March 19, 2023

Homily for the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross (St. John Maximovitch)

 By St. John Maximovitch

“We Venerate Your Cross, Master.”

Why do we venerate the Cross of the Lord? What is the Cross of the Lord?

The Cross of the Lord is a weapon.

The Cross of the Lord saved us from eternal death. In paradise, man wanted to become equal to God, and he succumbed to the temptation of the devil. When he allowed this thing into his heart, he lost reverence and love, violated the commandment of the Lord. Then paradise closed for him in reality. The man was proud, he believed Lucifer, who dreamed of being equal to the Son of God. The devil was cast out of heaven by the Archangel Michael. Man believed the devil - the tempter - and wanted to equal himself with God. He thought, i.e. He didn’t think, but suddenly the thought came to him: what is it worth eating from that tree - I will know everything and will be perfect like God, perfect not in His properties, but in strength and power. But as soon as a man dreamed about this, as soon as he exalted himself, he immediately fell into the abyss. He fell away from God, became mortal. Now the door to the sweetness and beauty of paradise was closed, the Kingdom of Heaven was closed to him.

But the Lord did not want death.

If Lucifer destroyed us with pride and envy in relation to the Son of God, in relation to God, who was more powerful than he, then the Lord saves us by humility. And now the Son of God descends from heaven. He, the almighty, the Lord of creatures, its Creator, becomes His creation, becomes equal to us in everything except sin. Moreover, He suffers reproach as a kind of criminal, bearing the punishment meekly. And, rejected by people, He descends into hades to free the souls of the dead from corruption.

He, as a man, was worthy of the grace of God, He became higher than the angels, He became higher than all creatures. All who approach Him, who have their feelings with Him, He lifts up with Him to heaven. And here is the Cross - His instrument of patience. From the instrument on which Christ was humiliated, the Cross became the instrument of our salvation. When we venerate the Cross of the Lord, we thereby venerate the instrument of His suffering, the instrument of dishonor, and we ourselves venerate that by which man has been dishonored from time immemorial. It is a sign of dishonor and shame. Venerating the Cross, we kind of promise the Lord to humble ourselves in the same way, to endure shame and reproach for Him. When we venerate the Cross of the Lord, we also bow to His suffering, not to His honor, not to His glory, but to His dishonor. This dishonor of Him as a man is glory in the sight of God.

What seems to people dishonor is often glory in the eyes of the Lord, and people receive a crown from Him. The martyrs were dishonored - they were deprived of their ranks. The martyrs, whose memory is being celebrated with us tomorrow, were stripped of their military rank, their insignia were taken away from them, they were put to death as criminals. By entering the Kingdom of Heaven they were equal to angels. And when the holy fools for the sake of Christ were insane, they suffered reproach from people, the same thing became their glory, the same thing made them God's saints and they are leaders in the Kingdom of Heaven. When a person suffers deprivation, suffers reproach, deprives himself of what is earthly well-being, if only this is done for the glory of God, for the sake of the name of God, then he becomes conformable to Him in mind, in disposition. The Holy Apostle Paul says: “The same mind must be in you, which was in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). What was he aiming for? To fulfill the word of God. And for this He was ready to endure everything - He suffered to death, the death of the Cross. Who humbled Himself? The King of the universe. Who was crucified by man? God who created man.

More than heaven, more than any name, all the powers of heaven worship Him, the people of heaven worship Him, worship His human nature, glorify Him as God. When He was crucified and when He was mocked, He endured like a man, but at the same time remained God. He remained God in His divine nature. But as a man He endured. The Lord did this freely and He did not take credit for Himself, He did not say: “Father, I have done Your will, glorify Me.” No, He humbly did the will of His Heavenly Father.

We venerate the Cross of the Lord, giving thanks for the shame and reproach. We venerate the Cross when we endure reproach, endure wounds, endure with thanksgiving for the sake of God. The apostle Peter says: “Let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter” (1 Pet. 4:15-16).

Venerating the Cross of the Lord, let us try to have the same mind.

In His great Kingdom, let us praise Him forever and enjoy His incomparable beauty and kindness, for He is the King of Glory and the Lord of the whole world. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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