April 3, 2016

The Mystery of the Cross

By Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria

Saint Gregory Palamas, teaching his blessed flock in Thessaloniki on the Third Sunday of the Fast, known as that of the Veneration of the Cross in our ecclesiastical language, and praising the Cross of Christ as well as the friends of the Cross, both in the Old and New Testaments, he describes it as "a great mystery and truly divine."

First. The Mystery of the Cross

From an instrument of conviction it is now viewed as a symbol of triumph and life, becoming a trophy of victory and throne of Christ the King, on which "through His own blood and His own fingers painted red He signed the liberation of humanity from the bonds of death and sin." And while until then a countless number of convicts were crucified by this instrument, after the Crucifixion of Christ the Cross became "the beautiful Paradise of the Church, the tree of immortality, the undefeated trophy of Christians, the door of Paradise, the irresistible weapon and opponent of demons," as the hymnographers of the Church chant full of enthusiasm.

This is why Saint John Chrysostom, speaking of the wondrous change of the Cross, asked: "How did this symbol of death become desirable and eagerly sought? How is it that we form on our bodies this form? How do we wear it as our best adornment? If the power of the Crucified was not great, why is it that no other miracle done by God until that time He did not show the greatness of His power and did not bring change to the world and salvation except by the Cross? In such the Cross prevailed, and after these things He showed forth His might."

Second. The Mystery of the Cross

Under the shadow and bright lightning of grace, the Venerables, Righteous and Martyrs "who contested well and were crowned," lived sacrificially and lovingly, bringing their present life to an end crucified. And this secret, subversive, and the regenerative power of the Cross and sanctifying power of the Cross scatters to believers and its noetic fountain runs without ceasing, as Saint Theodore the Studite wrote: "It drives no one away and denies no one of its abundant goodness, and even the purified are more purified, freeing them from the stains of dirty thoughts, gathering the pretentious, stinging the slack-hearted, strengthening the paralyzed, softening the hardened and callous."

Third. The Mystery of the Cross

It is an unexplained mystery according to human measures. A mystery we experience daily, those of us who walk along the narrow path of life "who are concerned with the beginning and end of our faith, Jesus." The Cross is a mystery. A mystery of love, power, freedom and life. "And only the name of the Cross scatters sanctification generously," remarks Saint Theodore the Studite. And he concludes: "By the Cross death has died and Adam is made alive, the Martyrs are crowned and the Venerables have reached the heights of holiness. With the Cross we have been clothed in Christ and have shaken off the old man, the garment of sin. With the Cross we defeat the passions and freely follow along the path of an otherworldly life. Whoever bears the Cross on their shoulders, becomes an imitator of Christ, and is sanctified and glorified with Christ."

The Cross of Christ, my beloved brethren, we also place our hopes and stamina in today, because it is a safe refuge for Christians and the sweet consolation of every tortured soul. We also lean on the Cross of Christ in our turbulent times with the presence of war and the humiliation of the human person, to seek peace, unity and humanity, since it is a "prize of peace and friendly agreement between heaven and earth." Let us kiss it with joy and fear, and let us supplicate that it will:

- cover the fervent singers of hymns,

- save all those who faithfully kiss and venerate it,

- guide the people along Orthodox and peaceful paths,

- guard the Bishops,

- strengthen the Priests,

- prepare the future priesthood, as this year it is also the week of priestly inclinations,

- and fill the world with the spirit of love for our Lord Jesus Christ.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.