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Excerpts From Fr Sergius Bulgakov: The Power Of The Cross

The cross is the figurative inscription of the Name of God, working miracles and manifesting powers, like the Name of God revealed to Moses. The cross is the symbol of the Most Holy Trinity, the holy sign of God-Love, consuming in fire unlove, malice, and hatred.

This Heavenly Cross was revealed to us, human beings, in Christ's cross, in that all-blessed tree whose image we venerate and kiss in awe. As Christ's warriors, we wear this cross; we bear it on our breast and in our heart. For the Christian is essentially a cross-bearer. Just as, according to tradition, the most sweet Name of Jesus was found inscribed in the heart of St. Ignatius of Antioch, so in the heart of every Christian burns the Lord's cross, wounding it forever.

A Christian lives in God also in proportion to his participation in Christ's love, in His cross, in the heaviness and sweetness of His cross. Veneration of the cross and rejoicing in it are not an external commandment for the Christian but an inner imperative. As Jesus said: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matt. 16:24). Indeed, we can venerate the cross only by virtue of our communion with it. He who fears the cross and does not desire it in the depths of his soul, that one falsely venerates it and deceives his conscience. That is why this feast of the cross is sweet but also terrible and severe, and the Church has clothed the day of its celebration in a deep fast. The cross shines in the sinful depths of our heart; it illuminates but also exposes and condemns these depths. Our sinful and egotistical essence fears and resists the cross. Why deceive oneself? Natural in our hearts, the tree of the cross must be raised and venerated. Along with Simon of Cyrene, we too must place our shoulders beneath the weight of Christ's cross.

Every man must ascend onto his own cross, and he must never descend from it. And thus accomplishing the exaltation of the cross in himself, every man must participate in its universal exaltation. The commandment of the cross given by the Lord is not a severe trial but God's great mercy bestowed upon man. It is the sign of God's love for man, of God's great respect for man. God desires to enable His highest creation to participate in His joy and bliss, in His cross. The original Adam, when he was still in sinless ignorance of good and evil, was given to know the sweetness of the cross through obedience to God's commandment forbidding him to eat the fruits of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil grew in Eden (Gen. 2:9). That was the Edenic sign of the tree of the cross: in renouncing his own will, in doing the will of the Heavenly Father, man was crucified on the tree; and it became for him the tree of life, full of eternal bliss. But because of the whispered wiles of the sly and malicious serpent our progenitors rejected the cross; they descended from the cross, which meant that they had become willful and disobedient. And the tree became deadly for them, giving knowledge of good and evil and leading to their expulsion from Eden. But this tree of the cross from which the original Adam descended, it was this tree of the cross that the New Adam, the Lord, the Son of Man, the Only Begotten Son of God, ascended. He ascended the cross in order to draw all men unto Himself (John 12:32), for there is no path to the Eden of sweetness except the path of the cross. And the ancient serpent, speaking to the Crucified One with the lips of His disciples, tried to tempt Him: Come down from the cross! But the new temptation was rejected, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil once again became the tree of life, a life-bearing garden; and those eating its fruits partake of immortality. And in every man, for as long as life is given to him, there lives the seed of the old Adam. Every man hears in himself the serpent's incessant whisper, which is echoed by man's natural infirmity and weakness: Come down from the cross. Do not suffer. The world is hostile to the cross, is made furious by the word of the cross. Love for the world is hatred for the cross. But love for God is also love for the Lord's cross, for how can man's hard, obstinate heart love if it is not pierced by the cross? Sweet are Thy wounds in my heart, O sweetest Jesus, and no sweetness is greater for my heart than their sweetness!

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