Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh
Exaltation of the Cross
September 28, 1986
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
We have been keeping these days the Feast of the Exaltation of the
Cross. There is a passage in the Gospel in which the Lord says to us,
«No one has greater love than he who gives his life for his
neighbour». And these words resolve the antinomy between the horror of
the Cross and the glory of it, between death and the Resurrection.
There is nothing more glorious, more awe-inspiring and wonderful than
to love and to be loved. And to be loved by God with all the life,
with all the death of the Only-Begotten Son, and to love one another
at the cost of all our life and, if necessary, of our death is both
tragedy and mainly victory. In the Canon of the Liturgy we say, «Holy,
most Holy art Thou and Thine Only-Begotten Son and Thine Holy Spirit!
Holy and most Holy art Thou because Thou hast so loved Thy world that
Thou hast given Thine Only-Begotten Son that those who will believe in
Him do not perish but have life eternal, Who hath come and hath
fulfilled all that was appointed for our sakes, and in the night when
He was betrayed - no! - when He gave Himself up, He took bread, and
brake it and gave it to His disciples ...»
This is the divine love. At times one can give one's own life more
easily than offer unto death the person whom one loves beyond all -
and this is what God, our Father has done. But it does not make less
the sacrifice of Him who is sent unto death for the salvation of one
person or of the whole world.
And so when we think of the Cross we must think of this strangely
inter-twined mystery of tragedy and victory. The Cross, an instrument
of infamous death, of punitive death to which criminals were doomed,
because Christ's death was that of an innocent, and because this death
was a gift of self in an act of love - the Cross becomes victory.
This is why Saint Paul could say, «It is no longer I, it is Christ Who
lives in me ...» Divine love filled him to the brim and therefore
there was no room for any other thought or feeling, any other approach
to anyone apart from love, a love that gave itself unreservedly, love
sacrificial, love crucified, but love exulting in the joy of life.
And when we are told in today's Gospel, «Turn away from yourself, take
up your Cross, Follow Me» (St Mark VIII: 34) - we are not called to
something dark and frightening; we are told by God: Open yourself to
love! Do not remain a prisoner of your own self-centredness. Do not
be, in the words of Theophane the Recluse, like a shaving of wood
which is rolled around its own emptiness. Open yourself up! Look -
there is so much to love, there are so many to love! There is such an
infinity of ways in which love can be experienced, and fulfilled and
accomplished... Open yourself and love - because this is the way of
the Cross! Not the way which the two criminals trod together with
Christ to be punished for their crimes; but the wonderful way in which
giving oneself unreservedly, turning away from self, existing only for
the other, loving with all one's being so that one exists only for the
sake of the other - this is the Cross and the glory of the Cross.
So, when we venerate the Cross, when we think of Christ's crucifixion,
when we hear the call of Christ to deny ourselves - and these words
simply mean: turn away from yourself! take up your cross! - we are
called to open ourselves to the flood of Love Divine, that is both
death to ourselves and openness to God , and to each, and to all.
In the beginning of the Gospel of Saint John we are told, «And the
Word was with God». The Greek version says «Godwards». The Word, the
Son had no other love, no other thought, no other movement but towards
the Beloved One, giving Himself to Him Who gave Himself perfectly to
Him. Let us learn the glory of crucified Love, of this Love
sacrificial which is in the words of the Old Testament, stronger than
death, stronger than hell, stronger than all things because it is
Divine Life conquering us and poured through us onto all those who
need to be loved in order to come to Life, to believe in Love and
themselves to become children of Love, children of Light, inherit the
Life eternal. Amen.