Feast Day: September 14th
This week I draw our reflection directly from St. John Chrysostom (whom I wrote on last year, and who we celebrate on September 13th, AND being nicknamed golden-tongues, can do a far better job than I on preaching on the Cross of Christ!). Here is one of his homilies, from the 300s, simply entitled “On the Holy Cross”.
The Cross of the Lord is unpleasant and sorrowful to the ear, but it consists of joy and gladness. It is the originator not so much of suffering as much as of passionlessness. For Jews the Cross is temptation, for pagans it is madness, but for us believers it reminds us of our salvation. When in church one reads about the Cross and one is reminded of the sufferings on the Cross, the faithful are indignant at the Cross and let out a plaintive wail and murmur not at the Cross but at the crucifiers and unbelievers. For the Cross is the salvation of the Church, the Cross is the praise of those who hope on it. The Cross has released us from the evil that possessed us and is the beginning of the blessings received by us. The Cross is the reconcilement of His enemies with God, the promise of sinners to Christ. For by the Cross we were freed from enmity and through the Cross we have become amiable to God. The Cross delivered us from the authority of the devil, the Cross saved us from death and destruction. The Cross changed human nature to the angelic, having released it from all that is corruptible, and have found lives worthy of immortality.
How great is the power of the Cross! How great is the change made by it in the human race! How from the deep darkness it has led us to the boundless light, from death it has restored us to eternal life, from corruption it has transferred us to incorruption. What good is not accomplished for us by means of the Cross? Through the Cross we learned piety and learned the properties of the Divine essence. Through the Cross we learn the truth about God, through the Cross we who were far from Him are united to Christ, and we become worthy of the grace of the Holy Spirit. Through the Cross we learn the power of love and we are taught to die for others. Through the Cross we are scorned and all what we do is not temporal, we search the blessings of the future and we accept the invisible as if seen. The Cross is preached, and the faith in God is confessed, His truth is spread throughout the universe. The Cross is preached, and the faith in the resurrection, the life and the kingdom of heaven is made without a doubt. What is more precious than the Cross and what is more saving for the soul? The Cross is the triumph over demons, the armor against sin and the sword with which the Lord has struck the snake. The Cross is the will of the Father, the glory of the Only-begotten, the joy of the Holy Spirit, the ornament of angels, the protection of the Church, the praise of St. Paul, the protection of the Saints, the lamp of all the world.
See, however desired and deservedly amiable the Cross is made today, it was the most terrible and shameful sign of the cruelest execution in antiquity! And the Cross makes the best ornament on the imperial crown, the most precious in all the world. The image of the Cross is now found on you, both masters and servants, both wives and husbands, both maidens and married, both slaves and free. All place the sign of the Cross on the noblest part of their body, daily carrying this sign on their forehead, as on a depicted pillar. It shines on a sacred meal, on the clothes of the priest and together with the Lord’s body at the mystical supper. You see it lifted everywhere: on houses, in market-places, in the deserts, on the paths, on mountains and hills, on the sea, on ships, on islands, on boxes, on clothes, on armor, in the halls, on golden and silver vessels, in pictures, on the bodies of sick animals, on the bodies of the demon-possessed, in war, in the world, in the afternoon, at night, in festal assemblies and in the cells of the ascetics. Already no one is ashamed and does not blush at the thought that the Cross is a sign of a shameful death. To the contrary, all of us honor this as an adornment for ourselves, which has surpassed crowns and diadems and precious stones. Let us not run, let us not be frightened, but let us kiss and honor it as an invaluable treasure.
– Fr. Dominic Rankin has been reminded, by this feast and homily, and many other recent moments, that he really needs to get the chain fixed for the cross he wore around his neck. It seems a little thing, but we are either marked with Christ’s cross, or something else, and if it’s anything else, it’s not going to carry us to God.