Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Universal Exaltation of the Life Giving and Precious Tree

Today, September 14 (Revised Julian Calendar), the Orthodox Church universally exalts and uplifts the Cross of our Lord from which came our salvation, the defeat of the death, the manifestation of the powerless grip of the devil, the weapon against the passions and the ensign of our inheritance as true children of God. Today, we raise the cross but we also bow down before it, venerating it and Him who, of His own free will and good pleasure, ascended it.

To simply categorize the Cross is to miss the point. For it is many things and it does many things. That is why, when piety demands it, we make the sign of the cross upon ourselves. We do it when asking for mercy, asking for protection, glorifying the Trinity, receiving the Eucharist, entering into God's holy temple, etc. But, as I was reminded recently, from reading the all too famous passage from St. John's Gospel about God giving His Only Begotten Son, that He did so not for some satisfaction of legal contracts or jurisprudence, but that He did so simply out of love for His own creation. Now, I don't dismiss that many great saints, including St. Paul himself, use juridical terminology especially in his Epistle to the Romans, but to divorce the Cross from love and make it a symbol of appeasing God's wrath is to render St. John's famous dictum as mere legal sophistry. If love is removed, then there can be no salvation.

When we Orthodox Christians make the sign of the Cross, for whatever reason, I believe, the first and foremost thought on our minds, our hearts and our lips should be "He loves us." Making the sign of the Cross reveals us as God's children, as His possession, thus a stalwart reminder to demons who attempt to ensnare us to do the work of the evil one. The demons are repulsed by love and thus are repulsed by the Cross, the Tree which undid the ancestral curse from the first tree in paradise. God cast us out of Eden for not just violating a rule, but for breaking communion with Him, breaking the covenant of love between Creator and creature, between Father and child, between master and servant.

Let the love of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, through His Precious and Life-Giving Cross, the sign of which we make upon ourselves, endure forever.

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