Brethren, we have reached the mid-point of the Fast. Today is the Veneration of the Holy Cross. The world is fixed to the Mystery of the Cross: the Cross is the centrifugal point of all time. All Christian generations join us mystically in our journey with the Savior to Golgotha to behold Him Who was Crucified for us on the wood of the Holy Cross. It was written of old, cursed is He who hangs on the wood: The Cross, an instrument of torture and death, is paradoxically shown by the Savior as a life-giving weapon of peace and unification; for the God-Man suffered the Passion and submitted to death for our sake on the Cross, uniting God to man. Therefore, let all Christian generations worship the all-venerable Cross of Christ by which salvation is poured forth on our mortal race. On this Sunday of the Cross-Veneration, let us draw strength from the Cross of Christ by which to carry our own Cross—the problems we face in this earthy existence—whether they be problems related to our marriages or our family members, or financial problems, or health issues. Each of us has a Cross, and each is called by Christ to take up the Cross and follow Him. We are called as Christians to be Cross-bearers. And we are called to co-Crucifixion with Christ. We must die with Him in the metaphorical spiritual sense in this existence: Come, let us suffer and let us die with Him, we will hear from the choir at the Matins of Holy Monday. We must exemplify His Passion and His sufferings in our own flesh. And one day, the death we were initiated into at the time of our Baptism—dying in the font with Christ in three-fold immersion—will come to fruition in our biological death. This is only the death of the body, which we are taught by the Holy Fathers to not fear: No longer do I fear, Master Christ, the return to the earth. Thou hast made a way for me from the grave to the heights of immortality by Thy Resurrection! Herein lies the secret. If you want to live, you must die. And better die to the world prior to the end so that you may have life, and life abundantly. This mystery is foolishness to the world, but in essence it is the cornerstone and foundation of Christianity: the Mystery of Christ’s Cross and Resurrection.
The Gospel we heard today tells us: Some of them standing here will not taste death until they behold the Kingdom of God coming in power. To taste death means to participate in the communion of the sinful world. We commune with the world when we engage in sin, but also when we experience death and illness and suffering. Death was brought into existence by the Fall of the old Adam from grace. The antidote to death is a return to Paradise wrought by the New Adam. The Old Adam fell by tasting the fruit of the forbidden tree. And today, man is invited to taste and participate in the victory of the Cross—on the wood of which mankind was redeemed by the New Adam, Our Savior, through Whose Resurrection we are translated back to Paradise. Christians are men and women called to the sacrificial life of the Cross. There is no Christianity without the Cross. St. John of Damascus teaches: Every action, therefore, and performance of miracles by Christ are most great and divine and marvelous: but the most marvelous of all is His precious Cross. For no other thing has subdued death, expiated the sin of the first parent, despoiled Hades, bestowed the resurrection, granted the power to us of contemning the present and even death itself, prepared the return to our former blessedness, opened the gates of Paradise, given our nature a seat at the right hand of God, and made us the children and heirs of God, save the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. For by the Cross all things have been made right.
We have spoken on what the Cross implies for us. Namely, it implies that we die to the flesh and its carnal desires so that we may live a sacramental, Resurrectional existence in Christ. We heard in the Gospel: Whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. This signifies the sacrificial nature of Christianity. Christianity requires sacrifice, personal ascesis—which we will speak about at length next Sunday—which leads to life via death. And this principle can be applied to us as a society as well. The Cross has a place in society itself. In fact, it must occupy the chief place. And no Christian society can exist without the Cross publicly exalted and venerated. The Cross is everywhere, manifested and glorified. Historically, it preceded Christian armies in battles fought for the defense of Christendom. Earthly kings appointed by Christ to rule all bow to His Cross, through which they govern by His authority. Even today, many European nations have as their symbol Christ’s Cross on their flags—despite their current implicit rejection of Christianity. If Christian society and the Church are centered on Christ’s Cross, then we must ask ourselves: How is that we, who claim to be fruit-bearing Christians, do not display the Victory of the Cross in our lives? The Victory of the Cross is displayed when we crucify our lusts and desires. The Victory of the Cross occurs when we place our desires and our will last, and we place service to the Church, to our family, and to our fellow man as our first priority.
