Posts tagged ‘Cross’

Veneration of the Cross/St. Tikhon – 3rd Sunday of Great Lent

crossMark 8:34-9:1
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!

Today, on this middle Sunday of the Great Fast, we have two magnificent commemorations set before us. We have the usual remembrance for the Third Sunday of Lent – the Veneration of the Holy Cross. We also remember today the life and miracles of St. Tikhon, Patriarch of Russia and Apostle to America.

The Fathers give us the Veneration of the Cross today as a consolation. We’re going through the rigors of Lent – the fasting, ascetic discipline, services, spiritual reading and prayer – and we’re reminded today of why we undertake these things. This is the only time during the year that full prostrations are prescribed for us as we walk into Church on Sunday morning. We fall down before the Cross in worship, as the troparion says, glorifying the Holy Resurrection. The Cross reminds us not only of the suffering Servant, but also of the Risen Lord. It’s not like we’re trying to perfect ourselves of our own power, rather we are trying to make ourselves better receptacles for the grace of God. We soften ourselves, we become more like Christ, and that opens us to receive the grace and the presence of the Creator. Remember what the Scriptures say about Christ – He emptied Himself, and took the form of a servant, for our salvation. And now we empty ourselves – we rid ourselves of sin and all that stands between us and God – and we prepare ourselves to be filled with His presence. We practice what we just heard from the Gospel of St. Mark – we deny ourselves, take up our Cross, and follow Christ. And it’s in this lifestyle of putting the things of God in the first place in our lives that we finally find peace and fulfillment in our lives. Our homiletics professor at seminary always told us to remind people that the best life possible is life in Christ. In sin we become slaves, unable to control our desires and even our actions. We become what we’re created to be by willingly setting aside our wants and accepting the Cross of Christ.
What is this Cross? Fr. Thomas Hopko says it very well in one of his talks on the Cross: he says that our Cross is whatever obstacles we face in this life. So whether we born with certain struggles, acquire them in our youth or old age, have them forced upon us by others, chase them with all our might – any struggle we face in this life is the Cross that God has allowed on our shoulders. We carry it faithfully by always offering our lives to Him, by walking without complaining or self-pity, and by seeking our life’s salvation in that place where we actually are. Fulfilling the purpose of our creation is the best we can possibly do in this world.

We see this played out, “proven,” in the lives of the Saints. The Saints accept whatever God allows to come their way, and their lives are fulfilled, and they grow to be holy men and women by simply carrying the Cross of Christ. I encourage you with every ounce of encouragement I can give – read the lives of the Saints! Their lives stand as guiding lights for us, we can draw such inspiration for our own life in Christ by reading the lives of the holy men and women of God who’ve gone on before us. Today we remember St. Tikhon – a perfect example of a man taking up the Cross. St. Tikhon was sent to North America to be her Archbishop – he left home, family, and country, traveling across the world to spread the Gospel in a foreign land. I love the concreteness of the missionary saints leaving their home and traveling to another place; it’s a very visual example of taking up the Cross of Christ. Of course, we’re called to live in this place with much the same detachment – being in this world but not of this world; living in this place and participating in the Kingdom at the same time. St. Tikhon was eventually brought home to Russia, and elected Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia during an incredibly difficult time for the Russian Orthodox Church. His time as Archpastor of Russia was fraught with struggles – pushing back against the godless authorities, dealing with the Living Church, dealing with traitors within his own Church – and in the midst of this all, he had to find a way not only to live his own life in Christ, but to lead others to that same experience as well. Through all of the turmoil, St. Tikhon was a beacon of light for Christians. He was a true man of God, doing what needed to be done in order for the Gospel to be preached, and for people to grow in their relationships with Christ.

So today we have some consolation. We remember the Cross, we remember the Resurrection, and we remember the great St. Tikhon – all three of these recalling for us the goal of our labors. We don’t fast to fast – the demons never eat, as the Desert Father reminds us. Our goal is always Christ. May our Lenten journey make us soft, so that the presence of Christ can penetrate our hearts, and we can become truly children of the Father.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Matthew Jackson

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The Word of the Cross

“…and that is the foundational metaphysical reality for sane existence: we are insane if we do not know, in our gut, that we are loved, and we are loved by God.“ ~Fr. Thomas Hopko, from ‘The Word of the Cross’

In his talk, ‘The Word of the Cross,’ Fr. Thomas focuses specifically on what it looks like in our daily lives for us to follow the Gospel commandment to take up our cross and to follow Christ. Follow the links below to listen to this wonderful talk by Fr. Thomas.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4