Bearing Our Cross (Part II)

St. Serapion of Zarzma

St. Serapion of Zarzma

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.

BEARING OUR CROSS (Part II)
By Saint Ignatius (Brianchaninov) of Caucasus

What does it mean to take up the cross, and specifically, his cross? This means that every Christian must patiently bear, namely, those insults and those persecutions from the world which befall him, and none other. This means that every Christian, with obedience, with submission to the will of God, with the belief in the justice and mercy of God, and with thanksgiving to God, must bear precisely those sorrows and deprivations which Divine Providence allows him, and not some others which are portrayed or suggested to him by proud imagining. This means that one should be content with those bodily labors which correspond to our physical strength, which are necessary to our body to stay healthy. In no way does it mean to strive for intensive fasting, vigils, and excessive asceticism, being attracted by "vainglorious zeal," according to the expression of Saint John of the Ladder (Climacus), thereby destroying physical health and leading the spirit into conceit and self-deception.

All mankind labors and suffers on this earth; but how diverse is this suffering! How varied are the passions which war against us! How many are the sorrows and temptations which God sends us for our healing, for the cleansing of our sins! What difference there is in the physical strength and health of people! Precisely, every man has his own cross. Every Christian is commanded to receive his cross with self-renunciation and to follow Christ. He who has taken up his cross and denied himself and has come to peace with himself, with his circumstances, with his position, outwardly and inwardly, only such a person can wisely and correctly follow Christ.

What does it mean, to follow Christ? It means to study the Gospel, to have the Gospel as the only guide for the actions of the mind, the actions of the heart, and the actions of the body. It means to borrow one's manner of thought from the Gospel and to serve as an expression of the Gospel in all one's actions, in all movements, seen and unseen. Capable of following after Christ in such a manner, we repeat, can be only such "a person who has fled from self-deception through voluntary humility" (Col. 2:18), and who has sought to acquire true humility where it truly abides--in obedience and submission to God. Having entered into obedience to God, into that obedience which is united with complete self-renunciation, he has taken up his cross, and acknowledged and confessed this cross to be his own.

My beloved brethren! While making prostrations before the Cross today, in accordance with the customs of the Holy Church, let us also make a spiritual prostration! Let us honor the Venerable Cross of Christ--the Instrument of Victory and banner of the Glory of Christ--each one confessing from his cross, "I have received the due reward for my deeds! Remember me, O Lord, in Thy Kingdom!" With acknowledgement of our sinfulness, with gratitude to God, and submission to the will of God ("...Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven..."), let us make our cross, instead of an instrument of punishment and a sign of dishonor, an instrument of victory and a sign of glory, like the Cross of the Lord. With the Cross let us open Paradise for ourselves.

Let us not allow ourselves to complain maliciously, and let us especially give no place to soul-destroying criticism which is often heard from the mouth of the blind, embittered sinner, who is being tortured and flogged on his cross, vainly struggling to escape from his cross. With complaining and criticism, the cross becomes an unbearable burden, drawing down to hell the one crucified on it. "What have I done?" the thoughtless sinner cries out, as he reproaches the injustice and mercilessness of the Just and Merciful God. Seeing the crucified Son of God, he mockingly and maliciously demands of him, "If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross" (St. Matthew 27:40).

But our Lord Jesus Christ "willingly was pleased to ascend the Cross in the flesh to endure death" in order to reconcile mankind with God, by death to save mankind from eternal death. At the appropriate time the Lord revealed to the Holy Apostles that He would be betrayed into the hands of sinners, would suffer much, and would be killed and would rise again, thereby preparing the Holy Apostles for that great event which was to take place, the redemption of the human race through the suffering and shameful death of the God -man Incarnate. Such a prophecy seemed strange and impossible. Then the Lord summoned to Himself His Disciples and said to them, "Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me." Amen.

(Source: Orthodox Heritage)

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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!"--Saint John Chrysostom

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

+Father George