September 14, 2020

Homily Two for the Exaltation of the Honorable Cross (Archim. George Kapsanis)

By Archimandrite Fr. George Kapsanis,
Former Abbot of Gregoriou Monastery, Mount Athos

(Homily Delivered in 1986)

It is true that everything in the Church of Christ and in the life of Christians is sealed by the Cross of the Lord. There is nothing that happens in our Holy Church or in the life of the pious that is not sealed with the Honorable Cross of Christ. The Mystery of the Divine Eucharist is completed with the seal of the Honorable Cross. All the blessings of the priests of the Church are sealed with the Cross. The first mystery of salvation, Holy Baptism, is accomplished through the Honorable Cross. And in our daily lives, from the time we wake up to the time we lie down, and from the time we are born to the time we surrender our souls to God, and when others will surrender our perishable bodies to the grave, again the Cross seals them all.

Of course, this is not accidental, nor is it done simply to have some divine power or some divine protection or some divine blessing. Of course, this is possible, but if we look deeper into things, we will see that the Cross is an inalienable companion of the life of the Christian and the life of the Church. Because the Cross is the essence of the Orthodox faith and the Christian life. Whether we say "life in Christ" or "life in the Cross of Christ", we say the same thing. The work of Christ has no meaning without His Cross. The life of a Christian has no meaning without their participation in the Cross of Christ. That is why everything a Christian does, if they do it in the spirit of the Cross of Christ, is Christian. Whatever they do not do in the spirit of the Cross of Christ, is carnal, is egotistical, is selfish, is anti-God, is outside the Grace of God. So there are two ways of life, the non-crucifixion way and the crucifixion way. And the non-crucifixion way is the way of egoism, it is the way of the secular, it is the way of anthropocentrism, it is the way in which man lives with himself and not with God and his brethren. While the way of the Cross of Christ is the way in which man tries to overcome the carnal mind, to defeat the old man, to overcome his selfishness and to live as one offered to God and offered to his brethren.

If the Cross of Christ has so much power and the crucifixion death of Christ has so much power, it has it because on His Cross Christ restored man to his true trajectory and nature. He corrected through His perfect obedience, to the point of the Cross and death, the disobedience of Adam, the rebellion of Adam, by which man was separated from God. The whole tragedy of man was sin, the egoism of Adam, which separated him from God. All the correction of this great tragedy of Adam was made by the ineffable kenosis of the Son of God, the culmination of which was His Cross. And because on the Cross of Christ all the error of Adam and Eve and the people before Christ was corrected, that is why the Cross of Christ is a great victory of Christ against the devil and of sin and death. That is why the devil is so afraid of the Cross of Christ, because on His Cross Christ overthrew all his work, all the machinations he had done, all the cunning he had done, all the methods he had done, by which were held captive the human race. But the Lord there on the Cross defeated him and destroyed him with His extreme humility and His perfect obedience to the holy will of God His Father.

So we also see that as Christians we have no other way to live but the way of the Cross of Christ. Sharing in, that is, every minute the humility of Christ, the sacrifice of Christ, the victory against our passions and our egoism and our own sick and sinful will. Every time we commit a sin, an egoism, a pride, a disobedience, and of the same will we accept a bad thought, every time we see the other person selfishly, carnally, we want to take advantage of him, in every such moment we betray the Cross of Christ and we cease to live in the way of the Cross of Christ and we live in the way of the old Adam, who is non-crucified and egocentric.

But glory to God there is repentance for every time the devil leads us to think that our happiness is not to live in the way of the Cross of Christ but in the way of the old Adam. Glory to God that there is the great love of God, that which was revealed on the Cross, and we can with our repentance ask for the forgiveness of the Lord and immediately find the right way, to live our lives as being crucified again.

You will have noticed, my brethren, that this is a common trick and a delusion of the devil. The devil usually leads us to think that our happiness is not to live as being crucified, not to see others as an image of God, as our brethren in Christ, but to see them selfishly, to see them carnally, to see them in a way in order to take advantage of them, to want to impose ourselves on the other and not to serve the other, as the Lord said: "I came not to be served, but to serve." But then what do we see? And what do the people who have chosen this way of life see? We see that in the non-crucified way of life there is no true joy and happiness of man. Then the devil whistles in our ear. He says to us: “Why do you want to live as one crucified? If you live as one crucified, you will live backwards in your life, others will take advantage of you, they will make fun of you, they will deplete you, you will become the fool." It is the art of the devil, it is the temptation of the devil. "Why do you not live like everyone else? To exploit others, to use others, to see others not as images of God but as vessels of pleasure, to live for yourself, not to live for God or for people?" And the afflicted person believes these things and accepts them and thinks that in the non-crucifixion life they will really find true joy and true rest; but they do not find it.

And behold, today the Cross of our Lord rises again and reminds all of us and the whole world that when we choose the Cross as our way of life, then we have both the Resurrection and our true freedom and our true rest in the love of God and in the love of our brethren, then we have the true peace of Christ. Therefore, you also see this great mystery of our piety and faith, that where there is a Cross, there is a Resurrection, and where there is a Resurrection, there the Cross has definitely preceded. Whereas nowhere is there a Resurrection, if the Cross of Christ did not exist there before.

And because these were given to us by our Holy Church, these we received through the work of our Lord, our God-man Christ crucified on the Cross. This life was lived by the holy Apostles, the holy Fathers, the holy Ascetics who settled in the deserts, all Saints who lived in the congregations as faithful servants of Jesus Christ, who let us know that this is the whole Gospel of Christ. That is why we as Christians want to live in the way of the Cross of Christ. And we as Monks for this reason go out to the blessed desert, to this holy Crucifixion-Resurrection place of our Panagia, to live the Cross of Christ and in the way of the Cross of Christ. That is why today we especially feel the blessing of today, the day of the Exaltation of the Honorable and Life-Givng Cross.

As you have heard in the prayer we read - the prayer before the ambon - which is one of the ancient prayers before the ambon of the Church, which says: "Raise us, Lord, to the true height, which is done through Your Cross, through the participation in Your Cross, and protect us from the false heights, with which Satan seeks to deceive us, that he will supposedly raise us, and we, when we believe in him, instead of rising, fall down and fall until we reach hell."

May God grant, brothers and fathers, to all of us His Grace, to open the eyes of our souls and to understand this great mystery of the Cross of Christ, which is not understood once or twice. It is an endless mystery, in which throughout our whole life with the Grace of God we will learn and yet it will remain inexhaustible. And every time we will live it and say, "we have not experienced it yet", and every time we will taste it and we will still want more to taste and experience it, even in our fallenness and in our weakness.

May the Lord therefore allow us to always be at the feet of the crucified Lord, apprentices in this great and awesome lesson of the crucifixion of the Lord and thus participating in His living Resurrection. May the Lord grant us to be Christians who are Crucified-Resurrected and Monks who are Crucified-Resurrected.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.