September 14, 2022

Homily One on the Exaltation of the Cross of the Lord (St. Luke of Simferopol)

 By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on September 14/27, 1952)

Yesterday at Vespers you contemplated with deep reverence the ceremony of the exaltation of the cross of the Lord.

God bless you for this reverence, but is it enough? Is it enough to see the carrying out of the cross only three times a year, arousing your awe? Oh no, not at all! Much more is needed. It is necessary that the cross of Christ be imprinted on your hearts, and not just hung on your chest.

In the Middle Ages, there was a Teutonic Order of knights. A large cross was sewn on their cloaks, but with this sign of Christ they shed the blood of dark Lithuanian and Estonian pagans in streams, forcing them to be baptized with fire and sword.

Were these crusader knights Christians? No, they were not; for with true Christians the cross must be indelibly inscribed on the very heart.

The cross is our banner, the symbol of our religion. No other religion has such a banner. The Muslims use the crescent moon as the banner of their religion; but what is holy and great in this banner?

And the holy cross is the banner of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, this great banner will precede Him at His second coming to the Last Judgment. It has been revealed by God to people more than once.

Byzantine emperor Constantine the Great, who approved Christianity in the Roman Empire, going to battle with enemies, saw a cross in the sky with the words written around it: "In this sign thou shalt conquer."

The famous commander, the pagan Eustathios Plakidas, hunting for deer, saw a deer standing on a cliff with a cross shining like sunlight between its horns and heard a voice: “Plakidas! A man of such a life as you cannot worship idols, but must confess Christ.” By the appearance of the cross, he was called with his entire family to baptism and martyrdom for Christ.

In the year 351, on the seventh of May, at about three o'clock in the afternoon in Jerusalem, the cross of Christ, shining brighter than the sunlight, suddenly appeared in the sky from Golgotha to the Mount of Olives. This was a foreshadowing of the persecution of Christians by the emperors Valens the Arian and Julian the Apostate.

So, if the cross of Christ is the great banner of Christians and the banner of Christ Himself, then shouldn't it be indelibly inscribed on our very hearts?

Of course, of course! And this is the great task of our life.

It is not easy to form a cross on the heart; this requires, first of all, tireless contemplation of the cross.

Few can tirelessly think about it, but at least once a day, in the morning prayers, pronouncing the awesome words of the creed: “He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered, and was buried,” each of you should vividly imagine the whole horror of the crucifixion of Christ, and at least to a small extent to experience with Him the horror of His suffering. The blows of the terrible Roman scourge, which tore off pieces of the body of Christ, let them cause you acute pain. Let the sound of the hammer, driving terrible nails into the most pure hands and feet of Christ, resound with horror in your ears and hearts.

I spoke about the everlasting remembrance of the greatest atrocity of the human race - the crucifixion of the Son of God.

Only those who, together with the Apostle Paul, can always remember: “By the Cross of my Lord Jesus Christ the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14), who do not want to boast in anything except the cross of the Lord.

In the Roman Church there was the great Saint Francis of Assisi, who from constant intense thought about the sufferings of Christ, about His wounds, hemorrhages formed on his hands and feet at the places of Christ's wounds from nails.

And not only Francis of Assisi, but also some saints of the Orthodox Church, had such stigmata on their arms and legs.

The cross of Christ is traced with fiery signs on the hearts of the holy martyrs and all uncomplaining sufferers for Christ.

Firmly remember the words of Christ: “A good man brings forth good out of the good treasure of his heart, but an evil man brings forth evil out of the evil treasure of his heart” (Luke 6:45).

From the heart, on which the cross of Christ is inscribed, nothing evil comes out, and there is no access for demons to it.

When, in a forty-year wandering in the wilderness, God punished the Jews who grumbled at Him with an invasion of snakes, and Moses prayed to God for mercy on the people, God commanded him to erect a likeness of a rod with a bronze serpent hanging on it, and all those stung by snakes, looking at this symbol of the crucifixion Christ, were healed.

Let us also look unceasingly with faith and tears at the cross of Christ, and we will receive from Him the healing of our sinful sores.

Let us unceasingly impress the cross of Christ on our hearts by diligent fulfillment of the commandments of Christ, and then the words of the Lord Jesus will come true for us: “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21).

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.