On this the third Sunday of Great Lent, we commemorate the Veneration of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross.
The Cross is the sign of purification, the presence of the kingdom of God, and an emblem of salvation. Through the Cross, Christ sanctified His body, during His life in the world. He rejected the temptations sent to Him by the world: such as to taste its pleasures, to satisfy His needs unrestrainedly, or to avoid pain and death.
Just as the body of the Lord was sanctified through the Cross, so our own bodies are sanctified. We receive sanctification through the power of Christ, within which the Cross retains its presence. The cross is an extension of His understanding, patient, sinless attitude towards the world, and becomes a hymn of praise and offering to the Father, on behalf of humanity.
Creation was turned into a battlefield between people, because of greed and selfish passions in general. Sin is the rejection of life as offering to God. It is the deviation of our love from its ultimate object and subject, God Himself. However, Jesus Christ ends this alienation between God and creation, by bringing creation, His humanity, as a sacrament into living union with God.
Therefore, the Orthodox Church does not say that, through the Cross, Christ left behind creation, but that through the cross He restored creation to paradise, to God. One can partake of paradise by virtue of love for Him, by accepting His Cross. We cannot be saved unless we become one with Christ, by being united with Him in His death, in order to also partake in His resurrection.
Without the effort to make the earth, to some extent, paradise, it would never progress towards the paradise beyond. It is for this purpose that Christ remains with us, to the end of the world. Christ and the church are so intimately united that, as we suffer and die with Him, so Christ suffers with us in our work of reconciliation.
So, the Cross is Christ’s power which, if we adopt it, can bring the world to paradise. We can bring the world to union with God again.
This is why, in the Orthodox Church, all persons and all things are sacrificed and offered through the Cross. Christians make the sign of the Cross and seek the strength to behave with purity towards the world. They also declare their wish to be elevated themselves through their effort; to glorify God through all their actions and sufferings in the world, even through their death; to live and to die for God.
Through the Cross, the Church sanctifies everything: water, with which it sprinkles the faithful, food, houses, gardens and fields with their produce. The Cross sanctifies all of them, by making God their Lord, transparent. The Cross places them, in communication with God, their Maker.
All our Church services begin and end with the sign of the Cross. All the main gestures of worship are associated with the sign of the Cross, because the very power of Christ, the power of the resurrection and eternal life, is passed down through the sign of the Cross, because in making this sign, we invoke Him.
We believe that, by making the sign of the Cross, in all our actions and at every contact with nature and people, we have the Holy Spirit as support. There’s a special connection between the Holy Spirit and the Cross, because the cross is the human effort at purification, while the Holy Spirit is the purifying divine power. Both occur in synergy.
The Cross is therefore the cleansing force of the universe. And when we make the sign with faith and determination for a pure life in the world, the power of the Spirit of Christ comes, of Him Who was pure in the world. And we avoid sin and await death.
The Cross gives us this power of Christ because, we want to imitate its example and behave in the world without selfish passions, in a spirit of mature restraint, peace and concord with others.
The Holy Fathers have declared that the sight of God in the world depends on our purification from the passions.
They said that when we look at things and are free of the passions, we restore their true meaning, that is, the transparency of God through them. This means the re-discovery in the world, of its true meaning, which hasn’t been distorted by the passions – of its divine transparency.
Therefore, through the cross, the abundance of the volume of God’s love and mercy is shown to the world. It changes the world from a kingdom of darkness, to the kingdom of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, in whom the baptised dwell.