St. George
Serbian Orthodox Church
Carmichaels, PA

The Sunday of the Holy Cross 2006

by Fr. Rodney Torbic


Mid-Lent has arrived. The Sunday of the Holy Cross is here. St. Bishop NIKOLAI once wrote: "The banner of the the cross is the banner of the Serbs. Beneath it they fell on the field of Kosovo, beneath they gained freedom in the Uprising."

The venerable Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ is an intergral part of the life of Serbian Orthodox Christians. During Great Lent and Holy Week, the venerable Cross increasingly becomes the focus of daily attention.

The serious Orthodox believer cannot separate his or herself from the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. At the baptismal fount, the sign of the Cross is made over the baptismal waters. The sign of the Cross is made throughout all liturgical services and times of personal prayer. At the funeral and memorial services, the sign of the Cross is ever present.

During Great Lent, Holy Week and throughout the year, the Cross reminds believers of the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. The power of the Cross is evident when employed at times of danger and times of illness.

The power of the Cross is evident during times of dispair and difficulty. The power of the Cross is evident when stress and anxiety are experienced.

Believers turn to the Cross of Christ with confidence. The certainty of Jesus Christ's death on the Cross and His Resurrection is fundamental for Orthodox Christians.

The world looks totally different to Orthodox believers because of the Cross. Suffering and pain, sacrifice and love are defined by the Cross of Christ. Hope is never stifled because of the Cross. Love is never diminished because of the Cross.

Every person coming to Christ finds the message of salvation in the Cross and Resurrection. Every person coming to Christ experiences love and restoration in the Cross and Resurrection.

The Holy Apostle Paul told the Colossians "For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His Cross." (Col. 1:19-20)

With our finite minds and in our sinfulness, we are limited in our comprehension of the far-reaching effects of the Cross. The Holy Apostle Paul without equivocation knew the value and power of the Cross .

The Holy Apostle Paul told the Corinthians: "I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." (I Cor. 2:1-2)

Throughout Great Lent we are to unite ourselves with Christ like we have never done before. Throughout Great Lent we are to draw closer to the Lord Jesus Christ like we have never done before.

Maturity that we may have is to be used to draw closer to Christ. Christ is to be welcomed with every fiber of our being. Christ is to be embraced with every degree of strength we have. Christ is to be loved to greater degrees than ever before.

Sins that we have accumulated are to be cast aside. Sins that we may have seemingly enjoyed are to be eschewed. Repentance and Holy Confession are the pathways to the Kingdom of God.

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are the armor necessary to battle temptations and diversions on the road to the Kingdom. We are going to lose battles. We are going to weaken from time to time. We are going to get tired from time to time.

Renewal comes only by continuing to seek the Kingdom of God first and foremost with our lives. (Mt.6:33) St. John Climacus said " repentance is the renewal of baptism." St. John Climacus said "repentance is a contract with God for a second life."

When we receive forgiveness of sins, when we receive the Precious Body and Blood of Christ, we are to use our lives for the glory of God and with appreciation to God.

We must forever be grateful to the our Lord Jesus Christ for ascending the Cross. We must forever be grateful for the forgiveness of sins. We show our appreciation for Jesus Christ's love in the way we live. We show our gratitude for Jesus Christ dying on the Cross by the way we live.

We cannot purchase forgiveness with dollars. We cannot purchase the Precious Body and Blood with dollars. In Psalm 50(51)we pray "create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me." In Psalm 50(51) we learn God does not despise a broken and contrite heart.

Each day we can pray to follow the path to the Kingdom of God. Each day we can pray to live in ways pleasing to God. Each day we can pray for vigilance against sin and for wisdom to follow Christ.

The love of Jesus Christ is manifested in the many healings recorded in the Holy Gospel (Mt. 12:15, Lk. 17:15, Jn. 5:13). The love of Jesus Christ is manifested in the forgiveness of sins described in the Holy Gospel (Mt. 9:2, Mk. 11:25, Lk. 5:21).

Death on the Cross is a gruesome death. Death on the Cross is a painful death. Death on the Cross is a public death intended to humiliate and to make a public spectacle.

The Crucifixion revealed the divinity of Christ (Mt. 27:54). The Crucifixion revealed the extent to which opponents of Christ would go to stifle and defeat Him. The Crucifixion was followed by the Resurrection and cannot be separated from the Resurrection (Mk. 16:6).

Orthodox Christians know of the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Serious Orthodox Christians use the knowledge of the Crucifixion and Resurrection to face daily life. Serious Orthodox Christians structure daily life to draw strength from the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

When we are grateful for Christ's love, we share the love of Christ with others. When we are grateful to God, the thoughts we have, the work we do, the relationships we have reflect gratefulness to God.

When we are grateful to God, we choose our associates, we set our standands and we attempt to live our lives in ways pleasing to God.

In the Gospel of St. John we read: "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (Mt. 3:16)

Rejoice in the love of Christ. Rejoice in the new life in Christ. Rejoice in the victory of the Cross. Treat each day as the gift from God . Be grateful for each breath, each heartbeat, each word capable of being spoken.

Earthly life is finite. Each year we celebrate the Lord's Nativity. Each year we focus upon the Lord's death upon the Cross. Each of us were born into this earthly life. Each of us will depart this life.

The way we live our earthly lives will directly affect the way we will experience eternity. We know from the Holy Gospel that not all are called by Christ to enter the Kingdom (Mt. 25:31-46).

Our Lord Jesus Christ said: " On that day many will say to me,'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?" And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers." (Mt. 7:22)

We must take care to be faithful to Christ at every possible moment. We know from the Holy Gospel the way to the Kingdom is narrow and there are few who find it (Mt. 7:14).

The Cross of Christ conjures an image of unimagineable suffering. The Cross of Christ conjures an image of incomparable sacrifice and humility. The Cross of Christ gives forth a power beyond human comprehension and measurement.

While the Cross is central to the thoughts of Orthodox believers at this time, simultaneously the Resurrection of Christ is central. The suffering associated with the Cross is ameliorated by the joy of the Resurrection.

From this point in the lenten journey, let us hold firm to the Cross, let us press on with the vision of the Resurrection. With the Holy Apostle Paul, let us look "to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb. 12:1-2).


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