught us saying, "STRIVE AS HARD AS YOU CAN TO ENSURE THAT YOUR INNER LABOR IS ACCORDING TO GOD’S WILL, AND YOU WILL CONQUER THE OUTWARD PASSIONS."

Not only the world 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 had done for the human race. It can take away the curse and condemnation, destroy corruption and death, and 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 understood that the Lord’s Cross DISCLOSES THE ENTIRE DISPENSATION 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. The heretics abhor the sign of the King of Glory (Psalm 247:7-10), putting forward an excuse, in accordance with which, if they were reasonable, they ought to reverence the Cross along with us. The Lord Himself, when He was going to ascend the Cross, openly referred to it as His lifting up and His glory (John 3: 14-15). And He announced that when He came again and manifested Himself, THIS SIGN OF THE SON OF MAN WOULD COME WITH POWER AND GREAT GLORY (Matthew 14:30).

The heretics say that because Christ died nailed to the Cross, they cannot bear to see the form of the Wood on which He was put to death. But where was the handwriting nailed which was drawn up against us because of our disobedience, when our Forefather stretched out his hand to the tree? How was it taken out of the way and obliterated, enabling us to return to God’s blessing? Where did Christ despoil and drive completely away the principalities and powers of the evil spirits, which had taken hold on our nature since the time OF THE TREE OF DISOBEDIENCE? Where did He Triumph over them and put them to shame, so that we could be set free? Where was the middle wall of partition broken down and our enmity towards God abolished and put to death? By what means were we reconciled with God and how did we hear the Good News of peace with Him? Surely it was on the Cross and by means of the Cross. Let those who doubt listen to what the Apostle Paul writes to the Ephesians, "For Christ is our peace, who hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; for to make in himself of twain ONE NEW MAN, so making peace; and that he might RECONCILE BOTH UNTO GOD IN ONE BODY BY THE CROSS, HAVING SLAIN THE ENMITY THEREBY" (Ephesians 2:14-16). (Source: Saint Gregory Palamas. The Homilies)

(To be continued)


"Glory Be To GOD
All Things!"
– Saint John Chrysostomos
+ + +

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

+ Father George

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