by St. Gregory Palamas, The Saving Work of Christ: Sermons by Saint Gregory Palamas, edited by Christopher Veniamin, Mount Tabor Publishing
The Cross of Christ was mysteriously proclaimed in advance and foreshadowed from generations of old and no one was ever reconciled with God except by the power of the Cross. After our First Parents transgressed against God through the tree in paradise, sin came to life, but we died, submitting, even before physical death, to the death of the soul, its separation from God. After the transgression we lived in sin and according to the flesh. Sin "is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Rom. 8:7-8).
As the apostle says, "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh" (Gal. 5:17). God, however, is Spirit, absolute Goodness and Virtue, and our own spirit is after His image and likeness, although sin has made it good for nothing. So how could anyone at all be spiritually renewed and reconciled with God, unless sin and life according to the flesh had been abolished? The Cross of Christ is this abolition of sin.
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich, The Prologue, April 1st
“Penitent wonderful, self-tormentor,
Mary hid herself from the face of men.
Oh yes, sinful me,
By passion, darkened.
Passions are beasts which eat at our heart,
In us as serpents, secretly they weave a nest,
Oh yes, sinful me,
By passion consumed!
In order to save sinners, You suffered O Christ,
Now, do not loathe impure me!
Hearken to the cry of Mary,
Of all, the most-sinful!
The Lord showed compassion, Mary He healed,
Her darkened soul, He whitened as snow.
by St. Philaret of Moscow
To suffer in the presence of Christ, and in like manner as He suffered, is to have a foretaste of Paradise. Like as the visible material Cross is the royal standard of the visible kingdom of Christ, so is our secret cross the seal and distinguishing mark of the true and chosen servants of the invisible kingdom of God. It is a precious pledge of the love of God – it is the rod of the Father, not so much chastening and breaking the spirit, as “restoring” and “comforting” it [Ps. 2:9; 23:3- 4]; it is the purifying fire of faith, companion of hope, the mortifier of sensuality, the conqueror of passion, the inciter to prayer, the protector of chastity, the parent of humility the teacher of wisdom, the guardian of the sons of the kingdom. Where were all the great angels, the guides and guardians of the Church, the Josephs, the Moses’s, the Daniels, the Pauls, brought up? In the school of the Cross.
by V. Rev. Fr. Stephen Rogers
from The Word, September 2000
On the Sunday following the Exaltation of the Cross we hear Christ say: “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s sake will save it.”
On the face of it, this seems a hard statement, this demand to deny ourselves and take up a cross. After all, I already have so many demands and responsibilities placed on my shoulders. I have to pay the bills, raise the kids, clean the house, go to work, go to school, please my spouse, take care of my failing health. . . how can I place a cross on my shoulders when I’m already carrying so much?
I’ll go to church, pay my assessment, pray before dinner — that’s about all I can handle. We read these words of Christ and they sound like a demand, a requirement. It sounds burdensome to carry a cross, to deny myself, to lose my life in order to find it. It almost sounds like a form of slavery, this demand to deny myself.
Just the opposite is true. Christ promised us that, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” Christ came into the world not to bring slavery, but to bring liberation — liberation from sin and death. It is sin and death to which we are enslaved. The way of the cross is the way to freedom.
The Following is an excerpt from Great Lent, by Alexander Schmemann
From Chapter 4: The Lenten Journey
The third Sunday of Lent is called "The Veneration of the Cross." At the Vigil of that day, after the Great Doxology, the Cross is brought in a solemn procession to the center of the church and remains there for the entire week-- with a special rite of veneration following each service. It is noteworthy that the theme of the Cross which dominates the hymnology of that Sunday is developed in terms not of suffering but of victory and joy. More than that, the theme-songs (hirmoi) of the Sunday Canon are taken from the Paschal Service-- "The Day of the Resurrection"-- and the Canon is a paraphrase of the Easter Canon.
The meaning of all this is clear. We are in Mid-Lent. One the one hand, the physical and spiritual effort, if it is serious and consistent, begins to be felt, its burden becomes more burdensome, our fatigue more evident. We need help and encouragement. On the other hand, having endured this fatigue, having climbed the mountain up to this point, we begin to see the end of our pilgrimage, and the rays of Easter grow in their intensity. Lent is our self-crucifixion, our experience, limited as it is, of Christ's commandment heard in the Gospel lesson of that Sunday: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Mark 8:34). But we cannot take up our cross and follow Christ unless we have His Cross which He took up in order to save us. It is His Cross, not ours, that saves us. It is His Cross that gives not only meaning but also power to others. This is explained to us in the synaxarion of the Sunday of the Cross:
by Very Rev. Fr. Michael Baroudy
From the very dawn of history, when man was created thousands of years ago, we note man’s restlessness in trying to solve the mystery of life and the supreme purpose of living. Accordingly, the search went on throughout all the stages of history, and that probably accounts for the great progress and the scientific discoveries man has achieved. But with all the great and stupendous achievements of men, the search for more knowledge goes on day and night. There is no satisfaction insofar as man’s restless spirit is concerned. We feel that there are still great regions to be explored, fields unclaimed, resources untapped. We are surrounded by mysteries and question marks. We are ever asking questions because the desire to know more is unquenchable. There isn’t any harm in asking questions, in trying to explore life’s great possibilities, for each of us wishes to better himself, to fulfill his destiny and the purpose of which he is created. Not only is there no harm in searching out for more knowledge, but to do so is commendable and praiseworthy.