March 23, 2014

The Forgotten Feast and Hidden Mysteries of the Cross

1. In my sermon today, my Christian brethren, I will speak to you about the Honorable Cross, the sacred symbol of our faith. Everything in our Church operates through the Cross.

When making the sign of the Cross we declare that we believe in Jesus Christ and belong to His Holy Church. When the pagan kings and emperors asked Christians to tell them what they believed, they did their Cross and proclaimed their faith this way.

2. Our Church honors the Honorable Cross with a great feast on September 14th, the so-called "Universal Exaltation of the Honorable Cross". But today, my brethren, I want to speak to you of another feast of the Cross, that we have forgotten.

Did you know that the Cross on which Christ was crucified, was buried below the earth on Golgotha, and by a survey done by Saint Constantine and Saint Helen it was found miraculously? When did this great event take place? It took place in 326 A.D. on March 6th. And why don't we celebrate with the ringing of bells and a great celebration this wondrous and grand and bright event of our faith?

This subject, my beloved, hides a truth, a liturgical and spiritual truth. Please listen: March 6th falls in the period of Great Lent, because, as our people say: "March is never absent of Lent". And during Lent a Divine Liturgy is not allowed, except on Saturdays and Sundays. Why? Because Lent has a mournful character - we are going to the Passion of Christ in Holy Week - and the Divine Liturgy is joyful, having a resurrectional character. Therefore, we cannot celebrate a Divine Liturgy on March 6th, because usually this day falls on a weekday, and without a Divine Liturgy we cannot have a celebration.

But we can't also lose this feast of the discovery of the Honorable Cross so we can venerate it with brilliance in our Church. Listen, my Christians, what our Church has done: when an important feast falls within Great Lent, that the Church wants to set before us, then it takes it from the day on which it is honored - because this day is on a weekday - and it transfers it to a Sunday of Great Lent, on which a Divine Liturgy can take place.

3. The theology of the Cross and the theology of the Theotokos are two great mysteries that summarize our entire faith. And this is because both of these are great, which is why they are paralleled: whatever is said about the Cross is said about the Panagia, and whatever is said about the Panagia is said about the Cross! I will refer to one or two examples: What is the Cross? It is a tree which has a deep root below ground, the tree that has as a sweet fruit Divine Communion and beneath the shadow of this tree rest the children of the Cross. And of our Panagia we similarly say: "Rejoice, tree with fruit of gladness, from which believers feed; Rejoice, wood with leaves of shade, by which many are covered!"

The Cross was also that key that opened Paradise. For thousands of years Paradise was closed, but with the crucifixion of our Christ, like a key it opened Paradise, and the first to enter it was a sinner, a very sinful man, the thief. And of our Panagia we similarly say: "Rejoice, you who opened Paradise; Rejoice, the key of Christ's Kingdom!"

4. I told you, my Christians, that the Cross generally contains our entire faith. Listen to an interpretation of Saint Kosmas Aitolos regarding the Cross. The three fingers, with which we do our Cross, proclaims the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. By uniting these fingers we proclaim that the three Divine Persons are consubstantial.

"Trinity, consubstantial and inseparable". By placing our hand on our head and then our stomach we proclaim that Christ descended from the heavens into the Stomach of our Panagia and was incarnated. He became man for us. This is the First Coming of Christ down to earth. And by putting our hand to the right and left shoulder we proclaim the Second Coming of Christ as if we are silently praying: My Christ, at Your Second Coming, when You will judge the world, place me on Your Right, in Paradise, and not on Your Left in Hell.

You see, then, my Christians, that when we do the sign of the Cross we proclaim the Holy Trinity, our Panagia, and the First and Second Coming of our Christ. Even by the movement of the Cross we proclaim our faith in the crucifixion death of Christ, by which our salvation came.

5. My Christians, all of you should have a Cross on you. Before you sleep at night do a cross over your pillow three times and say: "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit". I will also tell you something else: whatever thing you get and place in your home, great or small, cross it. This is what they did in the olden days, our holy grandmothers, who also crossed with the candle of Pascha the lintel of the door of the house. Their entire house had crosses and this is why it was blessed and the Cross of Christ protected it.

I pray that you, my Christians, will have courage in your lives and take strength from the Almighty Honorable Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

With many prayers,

† Metropolitan Jeremiah of Gortynos and Megalopolis

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.