My beloved brothers and sisters 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.
THE SIGN OF THE CROSS: ITS POWER, MEANING AND MIRACLES
Twenty centuries ago the Cross was an instrument of dishonorable punishment and of frightful death. The pagan Romans condemned violent convicts to the punishment of crucifixion.
Today the Cross is paramount in the whole life of pious Christians, and of the whole life of our Church, as instrument of sacrifice, salvation, joy, sanctity and grace. As Saint John Chrysostom writes, "this cursed and abominable symbol of the worst punishment now has become a desirable and beloved. One sees it everywhere, "On the Holy Altar, in the ordination of Priests, in the Divine Liturgy, in the homes, at the markets, in the deserts and on the roads; at sea in the ships and the islands; on the beds and vestments, at the weddings, at banquets, on gold and silver utensils, on jewelry and on frescos...So desirable, this gift has become to all an inexpressible joy.
Truly, wherever one looks, whether inside or outside the Church one sees the sign of the Cross as a visible symbol but also as a sacred gesture. The sign of the Cross dominates in the life of the Church. But why?
Because from the time God, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself was nailed to the Cross and died for the salvation of the world, this instrument of punishment became an instrument of salvation. "...for no more it is an indictment to punishment but a proven trophy of our salvation" says a troparion (hymn). The object of shame became the glory of the Church. The symbol of a curse became "the release payment for the ancient curse", The Wood, from mourning and death, became the "sign of joy" and "treasury of life." And all these because upon the Wood of the Cross with His immaculate body, the Lord nailed also our sins. As Saint Paul writes; He gave us "the document erasing all our trespasses...and nailed it on the Cross".
The Cross of Christ reconciled us with our Heavenly Father, from Whom the devil separated us, by deceiving our forefathers. The Cross of Christ opened the Kingdom of Heaven to us, which, up until the Crucifixion, Hades swallowed insatiably even the righteous. That is why it has so much power and grace, the power and grace of Christ, which while He was crucified, He transferred it in a mystical and incomprehensible way to His Holy Cross as the hymnology wisely tells us. "Your Cross, Christ, being visible wood in essence, yet it represents a divine reign and appearing perceptible to the world, noetically miraculously works our salvation..."
The Cross therefore has become the symbol of Christ Himself. Symbol that causes the demons to tremble.
The Invaluable Worth of the Holy Cross
If therefore it is so, why then there are people who deny, detest and dishonor the Cross? "For those who trespass" writes the Holy Apostle Paul, "to whom I would tell, now even crying I say, the enemies of the cross of Christ, their end is perdition".
Truly, certain heretics are "enemies of the Cross". They say, the Cross is a tool of crime and granting it honor constitutes idolatry. They even maintain that the early Church did not use the sign of the Cross. This view is fallacious. Firstly, because Our Church does not honor the Cross as though a random geometrical shape. Secondly, because the honor given to the sign of the Cross already has its beginning from Apostolic times. Thirdly, because God Himself showed with supernatural events on different occasions and times that the Cross is His symbol. And fourthly, because with the sign of the Cross were performed and are performed amazing miracles. Let us however take things in their order.
A. The honor given to the Cross is inseparably tied with Our Crucified and Resurrected Lord, Jesus Christ.
Our Holy Church does not honor the Cross by itself, as a simple sign, separate from the Crucified Lord. This would have truly been idolatry. She honors it as a symbol of the great sacrifice of Christ from which flows grace, sanctity and the salvation of man. She kisses and venerates it as the Sign of the Son of man (St. Matthew 24:30) that has received mystically and incomprehensibly as we already said, the grace and His power.
The faithful seeing the Sign of the Cross, making the sign of the Cross, venerating the "type" and symbol of the Cross, sees with the eyes of his soul and worships the Crucified Christ. "We do not embrace the Cross as God but we demonstrate this way the sincere disposition of our soul towards the Crucified" writes Saint Hieronymos. Saint John Damascene also clarifies that apart from the holy Wood, we venerate also the type of the Holy and Life-giving Cross, even if it is made from different matter, of course not honoring the matter, God forbid, but the type, as a symbol of Christ."
B. The honor to the Sign of the Cross existed always and from the beginning to the Church.
The beginning of the honor accorded the Sign of the Cross disappears in the depth of early Christianity, once it was delivered from the Apostolic times. Saint Peter the Holy Apostle was condemned to death by crucifixion, like the Lord. He so much honored the sign of the Cross that he begged his executioners "I am not worthy to be crucified upright like my Christ. However, crucify me with my head down.
The Holy Apostle Andrew, the First-called, when he saw the Cross of his martyrdom (X-shaped and the first Greek letter for Christ (Χριστός) cried out with awe and emotion: "Welcome, O Cross that was sanctified by the body of Christ and Who, with His members, as though pearls, you were adorned! Before my Lord was nailed on you, you were formidable to people. Now though all the faithful know how much grace hides within you, I approach you with no fear and with joy. Eagerly receive me too, the disciple of the Crucified Christ... Oh Blessed and Most desirable Cross, take me from the people and deliver me to my Teacher".
The antiquity of use of the Sign of the Cross is confirmed by one of the great apologetics, Tertulian (160-220 A.D.) who wrote: "Wherever we are going to arrive and whenever we need to begin from, when we arrive and when we depart, when we put on our shoes, when we wash ourselves, when we eat, when we light the lamp, when we go to bed, when we sit on the stool, when we begin a conversation we make the Sign of the Cross on our forehead" (De corona 3,11). [Source: Anonymous]
To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God