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Exaltation of the Cross

Friends, the following is an excerpt from a homily of St Gregory Palamas on the Precious and Life-giving Cross in anticipation of the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross this week. -Fr John

[T]he word of the Cross (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18)...was and is...a great and truly divine mystery, not only in the time of the prophets before it was accomplished, but also now after it has been fulfilled. Why is this so? On the face of it, anyone who lowers and humbles himself in all respects seems to be bringing dishonor on himself, anyone who flees carnal pleasures appears to be causing himself toil and grief, and anyone who gives away his possessions looks as though he is making himself poor. But by the power of God this poverty, grief and dishonor give birth to inexhaustible riches, inexpressible delight and eternal glory, both in this world and in the world to come. 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 Cor. 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. They have not attained to the apostle’s prayer that “they might be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and height, and depth” (Eph. 3:18). They have not understood that the Lord’s Cross discloses the entire dispensation of His coming in the flesh, and contains within it the whole mystery of this dispensation. Extending in all directions, it embraces everything above, below, around and between. The heretics abhor the sign of the King of Glory (Ps. 24:7–10), putting forward an excuse, in accordance with which, if they were reasonable, they ought to reverence the Cross along with us. The Lord Himself, when He was going to ascend the Cross, openly referred to it as His lifting up and His glory (John 3:14–15). And He announced that when He came again and manifested Himself, this sign of the Son of man would come with power and great glory (Matt.24:30)....

Inclining our hearts as well as bending our knees, come, “let us worship”, with David the psalmist and prophet, “at the place where His feet stood” (Ps. 132:7 LXX), where His all-embracing hands were outspread and His life-giving body was stretched out for our sake. As we reverence and greet the Cross with faith, let us draw and keep the abundant sanctification flowing from it. Then, at the sublimely 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, now and forever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

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