Today, on eve of the Apodosis of the glorious feast of the Exaltation of the Precious and Life Giving Cross, we have an inspiring sermon from the Russian Orthodox Mission in India, delivered by, the representative of the Russian Orthodox Mission in India, Polycarp (Dr. Rohan Nehamaiyah).
Today we are celebrating the Feast of the Exaltation of the Precious and Life Giving Holy Cross, on which we commemorate the finding of the True Cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by St. Helena, the mother of the Constantine the Great. St. Helena found the precious Cross together with the crosses of the two thieves crucified with our Lord. However, she had no way to determine which was the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Patriarch Macarius of Jerusalem identified the True Cross of Christ when a dying woman touched one of the crosses and was healed. St. Helena with many others who came to see this great instrument of Redemption, venerated the Precious and Life-Giving Cross. All of the people gathered responded with “Lord have mercy” when Patriarch lifted the Cross with both hands. This Feast of our Lord is celebrated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, but unfortunately we can’t participate in Holy Mysteries of our Lord, as we know, we still do not have a priest.
In our Russian Orthodox Mission in India we have many barriers, but our Lord God is always merciful to us. St. Constantine the Great had a vision of a Cross/Chi-Rho sign, and heard a voice of Christ: In this sign you will conquer—and he really did conquer. Therefore we will not conquer until we keep the Holy Cross in our hearts, as Constantine had crosses painted on the shields of his warriors. We have to Elevate the Holy Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ to overcome barriers of this Mission. There are very few Russian Orthodox communities in India, but still it doesn’t mean that we are not important to our God; hence, He said, Fear not, little flock… (Luke 12:32). We are not forbidden, we are not ignored by Him; therefore this is what the Lord Almighty says, For whoever touches you touches the apple of His eye (Zechariah 2:8). Therefore do not be afraid, we are still people of God even we if are very small communities, and our Russian brothers, sisters and Church Authorities are praying unceasingly for us. That is why God’s grace is always upon us.
Today on the occasion of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Precious and Life Giving Holy Cross, I am asking you to follow our Lord Jesus Christ, and live according to the Way of the Cross. When we give ourselves to following our Christ by living a life of love, we will able to know His peace. The Cross seems to be simply a sign of defeat but it is not just a sign of defeat, it is a sign of willing submission, of a life offered up for others, of sacrifice and love. Christ died for us out of love; we can see the whole Heart of God when we look to the Holy Cross and Him Who pours out His Love toward us.
Today, all of us who look to the Holy Cross have an opportunity to lift up our hearts and minds to touch the Holy Cross that the world could not touch; today, we can receive self-giving Love of God, Who will give us peace in our hearts. This is why, as Saint John writes, the folly of the Cross confounds the wise and does what they cannot—the wise can influence minds, but the Cross can humble and heal minds, rectify wills and change hearts. This is why it remains a stumbling block to the powerful, as it gives to us a treasure that does not rust and which thieves cannot take by force. This is why we exalt the Holy Cross: because it is the means by which Our Lord accomplished our salvation and showed us the depth of His Love—something which no one can take from us, and which will outlast the world that it created.
How could we know, we who are followers of Christ, we who have chosen the Way of the Cross: are we living according to our Lord Jesus Christ? Is it possible for us to sacrifice ourselves and offer our life for others? This question is hard to answer but generally we consider that, yes, we are living according to Christ. But here we need to examine ourselves, because if we can’t sacrifice ourselves for others as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ did for us, it simply means that we don’t have Love like the Love of God that we are receiving.
Spoiled people living for themselves will not share their life with others, and because of their egoism such people are hated by their neighbors and all people. Their life is lost. If we live for Christ, we will save our life. However, if we live for ourselves, we will lose our life. In Matthew 10:39 and 16:25 our Lord says, Whoever finds (wants to save) their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. Such people do not understand the power of the Precious and Life Giving Holy Cross of Savior Jesus Christ and the Authority of our Lord God; hence, they say as Pilate said, Do you not know that I have the power… (John 19:10) and our Lord responds to such people as He said to Pilate, You could have no power at all…it had been given you from above… (John 19:11). Here we must understand which kind of people we are when we make troubles for our brethren or our neighbours. If we have real authority from above we will fulfill the will of our Lord God, but when we do not receive instruction from our God we only fulfill our fleshly desires. We must not forget that the Cross is the guardian of the whole earth. The Cross is the beauty of the Church. The Cross is the might of kings. The Cross is the support of the faithful. The Cross is the glory of angels and wound of demons. 1 Corinthians 1:18:24 says, For the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Geeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Therefore we must take up our crosses and sacrifice ourselves to others instead of making obstacles for others. Here I would like to quote some words from St. Ephraim the Syrian and St. John Chrysostom.
St. Ephraim the Syrian:
“The Cross abolished idolatrous adulation, enlightened the whole universe, gathered all the nations into one Church and united them with love. The Cross is the resurrection of the dead. The Cross is the hope of Christians. The Cross is the staff for the lame. The Cross is comfort for the poor. The Cross is the deposing of the proud. The Cross is the hope of those who despair. The Cross is food for the sailors. The Cross is haven for the bestormed. The Cross is the father for orphans. The Cross is comfort for those who mourn. The Cross is the protector of children. The Cross is the glory of men. The Cross is the crown of elders. The Cross is light for those sitting in darkness. The Cross is freedom for slaves, wisdom for the ignorant. The Cross is the preaching of prophets, the fellow-traveler of apostles. The Cross is the chastity of maidens, the joy of priests. The Cross is the foundation of the Church, the establishment of the universe. The Cross is the destruction of idolatrous temples, temptation for Jews. The Cross is the cleansing of the lepers, the rehabilitation of the enfeebled. The Cross is bread for the hungry, a fountain for the thirsty. The Cross is the good hope of monks, clothing for the naked.
