Each of us has arrived here in church today in various degrees of feeling beaten up, some more than others. Several have suffered personal loss, while most have had a head cold the past month; the long, cold winter has taken an emotional toll as well. To say each of us is not going through at least a small bit of despair, would not be accurate.
We need sun, we pray for wellness; we have the Cross.
Most limp into church this morning and our first encounter is not with a person, but it is with the Cross, and our mood is lifted by the refreshment the cross provides. The church presents the cross in the middle of the church, at mid-Lent, to spiritually refresh us.
Often if we are considering attending a presentation or a lecture, and we learn ‘Refreshments Will Be Served”, that can be the decision maker. It can often be the deciding factor in making the decision to attend.
The cross achieves a similar purpose in that it helps to fortify, to refocus; simply because it is refreshment. The cross has always provided consolation in times of despair, like now; solace, inspiration and energy.
Christianity has always been counter-cultural, and being Orthodox takes the response down one more notch. Most in the West see the cross as humiliation, defeat, and loss; it serves as the instrument of death. The Eastern Church sees the cross as glory, victory, freedom, and ultimately, life. The cross, the church reminds us liturgically, is the Tree of Life.
The cross will always remain the instrument of salvation and eternal life for Orthodox Christians. It is the visible sign of hope in the Resurrection. If we see the cross for anything less, we have embraced a false teaching, and we will be held accountable.
When we consider the Cross of our Lord, we are likely to consider our own difficulties in this life, many of which we would choose to discard. That which God gives us must be viewed in the context of them being necessary for our salvation. We are not asked to endure suffering and pain; instead we are asked to use it as an agent to transform us into theosis, be continuously be transfigured into the likeness of God.
This is the purpose of our life, the very reason for our human existence.
The cross makes deification possible.
May we use this week of the cross wisely, offered to us at this mid-point in the Lenten season, to discern where God is in our life.
The cross provides the refreshment; we will move from despair, regain our footing, and move towards the Resurrection where the final foe, death, will be defeated.
V. Rev. Marc Vranes
19 March 2017