April 7, 2024

Discourse on the Honorable and Life-Giving Cross (St. Joseph the Confessor)

By St. Joseph the Confessor (+ 832)

a) Today is the feast of the Cross; let the choirs of angels rejoice. The Cross appears; let the whole congregation of the Church reverence it. The divine power of the Cross is elevated; let the hosts of demons be put to flight. But, divine cross, the inexpressible spectacle of the angels, the boast of the faithful, the royal sceptre - I speak to you as though you were a living thing - you, of course, have brought to us the joyful tidings of salvation. Through you, the barred gates of Paradise have been opened again.

Through you, the authority and power of death have been abolished, Hell has been stripped, the dead have come back to life, the robber rejoices and is glad in Paradise, the earthly has been united with the heavenly.  Through you we’ve learned the truth, we’ve been given the baptism of rebirth, people have been granted forgiveness of their sins, we’ve received the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Through you, churches are sanctified and become temples of God, we enjoy the Body and Blood of Christ, we become worthy of being children of God and heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven. Through you, our holy feasts and festivals are full of divine joy and Godly light. What tongue is able to describe how many and of what kind are the gifts that Christ, the true God, has made to the human race?

b) Since we know this through words, my beloved participants in this feast, let us embrace with pure hearts and clean mouths the venerable and life-giving Tree, on which Christ our God was raised up and had His divine hands punctured with nails. On which those who crucified the Lord pierced His side with a spear and gave him vinegar and gall to drink. As they passed by, they shook their heads and said mockingly: “See, he saved others, but he can’t save himself. If he’s the Son of God, let him come down now from the cross and we’ll believe in him”.

c) This is what the people of the Jews did, ungrateful and hardened as they were, even though they had enjoyed the benefits of divine miracles. But let us venerate in faith the life-giving Passion of Christ: the Crucifixion, the Burial, and the three-day Resurrection from the dead, so that we  may rise and be glorified with Him. “If so be that we suffer with him that we may also be glorified with him”, as Saint Paul, the “chosen vessel”, says.

d)  This is why the all-holy Cross invites us today to its feast and offers us imperishable and eternal foods. So that, if we wish to have Him as the sure guardian of our salvation and desire to have His divine Grace with us, let us not distress Him with wicked and unclean works, with obscene and dirty words which embolden the inventor of evil (the devil). Because in this way, he acquires power against us and leads us into the pit of perdition. But drawing strength from the aid of the Live-Giving Cross, let us repel him at once.
e) But now let me address you who are celebrating and holding feast.
Hail, Cross, the glory of the ends of the earth and the joy of the whole world; because the ends of the earth delight over you and, together with them, the faithful rejoice.
Hail, Cross, the power and undefeated weapon of kings, because, having absolute trust in you, they scatter the hosts of the barbarians and defeat them triumphantly.
Hail, Cross, the all-mighty power of rulers, through which they are victorious and boast to those who do not know you and do not submit to your power.
Hail, Cross, the readiness of the armed forces and abundance of morale, which victoriously confronts the power of the enemies and confounds the swarms of the lawless.
Hail, Cross, guide of wayfarers, you who direct and order their steps and, through your power, repel and scatter from the mind the dark attacks of the demons.
Hail, Cross, the nourishment and repose of those travellers who are at rest somewhere; because, in making your sign, their food becomes pleasant, their sleep light and refreshing, and their awakening is to their salvation. In this way they have the strength to continue their journey.

