“Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s shall find it.” (Mark 8:34)
All three of the synoptic gospels repeat this verse, so you can see how important it is. St.
Luke adds: “daily”. Let him take up his cross DAILY and follow me.”
Last Sunday we said a man can be a walking corpse .. alive in the body, but dead in the soul. The converse is also true. Conversely, the “Good News” of the Gospel is that a man can be dead in the body, but alive in the soul. Today we hear: “Whosoever saves his life shall lose it; and whosoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will find it.”
The priest says these words every time he puts on his priestly cross and God forbid if they become trite!
The Cross is placed in the middle of the church on this Mid-Lent Sunday to inspire us to keep up the struggle – as the beautiful prayer at the Pre-sanctified Liturgy puts it: “Enable us to fight the good fight, to complete the course of the fast, to preserve the Faith undivided, to crush the heads of invisible serpents, to be shown to be conquerors of sin and without condemnation also to attain to the Holy Resurrection.”
You will notice that in the Orthodox Church, the Cross cannot be separated from the Resurrection.
“Before Thy Cross we bow down in worship O Master, and Thy Holy Resurrection do we glorify.”
The Cross is placed before us in the middle of the church on this Mid-Lent Sunday to show us that not only is the Cross at the center of Lent, it must also be at the center of our lives as it is at the center of history.
Those of us who have been in church on this Sunday notice that at the Great Doxology the Cross does not appear in triumph at the Royal Doors, but humbly descends to the middle of the church through the north door of the iconostas. “Behold thy king cometh unto thee meek”, he humbled himself unto death…even unto death upon a cross.” And, on Palm Sunday: “Thy King cometh unto thee meek, riding upon an ass, and a colt, the foal of an ass.” (Matt. 21:5).
On Holy Friday, we think of the Cross with mourning, but today: with joy! “Behold! Through the Cross joy hath come unto the world!”
The Lord fell three times beneath the cross to encourage us that when we fall we should pick ourselves up and go on. St. John Maximovitch says that we shall not be judged so much for our falls especially when we are caught off guard and taken by surprise but for our refusal to pick ourselves up and go on. We shall be judged for wallowing in the mire.
The Cross is set up in the middle of the church brothers and sisters, not only to encourage us who have made a beginning, but to inspire those of us who have not. It is never too late even for those who have come at the eleventh hour!
When I kiss the Cross at the end of the Liturgy, will it be the “kiss of Judas”? As long as I firmly intend not to sin again then it will not be.
Will I accept the cross that the Saviour gives me and not the one I choose for myself whatever that might be… poor health, financial difficulties, stressful relationships? I will only be saved by accepting the cross that God gives me…not the one of my own choosing.
Remember what St. Irene the abbess told her nuns: “If you have the courage, ask for suffering. Nothing brings us closer to God than suffering.” “If!” “If!” “If you have the courage..” Brothers and sisters, not only do we NOT have the courage; we cannot even accept what God allows, what He permits without complaining!
The Holy Fathers say: “Sickness is better than fasting!”..if I can only accept it without complaint.
Something to keep in mind during this pandemic.
Am I ashamed of making the sign of the cross in public?
“Whomsoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed when he shall come in his own glory.” (Luke 9:26)
“Through the Cross, Joy hath come into the world!”
Holy Communion was administered with prayers in our house chapel of the Russian Holy Martyrs this morning, on Mid-Lent Sunday, the Sunday of the Cross; and will be each Sunday for the duration of the pandemic. We look forward to being restored to both St. Theodore and Sts. Raphael, Nicholas and Irene. In the meantime may God give us all patience and health.
In Our Lord,