April 11, 2024

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

By St. John of Kronstadt

Before our eyes the Cross of the Lord, whose power is often glorified in ecclesiastical prayers and hymns, is set up for reverent veneration and kissing. Beloved, I would like to tell you now a few words about its power, or about its miracles. Intending to speak of this, on the one hand, I see everywhere its miraculous power, and I do not know where to stop, what occasion to take as an example of the life-giving power of the Cross; I also see the great reverence that was given to the life-giving Cross by the ancients. On the other hand, alas! I see very few experiences of its power in the people of our time, and I immediately see the reason why it exerts so little of its miraculous power: precisely because the Lord performed so few miracles in His fatherland, i.e., because of ignorance, because of the lawless, non-Christian life of Christians. Thus, beloved brethren, the history of the Christian Church presents many experiences of the miraculous power of the Cross - because then there was more faith in people, more true Christians. The life-giving Cross is gloriously glorified even today, but today we see much fewer examples of its miraculousness, namely, only in those few people who live by faith.

The holy ascetics of Christ were amazed at the constant life-giving power of the Cross of the Lord acting in their lives and in the humility of their hearts, fearing that such power would not leave them on their own, being weak and sinful, always surrounded by enemies invisible, and often visible, they prayed only: “Invincible, incomprehensible, divine power of the honorable and life-giving Cross, do not forsake us sinners.” With full confidence in its wonderworking power and in awe before its power to drive away invisible enemies, rejoicing in their hearts, they cried out to the Cross: "Rejoice, O Most Honorable and Life-Giving Cross of the Lord, driving out demons by the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who was crucified on you, and Who has given us His honorable Cross to drive away every adversary," and without any doubt they spoke to it as to one who lives: "O Most Honorable and Life-Giving Cross of the Lord, help me, with the Most Holy Lady Virgin Theotokos and with all the saints forever."

You can’t help but be touched in your heart when you read with what praises they called the life-giving Cross; they called it four-pointed power, the omnipotent cross, the glory of the apostles, the fortress of martyrs, the stronghold of the venerables, the health of the weak, the resurrection of the dead, the correction of those who fall, the mortification of passions, the driving away of unclean thoughts, the foundation of piety, the destroyer of demons, the destruction of wicked people, the disgrace of enemies on the terrible day of judgment. As if it were alive, they said to it: "Cross! be for me strength, fortress and power, deliverer and foremost warrior against the enemies who fight me, shield and guardian, victory and my stronghold, always protecting and covering me."

In general, they called the image of the Cross indescribable in its power, the blessing of the waters, the purification of the air, the sanctification and illumination for every faithful Christian, the sign of courage and the scepter of Christ, trampling opponents to the ground. Not knowing how to glorify its power worthily, they cried out: "Who shall enumerate all your actions, O Cross dear to the world, the powers and wonders, and the rising of the dead from your power? You have lifted up with yourself the whole world, that is, the elect Christians, having yourself ascended unto God."

Do you, beloved, view the Cross of the Lord for yourselves as it was for those holy men? No - I will answer for your majority. The Cross does not do miracles in your life. Why? Because of your unbelief. The Cross in itself is always wondrous and life-giving. For Christians who are faithful to it even now with their faith and reverence, it is also faithful, like the most faithful and constant friend. O! who will give me the zeal of God and the power of the word to arouse in Christians of the present time a living faith and due reverence for the Cross and Him crucified on it! I know that many are inattentive to the Cross and the sign of the Cross. Sometimes inattention and disrespect for the Cross extends to the point that they do not accept a servant of Christ coming into the house with a Cross and in the name of the Cross; others do not want, as they should, to depict the sign of the Cross on their sinful body, or neglect the priestly blessing; sometimes this is done out of inattention, and sometimes - oh horror! - from false, woeful shame. Are you ashamed of the Cross, beloved, which is our praise and glory? I warn you in good time: “The Son of man will be ashamed of you when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).

Beloved! Let us always honor the Cross of the Lord with faith and love: and it will be our friend, a savior not in itself, but by the power of Him crucified on it. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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