September 15, 2023

Homily Two on the Exaltation of the Cross of the Lord (St. Luke of Simferopol)

 On the Exaltation of the Cross of the Lord

Crucified With Christ

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

You have now heard the Gospel reading, which reveals the full horror of the Lord’s torment on the cross (see John 19:6–11, 13–20, 25–28, 30–35). They presented our Savior, the Son of God, to the court of the pagan Pilate: he interrogated Him, but Jesus did not answer a word. Pilate is surprised: “How dare you not answer me!? Don’t You know that I have the power to crucify You and have the power to release You?”

Jesus' answer amazed Pilate even more: "You would not have any power over Me if it had not been given to you from above. Therefore, he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin" (John 19:11). The pagan Pilate, feeling with all his heart the irresistible Divine power of the Lord Jesus Christ, was amazed. He decided that he needed to let Him go, that he was a sinless Man, a Righteous One, who could not be executed. Having brought Jesus to the judgment seat, he sat down on a stone platform and, turning to the angry Jews, pointing to the Lord, said: "Here is your King" (John 19:14). Those accursed ones, full of malice against the Lord, cried out in one voice: "Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him... we have no king but Caesar" (John 19:15). “If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar” (John 19:12).

How, in fact, can one let go of the One who calls Himself the King!? For this they can be charged with a political crime. Pilate was ashamed, put his own well-being above justice and handed Christ over to be crucified. And they led Him to Golgotha, and He carried on His shoulders the heavy Cross on which He was to be crucified, and fell under the weight of this burden. They came to Golgotha, laid the Cross on the ground, nailed the hands and feet of the Lord to it, and erected the Cross with the crucified Christ. Two thieves were crucified on His sides. This is the worst of all the atrocities in the history of the world that the Jews committed. The Cross was stained with the Divine Blood of the sinless Son of God and became the greatest sacred object for us.

The Holy Apostle Paul, who miraculously converted to Christ and loved the Cross of Christ like no one else in the world, says: "I do not want to boast except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal. 6:14) . A lover lives only for his beloved, thinking about her day and night, directing both his eyes and his heart to her. But this feeling is of a lower order. Paul was filled with a different love, love for the Savior crucified on the Cross. The Cross of Christ was forever and indelibly imprinted on his heart.

In the Gospel reading on the Sunday before the Exaltation, you heard the words of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself talking with Nikodemos: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up" (John 3:14). When a brazen serpent was hung up like a cross, all the Israelis, mortally stung, turned their eyes and hearts to this image, which represented the Lord Jesus Christ crucified on the Cross, and were healed. So also the mind's eye of the Holy Apostle Paul was always focused on the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, who nailed to it the sins of the whole world. The whole world disappeared for him, the interests of the world moved far away, and the world was crucified for him. "I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal. 2:19).

And what do we boast about? Completely different things: successes in our scientific and social activities, awards and orders received for these activities, our successes in life, wealth, intelligence, wit, dexterity. O blessed Paul! With what enormous depth have you comprehended all the horror, all the holiness and greatness of Christ’s suffering on the Cross! Teach us to bow before the Cross of Christ. Be our guide to the kingdom of Christ, where we must go, bearing our cross just as Christ carried His Cross to Calvary.

And all the martyrs, saints, venerables and confessors, just like the Apostle Paul, always contemplated the Cross of Christ and were crucified with Him. The words of the Lord Himself and the apostles were deeply imprinted in their hearts: "Set your mind on things above, and not on earthly things. For you are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3:2–3). They died in Baptism for all the joys and blessings of the world, were buried with Christ, and Christ lived in them.

They remembered the words of the Apostle Paul: "If only we suffer with Him, we will also be glorified with Him" (Rom. 8:17), and with all their hearts they strived to suffer with Christ for the highest truth, for love, for the heavenly light. They remembered the commandment of the Lord: "If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me, and where I am, there My servant will also be" (John 12:26), and they turned all the thoughts of their souls, all the aspirations of their mind and heart to follow Christ, for before their eyes stood an extraordinary promise, which has no greater.

Many people who were pure in heart, who loved the Lord Jesus Christ, went with Him where He called. They are sick of the world, they do not need any entertainment: cinema, theaters, concerts, conversations with friends. All this seems alien and small to them. They began to look not at the world, not at its beauty, but into the depths of their souls. They were busy not acquiring worldly goods, not organizing their earthly life, but purifying their hearts.

And we, weak Christians, need to at least occasionally remember the Cross of Christ, if it does not always stand before our eyes, and at least limping, stumbling and falling, follow Christ. May the image of the holy Apostle Paul and all those saints who were crucified with Christ always be before us. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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