Monday, March 19, 2012

The Third Sunday of Great Lent--The Veneration of the Precious and Life Giving Cross

The Cross is NOT a sign of humiliation, at least not for the Christian. For the Christian, the Cross is an emblem of victory, a weapon against all enemies, most especially the principalities of darkness. It is no longer a symbol of death, but the giver of life. So, why give the Cross its own day during Lent? Isn't that better reserved for Holy Week?

As Orthodox Christians, we have three feasts of the Cross (on Aug. 1, Sept. 14 and the Third Sunday of Lent), the sixth and ninth hours of prayer are dedicated to the events on Golgotha, Wednesday and Friday are consecrated to those same events. In short, the Cross is omnipresent in our daily prayers and hymns and theology. So, why have the Third Sunday of Lent dedicated to the Cross?

It is precisely because we need it. Most of us cannot attend the daily vigil nor pray the sixth and ninth hours on our own. Even the most devout lay Orthodox may have difficulties going to the extra prayer services which bring for the reality that we are dead in sin and need the Cross. The late Fr. Alexander Schmemann puts it best:

The meaning of all this is clear. We are in Mid-Lent. One the one hand, the physical and spiritual effort, if it is serious and consistent, begins to be felt, its burden becomes more burdensome, our fatigue more evident. We need help and encouragement. On the other hand, having endured this fatigue, having climbed the mountain up to this point, we begin to see the end of our pilgrimage, and the rays of Easter grow in their intensity. Lent is our self-crucifixion, our experience, limited as it is, of Christ's commandment heard in the Gospel lesson of that Sunday: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Mark 8:34). But we cannot take up our cross and follow Christ unless we have His Cross which He took up in order to save us. It is His Cross, not ours, that saves us. It is His Cross that gives not only meaning but also power to others. (emphasis mine)..Thus, refreshed and reassured, we begin the second part of Lent
--Great Lent p. 46

No comments:

Post a Comment