Daily Message: On the Precious and Life-Giving Cross

Martyred Bishops of Cherson

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
Christ is in our midst! He was and is and ever shall be. Ο Χριστός έν τώ μέσω ημών. Και ήν και έστι και έσται.

by Saint Augustine

Lord Jesus Christ,, Most sweet Son of the Heavenly Father, what possible evil did You do to suffer the cruel condemnation of the Cross? What is Your crime to bear the fearful sufferings of death? What is Your transgression? What is Your guilt? What is the cause of Your death? What is the justification for Your condemnation?

I, the sinful man, I am Your wound, which inflicts those pains on You upon the Cross. I am responsible for Your suffering. I am the cause of Your death. I am the criminal, for whose sake You, the sinless One, were condemned. I am the reason why You were wounded and suffered the pains of death upon the Cross.

O judgments of God, singular and paradoxical! O mysterious order that cannot be explained and understood in human terms! Man, the transgressor of God's Commandments, sins, and it is Jesus, the Righteous, Who suffers for man! The guilty transgresses and the innocent is flogged! The transgressor comes into conflict with God and it is the One completely devoted to the will of God Who is condemned! What the foolish one was supposed to suffer is under-taken and suffered by the Righteous and Virtuous One! All the evil deeds committed by the servant are paid for and removed by the Lord! The sins of man are carried by God!

O Son of God,, how far, how very far You condescended for our sake, and to what great extent has your humility advanced! How exceedingly great has Your fervent love for us human beings proven to be! How abundantly Your mercy has appeared! How greatly indeed has Your goodness to us manifested itself! To what great extent has Your loving-kindness toward mankind reached! And to what great lengths has your compassion for us humans extended itself!

O My Lord and my hope! I beseech You; be merciful to me in my sins according to the multitude of Your compassion and loving kindness. Grant me the readiness, the willingness and the open ears to hear and indeed to obey Your commandments. Do not allow me to deviate into thoughts of evil and to find various excuses to justify evil deeds. I beseech Your Holy Name and Your marvelous humility, which You accepted for my sake. I also ask, Lord, that You do not allow me to become prideful and vain in any way. Finally, Lord, let no sinful man ever prevail over me to cause me to waver and to distance myself from Your Law and Your Love.Amben.

On March 7th  Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics and Teachers of Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Seven Hieromartyrs of Cherson; St. Lavrentios of Megara; Saint Paul the Simple.

THE HOLY MARTYRED BISHOPS OF CHERSON VASILEIOS, EPHRAIM, EVGENIOS, CAPITO, AETHERIOS, AGATHODOROS, AND ELPIDIOS. These holy Bishops were sent to Cherson on the Black Sea by Hermon, Bishop of Jerusalem, in the day of the pagan Roman Emperor Diocletian, about the year 300 A.D., to preach the Gospel. Saint Vasileios were sent first. Saint Vasileios raised to life the dead son of a local ruler, because of which many were baptized. Those who remained in their unbelief, however, dragged him through the streets until he died. St. Ephraim, refusing to offer sacrifice to idols, was beheaded. After them, Saints Evgenios, Agathodoros, Capito, and Elpidios were sent by the Bishop of Jerusalem as heralds of the Faith, but they also were slain by the ungodly. Last of all, the Bishop of Jerusalem sent Aetherios; he was drowned during the reign of Saint Constantine the Great.

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Plagal of First Tone
Since Thou hast given us the miracles of Thy holy Martyrs as an invincible battlement, by their entreaties scatter the counsels of the heathen, O Christ our God, and strengthen the faith of Orthodox Christians, since Thou alone art Good and the Friend of man.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Martyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

Orthros (Matins) Old Testament: Isaiah 5:16-25
Esperinos (Vespers) Old Testament 1: Genesis 4:16-26
Esperinos (Vespers) Old Testament 2: Proverbs 5:15-6:3

"Let us approach willingly the most sacred prayer, the queen of the virtues, speaking to us with an exalted voice and saying: 'Come to me, all who have become weary of the carnal and the worldly and the demonic warfare, and I will redeem you from  all of these and give your rest.' St. Matthew 11:18 Saint John of the Ladder

by Saint Gregory Palamas

The Cross of Christ was mysteriously proclaimed in advance and foreshadowed from generations of old and no one was ever reconciled with God except by the power of the Cross. After our First Parents transgressed against God through the tree in paradise, sin came to life, but we died, submitting, even before physical death, to the death of the soul, its separation from God. After the transgression we lived in sin, and according to the flesh. Sin "is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Romans 8:7-8).

