The Cross in the Life of the Orthodox Christian

Martyr Photina (Svetlana), the Samaritan Woman

Martyr Photina (Svetlana), the Samaritan Woman

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

Office of the Great Compline (Apodeipnos) Service

Reader: In the Name of the Lord. Father give the blessing.

Priest: Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us and save us.

Reader: Amen.

Priest: Recites the following prayer of Saint Basil the Great: Lord, Lord, who have delivered us from every arrow that flies by day, deliver us from anything that lurks about in darkness. Accept the lifting of our hands as an evening sacrifice. Make us worthy to traverse the time of night blamelessly, untouched by evil, and redeem us from every disturbance and fear caused by the devil. Grant contrition to our souls and concern to our minds about the accounting at Your awesome and just judgment. Nail down our bodies with Your fear, and deaden our earthly members, so that even in the quiet of our slumber we may be enlightened by the contemplation of your ordinances. Keep away from us every indecent fantasy and harmful desire. Awaken us in the time of prayer rooted in the faith, and thriving in Your instructions; through the good will and goodness of Your Only-begotten Son with Whom You are Blessed, together with Your All-Holy and Good and Life-Giving Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

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THE CROSS IN THE LIFE OF THE ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN
By Saint Nikolai Velimirovic (Source: Homilies by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich)

But note the strange ending to today's Gospel: "Verily I say unto you, that there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death till they have seen the Kingdom of God come with power." One would say at first glance that these words have no connection with those that go before. However, the connection is clear, and this is a wonderful ending. The Lord will not leave His faithful ones comfortless. Calling them to take up their cross, to deny themselves and their own souls, and threatening them with fearful punishments if they are ashamed of Him and His words, the Lord now makes a rainbow appear in the heavens after the storm. He hastens to speak of a reward for those who obey Him, and follow Him carrying their cross. This reward will be given to some before the end of the world and the Last Judgment, even before the end of their lives here on earth. They will not taste of death "till they have seen the Kingdom of God come with power."  How wise is the Lord in His preaching! He never speaks of condemnation without also mentioning reward, nor does He denounce without praising, nor lead man onto a thorny path without mentioning the joy at the journey's end, nor utter threats without giving consolation. He does not let the heavens stay covered by dark clouds without quickly showing the sun's bright shining and the beauty of the rainbow.

Who are those who will not taste of death till they have seen the Kingdom of God come with power? The Lord, speaking to His disciples and a great crowd of people, says: "There be some of them that stand here." Of whom, then, is the Lord thinking? Firstly of those who will have fulfilled His Commandment on denying themselves and taking up their cross. They will, while still in this world, feel in themselves the power of God's Kingdom. The Spirit of God will descend upon them, to cleanse and sanctify them, and to open to them the doors of the Heavenly Mysteries, as later happened to the Apostles and to Archdeacon Stephanos (Stephen). Did not the Apostles, on the Day of Pentecost, see the Kingdom of God in power at the moment when the power was given to them from on High? And Stephen, "being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God" (Acts 7:55). And did not John the Evangelist see the Kingdom of God before his bodily death? And was not the Apostle Paul raise to the Third Heaven before he tasted death? But let us leave the Apostles aside. Who knows how many of those who stood listening to Christ's preaching felt the power of the Holy Spirit and saw the Kingdom of God come before they left this world?

Apart from this interpretation, some commentaries on the Gospel give these words of Christ's quoted above to the three disciples: Peter, James and John, who saw the Lord Transfigured on Tabor soon after this, when He spoke with Moses and Elias. There is no doubt that this is a right interpretation, but it does not exclude the other. The three Apostles indeed saw the Kingdom of God in power on Mount Tabor, when the Lord Jesus appeared in His Heavenly Glory and Moses and Elias appeared from the other world, one on each side of the Lord of Glory. But we must not think that this was the only occasion on which mortal men saw the Kingdom of God come in power. This moment on Tabor was indeed majestic, but it does not exclude the innumerable other instances of mortal men's seeing, in this life (although in some other way), the Kingdom of God in power and glory.

