March 28, 2014

The Seal of the Cross and the End of the World

By Fr. Vasilios I. Kalliakmanis

A) In recent years the issue of the end of the world has received much publicity. Online and print media, both secular and religious, have devoted thousands of pages to "informing the public". Alongside these things films have also aired with breathtaking visuals and analogous content, having as a subject the year "2012". There was so much interest regarding this issue and so many questions were posed to scientists that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in America was forced to open a relevant website and give answers refuting the rumors about the destruction of the universe.

B) A common theme in all these reports is the development of catastrophology and a sense of doom, causing fear and confusion even among the elect. This confusion was exacerbated by autonomous Christian opinions, the economic crisis, wars, social upheaval, earthquakes, and the social evils that seem to be triumphing. And the questions that arise are: How does a person of God remain standing and treat this situation? Should they remain indifferent? Should they panic? Is it simply satisfying their curiosity and then they return to the shallow and meaningless everyday? Should they be complacent?

C) As the careful reader understands, it is difficult to provide comprehensive answers in this format. However, in the Christian tradition and liturgical time there are established spiritual criteria so that the Christian can discern the "signs of the times" and be constantly alert. Meanwhile, the ship of the Church always travels through the stormy sea and is heading towards the eschaton. It journeys amidst many traps towards the day of the Lord, "the great and revealing" (Joel 2:31).

D) An image of this journey is the period of Great Lent which we are in. Here the expected revealing day is the bright-bearing Sunday of the Resurrection, the day of our meeting with the Resurrected Christ. Thus, waiting and expectation strengthen hope and create joy. But the fatigue of asceticism and fasting, the secular mentality and the worldly view of life bring spiritual indolence and raises insurmountable obstacles as we head towards this salvific meeting.

E) For this reason the Church, on the Third Sunday of the Fast, sets before us the sun-like Cross of the Lord, the tree with shady leaves and life-bearing fruit. Under this the weary rest and the thirsty from the pains of life are quenched. The honorable strugglers are encouraged and inspired in the many-formed struggle against the passions. And it is not only on the feast of the Veneration of the Cross when the Honorable Cross is set before us as a weapon against the devil and the Antichrist.

F) The Christian is secured with the seal of Christ from the day of their holy Baptism. They are prepared with divine gifts against evil powers. They are sealed with "the gift of the Holy Spirit" with the Chrism. Meanwhile, they themselves are sealed cosswise when they do their cross. And these things not only arm the honorable fighter, but they remind him of the wreath of victory and the gladness of the meeting.

G) Therefore, the expectation of the end of the world and the Second Coming of Christ, for the one who crucifies the world within them, is not a source of fear and panic, but a pleasant expectation. The person of God is not so much concerned with the time of the end of the world as much as with their spiritual condition. They are not complacent and anxious, but they repent and are sure they are in constant readiness and watchful alertness, lest "your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap" (Lk. 21:34).

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.