Mid-Lent: The Holy Cross

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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.

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MID-LENT: THE HOLY CROSS

The Third Sunday of Lent is called "The Veneration of the Cross." At the Virgil of that day, after the Great Doxology, the Cross is brought in a solemn procession to the center of the church and remains there for the entire week--with a special rite of veneration following each service. It is noteworthy that the theme of the Cross which dominates the hymnology of that Sunday is developed in terms not of suffering but of victory and joy. More than that, the theme-songs (hirmoi) of the Sunday Canon are taken from the Paschal Service--"The Day of the Resurrection" --and the Canon is a paraphrase of the Paschal Canon.

The meaning of all this is clear. We are in mid-lent. On the one hand, the physical and spiritual effort, if it is serious and consistent, begins to be felt, its burden becomes more burdensome, our fatigue more evident. We need help and encouragement. On the other hand, having endured this fatigue, having climbed the mountain up to this point, we begin to see the end of our pilgrimage, and the rays of Pascha grow in their intensity. Lent is our self-crucifixion, our experience, limited as it is, of Christ's Commandment heard in the gospel lesson of that Sunday "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (St. Mark 8:34). But we cannot take up our cross and follow Christ unless we have His Cross which He took up in order to save us.

It is His Cross, not ours, that saves us. It is His Cross that gives not only meaning but also power to others. This is explained to us in the Synaxarion of the Sunday of the Cross:

"On this Sunday, the third Sunday of Lent, we celebrate the veneration of the honorable and Life-Giving Cross, and for this reason: inasmuch as in the forty days of fasting we in a way crucify ourselves...and become bitter and despondent and failing, the Life-Giving is presented to us for refreshment and assurance, for remembrance of our Lord's Passion, and for comfort...We are like those following in a long and cruel path, who become tired, see a beautiful tree with many leaves, sit in its shadow and ret for a while and then, as if rejuvenated, continue their journey; likewise today, the Life-Giving Cross was planted in our midst by the Holy Fathers to give us rest and refreshment, to make us light and courageous for the remaining task...Or, to give another example: when a king is coming, at first his banner and symbols appear, then he himself comes glad and rejoicing about his victory and filling with joy those under him; likewise, Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is about to show us his victory over death, and appear to us in the glory of the resurrection day, is sending to us in advance His Scepter, the Royal Symbol--the Life-Giving Cross--and it fills us with joy and makes us ready to meet, inasmuch as it is possible for us, the King Himself, and to render glory to His victory...All this in the midst of Lent which is like a bitter source because of its tears, because also of its efforts and despondency...but Christ comforts us who are as it were in desert until He shall lead us up to the spiritual Jerusalem by His Resurrection...for the Cross is called the Tree of Life. It is the tree that planted in Paradise, and for this reason, our Fathers have planted it in the midst of Holy Lent, remembering both Adam's bliss and how he was deprived of it, remembering also that partaking of this Tree we no longer die but are kept alive..."

Thus, refreshed and reassured, we begin the second part of Lent. One more week and, on the Fourth Sunday, we hear the announcement: "The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men and they will kill Him, and when He is killed, after three days He will rise again" (St. Mark 9:31). The emphasis shifts now from us, from our repentance and effort, to the events which took place "for our sake and for our salvation."

"O Lord, Who made us anticipate today the Holy Week for shining brightly by the resurrection of Lazarus, Help us to achieve the journey of the fast." "Having reached the second half of fasting, Let us make manifest the beginning of life divine; And when we reach the end of our effort, May we receive the never-failing bliss."

The tone of Lenten services changes. If throughout the first part of Lent our effort was aimed at our purification, we are made to realize now that this purification was not an end in itself but must lead us to the contemplation and comprehension and appropriation of the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection. The meaning of our effort is now being revealed to us as participation in that mystery to which we were so accustomed as to take it for granted, and which we simply forgot. And, as we follow Him going up to Jerusalem together with the Disciples, we are "amazed and afraid." (Source: Great Lent by Father Alexander Schmemann)

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ON SUNDAY TOMORROW:

The Orthodox volunteers from the Monastery of Saint John Chrysostomos will be at Saint Andrew. They will, as always, Lenten foods, pastries, icons made by our nuns, and other religious items.

We must all appreciate their devotion to our Women's Monastery in Wisconsin and the long trip they make to bring us all the wonderful things they do.  

They are all our good friends and fellow Orthodox Christians.

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"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" - Saint John Chrysostomos

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

+Father George