My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
THE THIRD SUNDAY OF HOLY AND GREAT LENT:
ON THE VENERATION OF THE PRECIOUS AND LIFE-GIVING CROSS. (Part II)
By Saint Gregory Palamas
Lord our God, willingly You spread Your Divine hands to be nailed
on the Holy Cross. Count us worthy to venerate it with a heart
contrite and penitent, and with our bodies and souls aglow through
self-control and prayer and prayer and good deeds and from fasting.
for You are Good and Love humanity.
Lord, I pray, blot out my abundant transgressions according to the
abundance of Your compassion, Merciful Savior. And in Your love
for humanity, account me worthy to see and venerate Your Holy Cross,
during this fourth week of Lenten fasting, with my soul and body purified.
Truly amazing! On view is the Tree on which Christ was physically crucified.
The world venerates it, and illumined cries out: How great is the Cross’s
power! When demons simply look at it, it burns them. We make the sign of it,
and indeed it scorches them. O immaculate Tree, I extol you; with fear I
venerate and honor. And I send up glory to God my Savior, Who through you
to me granted never-ending life. [Third Saturday, Vespers]
Whereas earthly kings require those who follow them to be prepared to die for them, the Lord gave Himself over to death for our sake and commands us to be ready to die not for His sake, BUT FO OURS. To make it clear that it is FOR OUR OWN SAKE, HE ADDS, "For whosoever will save his soul shall lose it; but WHOSOEVER SHALL LOSE HIS SOUL FOR MY SAKE AND THE GOSPEL’S, THE SAME SHALL SAVE IT" (Mark 8:35). What doe this mean, that anyone who wants to save it shall lose it, and anyone who loses it shall save it? Man is twofold, consisting of our outward man, THE BODY, and our INWARD MAN, THE SOUL. When our outward man gives himself over to death, he loses his soul, being separated from it. But when SOMEONE LOSES HIS SOUL FOR CHRIST AND THE GOSPEL, HE CLEARLY SAVES AND GAINS IT, BECAUSE HE HAS PROCURED FOR IT ETERNA LIFE IN HEAVEN. In the resurrection, HE WILL RECOVER IT, and by means of it he will become, even in his body I say, just as heavenly and eternal as it is. Anyone, by contrast, who clings to life is not prepared to lose his soul in this way, because HE LOVES THIS FLEETING AGE AND EVERYTHING TO DO WITH IT. He will inflict loss on his soul, depriving it of True Life, and he will lose it, surrendering it along with himself, alas, to ETERNAL PUNISHMENT. The All-Merciful Lord mourned for such people and indicated how great a disaster was theirs by saying, "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? O what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8:36-37). For neither his glory nor any of the other deceptive honors and delights of this present age, chosen by him in preference to a death which brings salvation, will go down with him. How could any of these things be given in exchange for a human soul, WHICH IS WORTHY MORE THAN THE WHOLE WORLD?
Even if a man could gain the whole world, brethren, it would be OF NO BENEFIT TO HIM BECAUSE HE WOULD HAVE LOST HIS OWN SOUL. In reality, each person can only acquire an infinitely small share of this world. What a disaster, then, if someone loses his soul in his efforts to acquire this tiny share, rather than choosing TO TAKE UP THE SIGN AND WORD OF THE CROSS AND TO FOLLOW THE GIVEN OF LIFE. Now both the Sign which we reverence and the word concerning it are, in fact, the Cross.
As the word and the mystery came before the Sign itself, we shall expound them to your love first. Or rather, Saint Paul expounded them before us, Paul who boasts in the Cross, determined not to know anything, SAVE THE LORD JESUS, AND Him CRUCIFIED (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:2). What does he say? The Cross means CRUCIFYING THE FLESH WITH ITS PASSIONS AND DESIRES (cf. Galatians 5:24). Do you think he is referring only to the passions of sensual pleasure and gluttony? In that case, he would not have written to the Corinthians, "Since there is among you strife and divisions are ye not carnal and walk as men?" (1 Corinthians 3:3). Consequently anyone who loves glory or money or simply wants to impose his own will in his eagerness to prevail, is carnal and walks as men since such things are the source of divisions. As Saint James (Iakovos), the Lord’s brother, says, "Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?" (James 4:1-2). Crucifying the flesh with its passions and longings means STOPPING ALL ACTIVITY WHICH IS DISPLEASING TO GOD. Although our body may pull us down and exert pressure on us, we must still lift it up urgently to the height of the Cross. What am I trying to say? When the Lord was on earth He lived life of poverty, and not just lived but PREACHED POVERTY, SAYING, "Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciples" (Luke 14:33).
Surely we should honor and use this Divine Trophy of the freedom of the whole human race. Its appearance alone puts the serpent, the originator of evil, to flight, triumphs over him, and disgraces him, proclaiming him defeated and crushed. It glorifies and magnifies Christ, and displays His victory to the world. If it were really necessary to disregard the Cross because Christ suffered death on it, then His death too would be neither honorable nor salutary. So how can we have been baptized into His death, as the Apostle tells us (Romans 6:3)? And how can we share in His Resurrection, if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death?" (Romans 6:5). On the other hand, if someone were to reverence the Sign of the Cross without the Lord’s name written upon it, he could justly be accused of doing something incorrectly. Since "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in the earth, and things under the earth" (Philippians 2:10), and the Cross bears this Venerable Name. How very foolish not to bow the knee at Christ’s Cross!
Inclining our hearts as well as bending our knees, come, "let us worship", with David the psalmist and prophet, "at the place where His feet stood" (Psalm 132:7), where His All-embracing hands were outspread and His Life-Giving body was stretched out for our sake. As we reverence and greet the Cross with faith, let us draw and keep the abundant sanctification flowing from it. Then, at the sublimely glorious future advent of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, as we see Him come in glory we shall rejoice and skip for joy unceasingly, having attained a place on His right hand and heard the promised joyful words and blessings, to the glory of the Son of God crucified in the flesh for us.
For to Him belongs All Glory, together with His Father without beginning and the All-Holy, Good, and Life-Giving Spirit, now and forever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
"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