“By this holy armor of the Cross Christ the Lord has terminated the omniconsuming bowels of Hades and blocked the many snares in the mouth of the devil. Having seen the Cross, death trembled and released everyone whom she possessed with the first creature. Armed with the Cross, the God-bearing apostles subdued all the power of the enemy and caught all peoples in their dragnets, and gathered them for the worship of the One Crucified. Clothed in the Cross as in armor, the martyrs of Christ trampled all the plans of torturers and preached with plainness the Divine Cross-bearer. Having taken up the Cross for the sake of Christ, those who renounced everything in the world settled in deserts and on mountains, in caves and became the fasters of the earth.
“But what language is worthy to praise the Cross, this invincible wall of the Orthodox, this victorious armor of the Heavenly King?! By the cross the Almighty One bestowed unspeakable blessings on humanity!”
“Therefore on the forehead, and on the eyes, and on the mouth, and on the breasts let us place the life-giving Cross. Let us arm them with the invincible armor of Christians, with this hope of the faithful, with this gentle light. Let us open paradise with this armor, with this support of the Orthodox faith, with this saving praise of the Church. Neither in one hour, nor in one instant, let us not forget the Cross, nor let us begin to do anything without it. But let us sleep, let us arise, let us work, let us eat, let us drink, let us go on our way, let us sail on the seas, let us go across the river, let us adorn all our members with the life-giving Cross. And let us not be frightened by the terror of the night, nor by the arrow that flies by day, nor by anything roaming in darkness, nor by any calamity, nor any noonday demon (Ps. 90:5, 6). If, O Christian, you will always take up the Cross of Christ on yourself as a help, then evil shall not come towards you, nor any scourge come near your habitation: for the opposing power seeing it trembles and leaves.”
St. John Chrysostom:
“The Cross of the Lord is unpleasant and sorrowful to the ear, but it consists of joy and gladness. It is the originator not so much of suffering as much as of passionlessness. For Jews the Cross is temptation, for pagans it is madness, but for us believers it reminds us of our salvation. When in church one reads about the Cross and one is reminded of the sufferings on the Cross, the faithful are indignant at the Cross and let out a plaintive wail and murmur not at the Cross but at the crucifiers and unbelievers. For the Cross is the salvation of the Church, the Cross is the praise of those who hope on it. The Cross has released us from the evil that possessed us and is the beginning of the blessings received by us. The Cross is the reconcilement of His enemies with God, the promise of sinners to Christ. For by the Cross we were freed from enmity and through the Cross we have become amiable to God. The Cross delivered us from the authority of the devil, the Cross saved us from death and destruction. The Cross changed human nature to the angelic, having released it from all that is corruptible, and have found lives worthy of immortality.”
“How great is the power of the Cross! How great is the change made by it in the human race! How from the deep darkness it has led us to the boundless light, from death it has restored us to eternal life, from corruption it has transferred us to incorruption. What good is not accomplished for us by means of the Cross? Through the Cross we learned piety and learned the properties of the Divine essence. Through the Cross we learn the truth about God, through the Cross we who were far from Him are united to Christ, and we become worthy of the grace of the Holy Spirit. Through the Cross we learn the power of love and we are taught to die for others. Through the Cross we are scorned and all that we do is not temporal, we search the blessings of the future and we accept the invisible as if seen. The Cross is preached, and the faith in God is confessed, His truth is spread throughout the universe. The Cross is preached, and the faith in the resurrection, the life and the kingdom of heaven is made without a doubt. What is more precious than the Cross and what is more saving for the soul? The Cross is the triumph over demons, the armor against sin and the sword with which the Lord has struck the snake. The Cross is the will of the Father, the glory of the Only-begotten, the joy of the Holy Spirit, the ornament of angels, the protection of the Church, the praise of St. Paul, the protection of the Saints, the lamp of all the world.”
“See, however desired and deservedly amiable the Cross is made today, it was the most terrible and shameful sign of the cruelest execution in antiquity! And the Cross makes the best ornament on the imperial crown, the most precious in all the world. The image of the Cross is now found on you, both masters and servants, both wives and husbands, both maidens and married, both slaves and free. All place the sign of the Cross on the noblest part of their body, daily carrying this sign on their forehead, as on a depicted pillar. It shines on a sacred meal, on the clothes of the priest and together with the Lord’s body at the mystical supper. You see it lifted everywhere: on houses, in market-places, in the deserts, on the paths, on mountains and hills, on the sea, on ships, on islands, on boxes, on clothes, on armor, in the halls, on golden and silver vessels, in pictures, on the bodies of sick animals, on the bodies of the demon-possessed, in war, in the world, in the afternoon, at night, in festal assemblies and in the cells of the ascetics. Already no one is ashamed and does not blush at the thought that the Cross is a sign of a shameful death. To the contrary, all of us honor this as an adornment for ourselves, which has surpassed crowns and diadems and precious stones. Let us not run, let us not be frightened, but let us kiss and honor it as an invaluable treasure.”
Let us today take up our crosses, and rejoice and exalt in them, for they have become through the power of Christ the instruments of our salvation. We also need to ask our Lord: Save, O Lord, and have mercy on the Russian Land and her Orthodox people both in the homeland and in the diaspora, and its authorities and also Indian Land and Orthodox people of India and its authorities.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, Amen +
For more information on the Orthodox Mission in India please contact:
Church of India (Russian Orthodox Mission in India)
C/o. Dr. Rohan R. Nehamaiyah
Near Nilkamal Apartment,
Naginabag No.2, Chandrapur (Maharashtra)-442401,