We consistently complain of the departure of Western society from the moral values and Christian culture from which it is based. We complain that Europe departed from the Cross. It is right for us to do so. Europe has rejected the Cross. And all those who reject the Cross find death, not life. One Greek archimandite commented recently on a certain Facebook post of mine: “We are European, these are our values!” in reference to the recent spectacle of the President (a woman) of the Hellenic Republic dressed in pants, standing in the midst of the Cathedral of Athens, displaying a total lack of regard for the honored way our Greek mothers taught us: that women should enter the church dressed modestly, in a dress. I doubt Madam President’s own grandmother would approve of her behavior. This Sunday is dedicated to priestly vocations within my former jurisdiction, the Church of Greece. Nonetheless, the Church of Greece by the majority of the clergy in administrative positions, i.e. bishops and archimandrites—though not the average married clergy—reject such “outdated” Christian concepts as they herald the phrase, “We are European, these are our values!” They have accepted values that are contrary to the message of the Cross. I lived this subliminal messaging during my years of service in Greece, and it is the unfortunate reality played out before our eyes: Certain Orthodox jurisdictions such as the Constantinople Patriarchate and the Church of Greece implicitly reject the Cross.
Today, on Cross Veneration Sunday, the administration of the Church of Greece and the Constantinople Patriarchate—please note this: not the simple priests or the believers—call Orthodox Christians to venerate something that they themselves reject. And not only do they reject it, they oppose the Cross, they oppose the message of the Cross. They crucify their brethren on the Cross. They are not Christians, they are crucifiers: They crucified Metropolitan Onuphry on the Cross, and they prepared the Passion for many clergy and faithful in Ukraine. And they slowly facilitated such a Passion and Crucifixion for the clergy and pious faithful in their own nations: Should their agenda of moral inclusivity be implemented, Christian Europe will cease to exist. Again, we call to mind the words of our Savior from today’s Gospel: Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. Might these words be applied to the hierarchical administration of the Greek Church and European society as a collective whole?
Here we have a crisis of European survival. Europe must return to its roots. Europe must return to the Cross! Christian, you are called to actively return European and Western society to the Cross. You are called to bow to the Cross, to have your children bow and submit to the Cross, to the Gospel, to Christ! Everything and everyone must submit to the Cross. And everything and everyone will submit to Christ and His Cross whether they like it or not. Every knee will bow on heaven and earth on that Dread Day! Those godless, and those clergy and laity who opposed the Cross will be ashamed eternally. The vocation of our lives is the implementation of Christianity by the re-Evangelization of our European, Western society. Let us not tarry any longer: Our survival as a Christian society depends on this. We must unite to spread the message of the Cross. Europe’s descent into the current anarchy began with the rejection of Christian monarchy and embracing anarchy and revolution and republicanism two hundred and thirty years ago, with the dawn of the French Revolution and similar movements, which themselves stem from individualism. All ills, death, destruction and upheaval stem from this, from the rejection of the timeless Christian polity, which was centered on the Cross. I can acknowledge that Christian Europe had its drawbacks in certain areas. Yet do these by necessity mandate the rejection of Christianity? We must work for spiritual renewal, not the demolition of timeless values. Many pious monarchs reigned in Europe and furthered Christian society by the power of the Cross. The earthly king is an image of the Heavenly King, under whose authority he rules. Should he abuse this and become another Saul, God will see and judge. The reclamation of Europe depends on re-Christianization and the restoration of Orthodox Monarchy—and though an imperfect system in this fallen world, it is the one ordained by God to lead, despite any shortcomings. The reclamation of Christian Europe is not impossible when Christians turn to the Cross. All victory comes by the Cross. Death is defeated by the Cross. Resurrection shines through the Cross. Lord, grant Thy Church and Thy people victory beyond understanding by the power of Thy Cross, vouchsafing us sinners to reach the days of Thy venerable Passion in repentance and love.