As the Apostle says, "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh" (Galatians 5:17). God, however, is Spirit, absolute Goodness and Virtue, and our own spirit is after His image and likeness, although sin has made it good for nothing. So how could anyone at all be spiritually renewed and reconciled with God, unless sin and life according to the flesh had been abolished? The Cross of Christ is this abolition of sin. One of our God-bearing Fathers was asked by an unbeliever if he really believed in Christ crucified. "Yes", he replied, "I believe in Him Who crucified sin." God Himself has borne witness that there were many who were His friends before and after the law, when the Cross had not yet been revealed. David, the king and prophets, says, as if there were definitely friends of God in his day, "How precious also are thy friends unto me, O God!" (Psalm 139:17). I shall now show you, if you listen attentively for the love of God, how it was that people were called friends of God before the Cross.

Although the man of sin, the son of lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2:3), by which I mean Antichrist, has not yet come, the theologian whom Christ loved says, "Even now, Beloved, there is antichrist" (1 John 2:18). In the same way, the Cross existed in the time of our ancestors, even before it was accomplished. The great St. Paul teaches us absolutely clearly that Antichrist is among us, even though he has not yet come, saying, "His mystery doth already work in you" (2 Thess. 2:7). In exactly the same way Christ's Cross was among our forefathers before it came into being, because its mystery was working in them.

Leaving aside Abel, Seth, Enos, Enoch, Noah, and all those up until Noah who were pleasing to God, and their contemporaries, I shall begin with Abraham, who was called the father of many nations, the Jews' father after the flesh and our by faith. As I am to start with this spiritual father of ours, his good beginning and God's initial call to him, what were the first words God spoke to him? "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, unto a land that I will show thee" (Gen. 12:1). This utterance certainly bears within it the mystery of the Cross, for it is exactly what St. Paul says when he glories in the Cross: "The world is crucified unto me" (Gal. 6:14). When someone has fled his home country or the world without turning back, for him his country according to the flesh and the world have been put to death and ceased to exist, and this is the Cross.

Even if a man could gain the whole world, brethren, it would be of no benefit to him because he would have lost his own soul. In reality, each person can only acquire an infinitely small share of this world. What a disaster, then, if someone loses his soul in his efforts to acquire this tiny share, rather than choosing to take up the sign and word of the Cross and to follow the Giver of Life. Now both the sign which we reverence and the word concerning it are, in fact, the Cross.

Are you troubled by the thought of love of glory? When you are in meetings or councils, bring to mind the Lord's advice on this subject in the Gospels. Do not try to appear superior to others when you speak. Practice any virtues you have in secret, looking only to God and seen only by Him, "and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly" (St. Matthew 6:6).  If, after cutting off the cause of every one of the passions, the thought of them still inwardly troubles you, do not be afraid. It will procure you crowns, since it annoys you but does not win you over, and is not active. It is a dead movement, conquered by your godly struggle.

Inclining our hearts as well as bending our knees, come, "let us worship", with David the psalmist and prophet, "at the place where His feet stood" (Psalm 132:7), where His All-Embracing hands were outspread and His Life-Giving Body was stretched out for our sake. As we reverence and greet the Cross with faith, let us draw and keep the abundant sanctification flowing from it. Then, at the sublimely glorious future advent of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, as we see Him come in Glory, we shall rejoice and skip for joy unceasingly, having attained to a place on His Right hand and heard the promised joyful words and blessing, to the Glory of the Son of God crucified in the flesh for us.

For to Him belongs all Glory, together with His Father without beginning and the All Holy, Good and Life-Giving Spirit, now and forever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George