f) Hail, Cross, the success of those who hope, having confidence in your Grace, and thus no do fail in their hopes. Because you prepare and smoothe the path, and with the power you have, you satisfy the requests of those who truly honour you.
Hail, Cross, the tranquillity and protection of those who voyage on the seas, because the roaring and billowing waves, as high as mountains, are calmed at once by your sign
Hail, Cross, the knowledge of the helmsmen of vessels; because with your help and guidance, they can, with a small, wooden rudder steer large ships and bring them safely into the narrowest of harbours.
Hail, Cross, the joy and repose of those who sail. With your help they cast off all fearfulness, and travel to foreign countries; crossing the great seas, they arrive at their destination with high hopes.
Hail, Cross, the “beneficial guide” and consolation of the monastics; because, with their hope in you, they joyfully prefer separation from parents and friends. They go into the deserts to live and to talk to God alone.
Hail, Cross, the repose and neptic stimulus of the ascetics, who, through your power patiently undergo the hardships of the body in order to acquire the Spirit and to shine in their lives like bright stars.

g) Hail, Cross, the dwelling-place and residence of monastics; you who elevate to spiritual heights those who  truly love you and make them citizens of heaven and angels on earth, banishers of demons and physicians of illnesses.

Hail, Cross, the liturgical and beloved “Gift” of Hierarchs, who, with you, complete every liturgical ceremony and act, so that they are the representatives of Christ on earth.

Hail the radiant office of the priesthood, through which the priests teach and illumine outsiders who are worthy of enlightenment, and bring them onto the path of completion by the grace of God.

Hail, the cleansing power of the deacons, because, drawing this energy from you, they impede every kind of disorder and keep it at bay from the God-fearing faithful, who are worthy of the Precious Body and Blood of Christ and whom they integrate into the Church.

h) Hail, the thick armour of the Holy Martyrs, in which they fought against the attacks and terrible stratagems of the Evil One, and proved to be victorious by meeting the enemy forces head on.

Hail crown wrought above who shine and radiate more than emeralds and precious stones and who have been set on the honourable heads (i.e. of martyrs) and lend them dignity and beauty.

Hail, prediction of the Prophets, the message and boast of the Apostles. Because it was you they foretold and forecast in the world, through the Grace of the Holy Spirit, teaching all nations through your power and bringing them all into one faith and unity.

Hail, the security and refuge of all. By your Grace, every devout believer escapes all harm and temptation.

i) Cross, thrice-blessed and much-desired. You give many sacred names to those who wish to praise you. Who can hymn you as is proper and as you deserve? Precious and most holy tree! Who can glorify and bless you in a fitting manner? Root and source of life! Who can feel in purity your holy gifts? Who can venerate your holiness with worthy lips? Who can seal themselves with your sacred sign “that they might flee from the bow”? Who will not seal themselves with your sign in order to acquire illumination and purification of the soul? Who will not protect the thresholds of their houses with your sign, to be delivered from all temptation. Who will not seal themselves with your sign before any act or step, so that their thoughts and actions will be in accordance with the will of God?

j) How great is your power. Your names are many and well-chosen. You’re called Cross and sceptre, “the rod of directness, the staff of the kingdom” “sign”, seal, hope, faith, weapon, shield, buckler, sword, knife, bow, wall, entry of the dwelling which leads to the City above and all the other names that could be given to you by those who are skilled with words and love you so much.

With you, Christ our God made known to people the great and hidden mystery of His dispensation. With you, we acquired knowledge of the Holy Trinity, that is we came to believe “in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”. The Father; the Son without beginning or cause Who proceeds from the Father (and thus is not without beginning as regards the cause), but is without beginning in time; and the Holy Spirit, Who sits at the same throne and as an equal.

k) Let us, blessed Christians, celebrate the feast of the venerable Cross with a pure heart and with splendour. Let us always have in our hearts the sacred desire for it and its Grace and let us never let it depart from us. It is, indeed, cast out by carelessness and lack of concern, by indolence and sloth, with other unseemly actions which do not befit the feast of the Cross. If we celebrate and rejoice in this manner, then our assemblies will have the Grace of Christ, Whom we pray will save us, will keep us safe and prove us worthy to become partakers of His Life-Giving Passion. And that He will make us worthy of the illustrious Resurrection, both in this life and in the future, where there is “the dwelling-place of all who rejoice”. Because to Him is due all glory and worship, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.


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