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September 16, 2022

Homily Three 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, 1954)
The Cross of Christ is the great banner of our salvation, and the everlasting memory of it is most important for us. But the worries of life overwhelm us, and we easily forget about this most important thing. The Lord Jesus Christ perfectly knew the human heart, knew that it needed frequent reminders of the most important things, and He wisely took care that the instrument of our salvation, the Cross on which He gave His life for the sins of the world, was not forgotten amidst worldly fuss. His enemies, the Jewish high priests and scribes, who wanted to blot out the memory of Him, took down three crosses on Golgotha and buried them deep in the ground, covering them with a lot of earth. They did not know that it was inspired by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

And the Roman emperor Hadrian, not knowing anything about the buried crosses, ordered to build a temple on this place to the pagan goddess Aphrodite and by this quite reliably hid the Cross of Christ for three centuries.

When the terrible persecution of the Roman emperors against Christians ended, and the great Equal-to-the-Apostles Emperor Constantine put an end to paganism in the entire Roman Empire, then our Lord Jesus Christ put into the heart of Equal-to-the-Apostles Helen, his mother, the thought of finding His Cross and revealing it to the world.

By her order, the temple of Aphrodite was destroyed, the earth dug deep under it, and three identical crosses were found. Patriarch Makarios of Jerusalem ordered to stop the funeral procession passing by and lay three crosses on the deceased. By the resurrection of the dead, Christ God indicated His Cross. In front of a huge crowd of people, the Patriarch, who stood on an elevated place, elevated the Cross of Christ and lowered it when his hands weakened, and the people who gathered in multitudes ceaselessly sang with joy and trembling: "Lord have mercy! Lord have mercy! Lord have mercy!"

Thus, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself for the first time reminded the world of His Honorable Cross. And since then, for sixteen and a half centuries, the Holy Church on this great feast reminds us of the Cross of the Lord by exalting it on all sides at the all-night vigil.

And twice a year, on the Sunday of the Veneration of the Honorable Cross and on the first of August, as well as on the feast of the origin of the honorable tree of the Cross of the Lord, the Holy Church recalls the Cross by bringing it from the altar to the people and venerating it three times with universal singing: “We venerate Your Cross, Master, and your holy Resurrection we glorify."

Oh, how important is this threefold reminder of the cross of Christ! How easy it would be to forget about it without these reminders! For it is only about our bodily needs and earthly blessings that we never forget, but about the most important thing - about the indelible mark of the Cross of Christ on our hearts - we remember incomparably less, and the less we remember, the more we are busy with earthly affairs.

Therefore, weak and average Christians who do not set themselves the goal of their lives to become friends of Christ through the constant fulfillment of His commandments need more frequent reminders of the Cross of Christ. There are many such people in the small flock of Christ.

But there are others in this flock who, together with the apostle Paul, can say: “The world has been crucified to me by the Cross, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14).

The Cross made such an amazing and indelible impression on them that they forever forgot about the world, about its lusts and charms. Blessed are these great men who have become friends of Christ. They do not need to be reminded of the Cross of Christ, for they never forget it.

But there are countless people who also do not need to be reminded of the Cross of Christ, because they do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and are completely indifferent to the great Christian relic - the Cross of the Lord - or even hate and trample on it, since Christ prevents them from going their own way.

And you, servants of God, do not be ashamed by the increase in unbelief, for the Lord and our God Jesus Christ spoke about it in His terrible prophetic word: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Take comfort in His other great prophecy that even the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church.

With a good and pure life, constant prayer and, above all, the fulfillment of the commandments of Christ, become closer and closer to Him. And then the radiant Cross of Christ will be indelibly inscribed on your hearts. May this be with you all by the grace and mercy of our great God and Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, to Him be glory and power with His Beginningless Father and the Most Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.