Sermon of His Beatitude, Archimandrite Parthenius, uttered during the Holy Liturgy on the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in St. George Convent in Rajchica.
Today, my dear ones, the Holy Church of God celebrates the all-triumphant and glorious Exaltation of the Holy and Life – giving Cross of our Lord, that is, the historical moment when this “weapon of peace and invincible victory” was found by St. Equal to the Apostles Empress Helen, the mother of the faithful Roman Emperor Constantine the Great.
It’s not by accident that the Church reminded us today, through the Holy Gospel, of the dramatic event of Golgotha. Of that horrible event when the Son of Man was elevated on the Wood, embracing the whole world with love, in a redemptory sacrifice for the children of Adam. Actually in his Divine precognition, our Lord Jesus Christ knew that he had to make this redemptive and great sacrifice, which was foretold about in many prophecies of the Old Testament. In a conversation with Nicodemus, one of the Judean teachers, He foretold about Himself, referring to one of these prophecies. And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And after that added: And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life (John 3, 13-15). In order to understand the allegory of Jesus with Moses and the serpent, we should refer to the Old Testament, the history of the ancient Israel.
Namely, when the Israel nation was lead towards the Promised Land by the Prophet Moses, while descending from Mount Hor to the Red Sea, it rebelled against its redeemer and leader, so our Lord allowed for them to be attacked by venomous snakes. Seeing his people suffer and perish by the snakes, unable to help them in this desert place, Moses eagerly prayed to God for the sake of his people, who on their part offered sincere repentance for their rebellion. Then God told His Witness: “And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live (Numbers 21, 8). This is the symbolism which Jesus reveals to the curious Nicodemus, foretelling His glorious death, i.e. that He Himself would be raised on Golgotha for the sake of humankind, just like Moses raised the serpent. And everyone who looks with faith upon the Life-giving Cross on which He crucified for us, he would not be poisoned by the evil of this world.
Thus, my dear ones, we need faith so that we wouldn’t be killed by the poison of the most cunning serpent, the evil which is everywhere. We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness (I John 5, 19), says the great author of the Revelation, St. John Theologian. If he had perceived this as early as the in first century AD, what are we to say about the evil of our contemporary world? But there is no other cure, and antidote and hope for salvation form the deadly poison of evil which managed to infect the humankind through pride, egoism, disobedience, than the Son of Man Himself. He Who gave us an example of humbleness with His self-denying obedience: He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philip. 2, 8). God conveyed to us the most important moral: that the way to salvation leads through obedience and humbleness. Through them we reach the true faith and love. That is the very message the Sacrifice on the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ sends us – the message of love and compassion towards every human being. Therefore, my dear children, the Cross is present in every segment of our Christian life. Ever since our birth till the death, everything in our life is sealed with this most powerful, triumphant weapon of peace. That, and not the weapons of this world, is what the Christian needs. Let us remind ourselves of the early Christians who were only armed with their faith in the Cross of Christ, and still managed to conquer the world and the mighty weapons of the Roman persecutors. Following them, we today equally conquer the world with the power of the cross. It’s hard to be a Christian today. To love and be prepared to the possibility of not been loved back, as the Saviour had taught us: But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; (Luke 6, 35). Because if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? (Luke 6, 33). So the Christian love doesn’t want anything in return. The great teacher of monastics and of the Christian virtues, the most revered Abba Dorotheus teaches us thus: “Don’t expect love from your neighbor, because if you don’t get it you would be outraged. It’s better if you show love to your neighbor – in that way you would be at peace with yourself and would also attract the neighbor to love.” So we have been invited to constantly give love to everybody. And the reward would come by itself. If you want to be loved – then crucify yourself for everybody.
Let the power of the Holy Cross which we look upon with faith, preserve and protect us in this corrupted world, which, we have already said, is filled with evil. And let us be preachers and bearers of the Evangelical truth and the joy of the Cross and Resurrection. As one of the holy fathers has said: “Christ placed His Cross in the middle of His Gospel” Because the Cross is the essence of Christian life and fit. May it protect us and may we always win with it, having in mind the vision of the Holy Emperor St. Constantine the Great and the triumphant saying: “With this you will win!” Amen.