If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. - The words of our Lord in Luke 9:23
On the 14th of this month (27th new style), we will celebrate the Universal Exaltation of the Precious Cross, on which day the bishop or priest blesses the four corners of the world with an image of the Cross of Christ while the chanters recite Kyrie Eleison 500 times. This solemn and significant action annually asserts the Lordship of the Crucified One over the physical cosmos and over every aspect of our lives. By His Passion, Christ took what was formerly a symbol of disgrace as an instrument of the most shameful kind of execution for criminals, and He made it both the instrument and symbol of victory over death itself. When we make the Sign of the Cross or kiss an image of the Cross, we are at the same time showing honor to the historical and physical instrument of our salvation, glorifying the sufferings and resurrection of our Lord, and confessing publicly that as His servants we pledge ourselves to tread the path which He trod, through humiliation to glory. We believe that we will be able to bear our cross by the power of His Cross.
If Jesus Christ is indeed Lord of Creation, why is any further suffering necessary? After His Resurrection, should he not have banished all evil from the world, so that we should not have to suffer, and should He not have made this world a pleasant and happy place for everyone at all times? Why should anyone now have to bear a cross?
Part of the answer lies in the words which Christ spoke to the Apostles on the night before He died: "The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also (John 15:20)." "They" are all the worldly powers opposed to Christ, from the Pharisees and Sadducees of His time to the persecutors of every age until now and until the end of the world. The Lord did not come to destroy all these "bad guys" once and for all, but to destroy the power of sin and death, because we are all "bad guys," and we all need to be liberated not from temporary sufferings or the hatred of people on earth, but from the power of sin in this life and the eternal death beyond the grave which awaits those not united to Christ. If we accept the Gospel and become united to Christ, the world, that is, the sinful human society which is opposed to Christ, will hate us, because the world and the "prince of this world," the devil (John 14:30) , cannot stand the Truth and will attack anyone who confesses the Truth.
By keeping our eyes steadfastly on God's judgment and the life which is beyond this world, we can cheerfully take up our cross of following Christ daily and live as pilgrims and strangers treading the path of the Cross on the way to our true home.
The Triumph of the Cross in the Souls of the Faithful
A profound, inner meaning is concealed in this celebration of the Cross of the Lord: the Holy Church, our concerned mother, wishes to direct our particular attention to this great and saving sign, against which the world, "which lieth in wickedness" (I Jn. 5:19), has always waged, and in our days continues to wage, a deliberate and unrelenting battle—the world which has now plainly fallen away from Christ and is preparing itself to worship Antichrist. Can anyone dare call himself a Christian who shuts his eyes to all the horrors taking place in the world today, and soothes his conscience, and the consciences of those around him, with assurances that everything is an incidental, transient phenomenon, and that in general the world is moving towards "progress," towards the establishment of the "Kingdom of God on earth"? The word of God does not give us even the slightest foundation for belief in the establishment of a "Kingdom of God on earth," or in any worldly progress for humanity; quite the contrary. It foretells much suffering for true followers of Christ and the "bearing of the cross" in imitation and following of the Lord Who bore the Cross; and for this world, which lieth in wickedness, it foretells an inevitable end. The promised "Kingdom of Christ on earth" is by no means tangible, but noetic—within the souls, of those who truly believe in Christ, for Whom the Lord became King. - from an article by Archbishop Averky of Holy Trinity
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