In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be! It’s beautiful timing for this Feast of the Cross to be positioned at the beginning of a Fast for the Theotokos. The fullness of the life of the Mother of God is found in the Cross of her Son. All of her life is a movement toward the ultimate calling and purpose for her Son—the salvation of the human race on the Life-Giving Cross. The fullness, the completion, the purpose of all of our lives is found in the Cross. The Church gives us a way to think about this in the services composed for the Feast. So I’d like us to listen again, prayerfully, to one of the hymns we heard tonight. From the Aposticha verses composed by Cosmas the Monk:
“O God, the words of Moses Thy prophet have been fulfilled,[the Cross was foreseen and foretold from the very beginning] who said: ‘Ye shall see your life hanging before your eyes!’ [“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” Christ said…and today we see the very source of life nailed to a Tree to die] Today the Cross is exalted, and the world is freed from deception. [Today we exalt and venerate the means of our Lord’s death, because through the Cross the world is freed from the deciept of Satan, we are freed from the idea that mankind can save himself, Satan’s lies area destroyed in the supreme humility of God, and through the Cross we’re offered a chance at life.] Today the resurrection of Christ is renewed, [On the day that we remember the Cross, on this Feast, we also renew the Resurrection—the two events so pivitol for our salvation, can’t be septereated] and the ends of the earth rejoice, offering to Thee a hymn on cymbals, like David, and saying: ‘Thou hast wrought salvation in the midst of the earth, O God: the Cross and the Resurrection! [Jerusalem was called the center or the middle of the earth. Salvation was wrought in the midst of the earth, in Jerusalem, where Christ was crucified. And then the imagery of the despoiling of Hades in the middle of the earth, and rising from the earth in His triumphant Resurrection] For their sake [for the sake of the Cross and the Resurrection] Thou hast saved us, O Good One Who lovest mankind! [The ultimate show of God’s love for man is the Cross. It destroys the lies of Satan who would have us believe that God is angry, or a slave master, and God reveals to us that His very nature is sacrificial love] O Almighty Lord, glory be to Thee!” [What else can we do if we believe this teaching than praise and worship God?]
This Feast falling at the beginning of the Dormition Fast has the effect of reminding us to take up our Cross, as did Christ and His Most Holy Mother, and to follow our God where ever He may lead—all the way to the depths of Hades, knowing that our promise is the Glory of the Resurrection. “Be it to me according to Thy word,” (Luke 1:38) is the Theotokos’ response to God’s request for her to be the Mother of the Messiah. And the Cross that she accepts in that is heavy. The temptations we face just as followers of Christ, we can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to be His Mother. The Cross is difficult. On one level, we certainly can see that even Christ doesn’t want the Cross—“let this cup pass from Me,” He says, “but not My will.” He accepts the Cross for the mystery of the Father’s dispensation for the plan of mankind’s salvation to be accomplished. He endures the Cross and death, so that we can be saved. And now we come today and fall down and venerate the Precious and Life-Giving Cross, and we draw strength from the Cross of our God to bear our own life-giving Crosses. “Without temptation, [without Crosses], no one can be saved,” the Father’s teach. We identify our small Crosses with the unimaginable burden of the Cross of Christ, and we follow His footsteps to salvation. “Before Thy Cross we fall down in worship, O Master, and Thy Holy Resurrection we glorify.” Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!