In Anticipation of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Part III)


My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


On the Precious and Life-Giving Cross
By Saint Gregory Palamas

As the psalmist says, "My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned" (Psalm 39:3). One of our God-bearing Fathers taught us about this, saying, "Strive as hard as you can to ensure that your inner labor is according to God's will, and you will conquer the outward passions." The great Paul, urging us on in the same direction, says, "Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16). Elsewhere he exhorts, "Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth" (Ephesians 6:14). For the contemplative part of the soul strengthens and supports the part concerned with desires, and chases away fleshly lusts...

Whereas earthly kings require those who follow them to be prepared to die for them, the Lord Himself over to death for our sake and command us to be ready to die not for His sake, but for ours. To make it clear that it is for our own sake, He adds, "For whosoever will save his soul shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his soul for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it" (St. Mark 8:35). What does this mean, that anyone who wants to save it shall lose it, and anyone who loses it shall save it? Man is twofold, consisting of our outward man, the body, and our inward man, the soul. When our outward man gives himself over to death, he loses his soul, being separated from it.  But when someone loses his soul for Christ and the Gospel, he clearly saves and gains it, because he has procured for it eternal life in Heaven. In the resurrection, he will recover it, and by means of it, he will become, even in his body I say, just as heavenly and eternal as it is. Anyone, by contrast, who clings to life is not prepared to lose his soul in this way, because he loves this fleeting age and everything to do with it...

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.

As the word and the mystery came before the sign itself, we shall expound them to your charity first. Or rather, Saint Paul expounded them before us. Saint Paul who boasts in the Cross, determined not to know anything save the Lord Jesus Christ, and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). What does he say? Do you think he is referring only to the passions of sensual pleasure and gluttony? In that case, he would not have written to the Corinthians, "Since there is among you strife and divisions are ye not carnal and walk as men?" (1 Corinthians 3:3). Consequently, anyone who loves glory or money, or simply wants to impose his own will in his eagerness to prevail, is carnal and walks as men, since such things are the source of divisions. As Saint James, the Lord's brother, says, "From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust and have not: ye fight and war" (St. James 4:1-2). Crucifying the flesh with its passions and longings means stopping all activity which is displeasing to God. Although our body may pull us down and exert pressure on us, we must still lift it up urgently to the height of the Cross. What I am trying to say? When the Lord was on earth He lived a life of poverty, and not just lived but preached poverty, saying, "whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple" (St. Luke 14:33)...

Saint Paul ranks those who do not believe this, and prove their faith by their actions, with the lost, or with the Greeks. "We preach", he says, "Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block", because they do not believe in the saving passion, "and unto the Greeks foolishness", as they value transitory things above all else because of their complete disbelief in God's promises, "but unto them that are called, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:23).

This is the wisdom and power of God: to be victorious through weakness, exalted through humility, rich through poverty. Not only the word and the mystery of the Cross are divine and to be reverenced, but so also is its sign. For it is a holy, saving and venerable seal, able to hallow and perfect all the good, marvelous and indescribable things which God has done for the human race. It can take away the curse and condemnation, destroy corruption and death, bestow eternal life and blessing. It is the wood of salvation, the regal scepter, the divine trophy of victory over visible and invisible enemies, even though the heretics' followers are insanely displeased...

The heretics say that because Christ died nailed to the Cross, they cannot bear to see the form of the wood on which He was put to death. But where was the handwriting nailed which was drawn up against us because of our disobedience, when our forefather stretched out his hand to the tree? How was it taken out of the way and obliterated, enabling us to return to God's blessing? Where did Christ despoil and drive completely away the principalities and powers of the evil spirits, which had taken a hold on our nature since the time of the tree of disobedience? Where was the middle wall of partition broken down and our enmity towards God abolished and put to death?  By what means were we reconciled with God and how did we hear the good news of peace with Him? Surely it was on the Cross and by means of the Cross. Let those who doubt listen to what the Apostle writes to the Ephesians, "For Christ is our peace, Who hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the Cross, having slain the enmity thereby" (Ephesians 2:14-16)...

As we reverence and greet the Cross with faith, let us draw and keep the abundant sanctification flowing from it. Then, at the sublime 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, and forever and unto the ages of ages. Amen. (From Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies, Mount Tabor Publishing.)


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

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

+Father George