September 15, 2022

Homily Two 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, 1953)

The feast of the Exaltation of the Cross of the Lord is so great that the Holy Church established, as before Christmas and Theophany, special Gospel and Apostolic readings on Sundays before and after the Exaltation.

You came last night in great numbers to this holy temple. What attracted you? Why were your hearts filled with such deep reverence when you saw how I carried out and lifted up before you the cross of Christ? Why do we love the cross of Christ so much? Why do we bow down to it so much?

Of course, we do not only venerate the tree, although the tree of the cross of Christ became the greatest relic after it was drenched in the Blood of Christ. We venerate the crucifixion of Christ, we worship Christ God crucified on the cross, for the greatest mystery took place on the cross. What is this mystery? Why did our Lord Jesus Christ make such an amazing sacrifice for the salvation of the world?

We find the answer to this question in the words of Christ, spoken in a nightly conversation with Nicodemus: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14-16).

And the same is said by the Holy Apostle John the Theologian in his first universal epistle: “The love of God for us has been revealed in the fact that God sent His Only Begotten Son into the world so that we might receive life through Him. This is love, that we did not love God, but He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).

Here is the answer to the question why we bow before the cross of Christ so much: because it revealed the love of God to us, accursed sinners, perishing in the vanity of the world, in the service of passions and lusts.

The love of God, indescribable by any words, the love that led to the fact that the Only Begotten Son of God was incarnated, taking human flesh from the Blessed Virgin Mary, and gave this flesh and blood for the salvation of people, gave it so that they would not perish, but have eternal life.

And not only this immeasurable love, but also something even more incomprehensible, something completely beyond our weak consciousness, was revealed by God in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ. Listen to what the Holy Apostle Paul says: “God in Christ reconciled the world to Himself, not imputing their transgressions to people, and gave us the word of reconciliation. So, we are messengers on behalf of Christ, and as if God Himself admonishes through us, on behalf of Christ we ask: be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:19-20).

God Himself, the great God Himself asks you to be reconciled to Him. God Himself asks not to be malicious, not to be at enmity against Him, but to be reconciled with Him.

And this desire to reconcile the world with Himself, together with the greatest love, led the Lord Jesus Christ to the cross.

It is this marvelous humility of God, which cannot be contained in our consciousness, no less great than His love for us, which led the incarnate Son of God to the terrible cross.

We, miserable and insignificant, when people are at enmity against us, we ourselves are inflamed with anger and enmity against them.

And God asks us for reconciliation, asks us not to be at enmity against Him. After all, this is a manifestation of the greatest humility. But when I say this, my spirit is agitated, and I ask myself: can the great God Himself be humble, can he ask for reconciliation with His creature? But, after thinking a little, I calm down, remembering the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: "Learn from me, for I am meek and lowly in heart."

If humility and meekness are inherent in the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, then why should I be worried when I hear that God, showing incomprehensible humility, asks for reconciliation from his creature that is at war with Him.

The Lord said, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to Me.”

And so it happened: already on the cross, by His behavior during terrible torments, He attracted the first two people: he attracted the thief crucified with Him, who believed in Him and asked: “Remember me, Lord, when you come into Your Kingdom”; he also attracted a second one - that Roman centurion who commanded the crucifixion of Christ. He, seeing everything that the Lord Jesus Christ revealed on the cross, was shocked, and said, when the Lord let out His last breath: “Truly this Man was a righteous man,” and believed in Him, turned to Him and became a martyr of Christ himself. He also attracted a whole crowd of spectators of His crucifixion, diverging from the cross, lowering their heads low and beating their chests.

Countless millions upon millions of people turned to Him with good hearts, who were shocked by the cross of Christ, people who could never forget about His cross.

And most of all, the cross of Christ shocked the Apostle Paul, who forgot everything in the world, despised everything, for the cross of Christ stood relentlessly before his spiritual eyes, and the whole world was crucified for him on this terrible cross, and he himself was crucified with Christ.

He was shaken by the Blood of Christ. For this Blood, the great John the Theologian in his Revelation sends praise, thus saying: “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins with His Blood, and made us kings and priests to God and His Father, glory and dominion forever and ever! Amen” (Rev. 1:5).

How did Christ wash us with His blood? Not outwardly, of course, for His blood did not drip on our dirty bodies, but spiritually.

We were filthy, and disgusting, and stubborn in sins, like a dog returning to its vomit, and like a washed pig going to wallow in the mud again (2 Peter 2:22).

But the cross of Christ struck and shocked us forever, and relentlessly thinking about the Blood of the Son of God, shed for us, dirty and perishing, we are spiritually cleansed from dead deeds, and we are so completely cleansed that we receive the power to be children of God, kings and priests to our God. That is why the cross of Christ is so great.

The great Catholic Saint Francis of Assisi, who constantly thought about the cross of Christ, shedding countless tears, had ulcers on his hands and feet in the places of the nail sores of Christ.

Think unceasingly about our Lord Jesus Christ, who was crucified for us, and inscribe the cross of the Lord on your hearts.

Keep this mark as the greatest shrine and be afraid to erase it with the impure desires and thoughts of your hearts. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.