April 10, 2024

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

By St. John of Kronstadt

Today, beloved brothers and sisters, I will offer you, with God's help, a discourse for today's apostolic reading. In it, the Apostle Paul speaks of the great High Priest who passed through heaven, Jesus the Son of God, and exhorts us to hold fast to the confession of our faith, that is, not to faint in temptations, sorrows, and persecutions for the sake of the faith, for we do not have a High Priest who cannot have compassion on us in our infirmities, but who, like us, is tempted in all things except sin, and, how "He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is also able to aid those who are tempted" (Hebrews 2:18); then the Apostle exhorts us to approach boldly to the throne of grace, that is, to the Lord Jesus Christ who sits on the throne, in order to receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

And what else are you, brothers and sisters, doing when you often gather in this temple for public prayer, for approaching repentance of sins and communion of the Holy Mysteries, if not the very thing that today’s apostolic reading convinces us of. You approach the throne of grace with faith and hope in order to receive mercy from the Lord, forgiveness of sins in repentance and communion of the divine Mysteries of the body and blood of the Lord, sanctification, reinforcement for further life, or for further exploits, and the deification of souls.

Come, come, brothers and sisters, more often to the throne of grace, so that you may be worthy of great and rich mercy from the all-good and all-powerful eternal King and High Priest of our Lord Jesus Christ, who sits on the throne. But approach God more through earthly priests, from among the people chosen for you to serve God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins; resort to their prayer that mediates between you and God and the sacrifice they make; for they bear the office of the eternal High Priest of Jesus Christ, and do His work for you. Oh, God only grant that they always do it sincerely, with zeal and reverence; and it is not by themselves that they accept the honor of the priesthood, but by calling from God, as once upon a time the high priest Aaron in the Old Testament. Honor them and love them for their dignity, for their great, highest service, above all earthly services, for their saving, intercessory, God-creating service, bringing souls created in the image of God to God and to eternal life. The Lord did not make holy, bright, formidable, strong angels your mediators and performers of heavenly mysteries, but people like you, burdened just like you with infirmities or sins, and therefore lenient towards your common infirmities and delusions. This is what the Apostle speaks about, by the way, in this reading.

"For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness. Because of this he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins. And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was. So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: ... 'You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek'; who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 5:1-10).

Here is the content of the apostolic reading with his interpretation, teaching and applying it to us for our edification. It, I repeat, speaks of the only and eternal High Priest, our Lord Jesus Christ, who, before the creation of the world, determined to officiate Himself on the altar of the cross as a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, of all people. He offered Himself as a sacrifice to God His Father, according to His will, for us sinners, as propitiation for us, sinners without number every day and hour; and we, earthly priests, burdened with weakness, bear the dignity of Christ and continue with the grace of the Holy Spirit His great, awesome and saving work of reconciling ourselves and you with God; and He Himself, through us, brings the dread and life-giving sacrifice of His body and blood to the throne in propitiation for us. Always revere this sacrifice and the Lord who offers it; pray for us, His servants and your mediators and intercessors; remember His cross, tomb, three-day resurrection and ascension into heaven, His second and terrible coming; and let everyone take up his cross and follow Him, and crucify his flesh with its passions and lusts. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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