Exaltation of the Holy Cross – Bear our cross with prayerful strength
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, let us remember the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and may we remember the Cross and our Lord through our prayers, and our own crosses to bear.
When we read the Old Testament, whether from the Book of Isaiah or Psalms, we know that Christ our Lord would come. As we read in Psalm 40:7-10, it was a dialog between God the Father and God the Son, where the Son spoke to the Father about His coming into the world as foretold in the Scriptures, and that He would bring God’s Truth and Love to the world.
In the Church, the True Cross was made from cedar, pine and cypress wood (Isaiah 60:13). Unlike other representations, the Orthodox Cross has a foot rest (the lower slanted bar), and a short horizontal bar above (“King of the Jews”) – a more accurate representation of the Cross which our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified on, compared to other versions of representing the Cross (more simplified and less contextual).
The True Cross was found by St Helena, Empress and mother of St Constantine the Great, when she traveled to the Holy Land between 326 to 328, founding churches and rendering aid to the needy. She found the place that buried the remnants of the True Cross in the Holy Sepulchre, together with the two other crosses that crucified the penitent thief, and the other thief. Patriarch Makarios was called to discern the crosses, and when the patriarch touched the True Cross to a corpse, the dead person came alive, thereby confirming the True Cross which crucified our Lord.
The Cross is the universal symbol of our faith, especially the Orthodox Cross, which has so much contextual meaning and lends a constant reminder to us what our faith means – that our Lord Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself and brought the Salvation of God to all of us. Our Lord did not favor anyone, but gave Salvation to all of us.
When Pilate asked our Lord to give him a reason to release Him, our Lord said that only God the Father can decide what happened, and that those who persecuted Him bore the greatest sins (John 19:6-11); yes, those Jews who wore the cloaks of faith but vehemently denounced God in their midst, and even claimed that they had no king but Caesar, thereby denouncing God altogether.
God does not create obstacles to stop us from reaching Him. Rather, God creates signs, wonders, and maps for us to reach Him in conciliation.
Unlike heretics, our faith is experiential and we limp and walk towards God in repentance and prayer, asking God for direction to hope to reconcile with Him. We acknowledge our condition and lack of direction, rather than thinking arrogantly like intellectuals. Christianity is not a theoretical field, where academics slug out to win debates. Be both comforted and forewarned as we read 1 Corinthians 1:18-24, that we are to be like innocent children seeking God, and not indulge in our intellect.
Each of us bears a cross to our names. Some seem to carry lighter crosses while some others carry heavier crosses. Every cross we carry for ourselves, are for us to strengthen ourselves so that we are more equipped to meet God, just as our Lord Jesus Christ also carried His Cross to reunite with God the Father. Our Christ showed us the way to our salvation – carrying our crosses every second of the day, every day, till our end.
Our faith is walking the hot sands of the desert, with tattered clothes under the scorching heat of our sins, to seek God in Theosis. Our faith is grinding our teeth tightly together and we hug our bare bodies and souls to walk against the raging winter of our sins, to seek God in the oasis of Salvation. And God rewards the humble and the penitent, just as the penitent thief was told by our Lord Jesus Christ that he would join our Lord in Paradise. Therefore, we are the New Israel and the people of God, and we are chosen because we chose God through His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
Keep Christ our Lord close to us, make the Sign of the Cross often as we pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.
Let us close by praying the thanksgiving prayer:
It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.
O virgin Theotokos, rejoice; O Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
John 19:6-11, 13-20, 25-28, 30-35
1 Corinthians 1:18-24