If we truly desire it, we can also see the Kingdom of God come in power and glory before we taste of death. The circumstances in which it will be revealed to us are clearly set out in today's Gospel. Let us strive to lose our old soul, our sinful life, and let us learn that it is more important for a man to save his soul than to gain the whole world. So shall we be made worthy, in God's mercy, to see the Kingdom of God, great in power and incomparable in glory, where the Angels, together with the Saints, give glory day and night to the Living God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit-the Trinity consubtantial and undivided, now and forever, through all time and all eternity. Amen.

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An Orthodox Christian Perspective on the Cross of Christ

"Having come to the middle point of the Fast that leads to Thy precious Cross, grant that we may see Thy day that Abraham saw and rejoiced, when on the mountain he received Isaac back alive as from the tomb. Deliver from the enemy by faith, may we share Thy Mystical Supper, calling upon Thee in peace: Our Light and our Savior, Glory to Thee! [Matins of Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Great Lent]

The misunderstanding may still persist that the Orthodox Church downplays the significance of the Cross because it so intensely concentrates on the Resurrection, or on other such themes as transfiguration, deification, mystical encounter with God, and so forth. This is now an implicit criticism that there is some deficiency in the Orthodox Christian presentation of the place of the Cross in the Divine dispensation "for us and for our salvation." Such criticism may not hold up under further reflection and inspection, for the Orthodox would say that based upon the Divine economy of our salvation, resurrection-and any "mystical encounter" with God-is only possible through the Cross. As this was "the purpose of His will" and "the mystery of His will" (Ephesians 1:5, 9), our salvation could not have been accomplished in any other way. The "Lord of Glory" was crucified (1 Corinthians 2:8) and then raised from the dead. Elsewhere, the Apostle Paul writes that "Jesus our Lord" was "put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification" (Romans 4:25).

The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews writes of "Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2). A text such as this could be behind the hymn we sing at every Divine Liturgy after receiving the Holy Eucharist: "For through the Cross, joy has come into the world." Jesus Himself said "that the Son of Man must suffer many things...and be killed and after three days rise again" (St. Mark 8:31). Of the Greek word translated as "must" from these words of Christ, Archbishop Demetrios Trakatellis wrote: "This expressed the necessity (dei) of the Messiah's terrible affliction. Judging from the meaning of the verb (dei) in Mark, this necessity touches upon God's great plan for the salvation of the world."

Many such texts can be multiplied, but the point is clear: The Cross and the empty tomb--redemption and resurrection--are inseparably united in the one paschal mystery that is nothing less than "Good News." Like Mary Magdalene before us, one must first stand by the Cross in sober vigilance before gazing with wonder into the empty tomb and then encountering the Risen Lord (St. John 20:11-18)...

"...The Orthodox can make a huge contribution toward a more holistic and integrated understanding of the role of both the Cross and Resurrection, so that the full integrity of the paschal mystery is joyfully proclaimed to the world. From the Patristic tradition of the Church, the voice of Saint Athanasius the Great can speak to us today of this holistic approach (using some "juridical" language): "Here, then is the...reason why the Word dwelt among us, namely that having proved His Godhead by His works, He might offer the sacrifice on behalf of all, surrendering His own temple to death in place of all, to settle man's account with death and free him from the primal transgression. In the same act also He showed Himself mightier than death, displaying His own body incorruptible as the first-fruits of the Resurrection" (On Incarnation, 20)...

"...The disciples were not enlightened until after the Resurrection of their Lord and Master. We are raised in the Church so that we already know of Christ's triumph over death through the Cross. Our resistance is not based on a lack of knowledge, but of a real human dread of pain and suffering. It may be difficult to us to "see" the joy that comes through the Cross until we find ourselves "on the other side," for "now we see in a glass darkly, but then face to face" (1 Corinthians 13:12). It is our hope and the "certainty" of our faith that Christ has indeed triumphed over death, "even death on a Cross" (Philippians 2:8). God has blessed us with yet another Great Lent and upcoming Holy and Great Week and Pascha in order to share in that experience of His Glorious Triumph that begins with the Life-Giving Wood of the Tree of the Cross. (Source: Orthodox Church in America).

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MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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GLORY BE TO GOD FOR ALL THINGS!

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

+Father George