Saturday, March 14, 2015
Excerpt from Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes on the Precious Cross
Christ crucified (source)
Excerpt from a talk of Metropolitan Avgoustinos (Kantiotes) of Florina (+2010), at a summer camp in 1988.
My beloved children, I wanted to offer you a few words, similar to those that I said when you came, and which I hope that you will pay attention to. The occasion is given to me by the group that appeared here, carrying high the precious Cross, with the inscription: “By this [sign], we conquer.”
I will speak of the Cross, and at the end I will give you a small cross as a keepsake. I will talk to you about the Cross, which is the symbol of struggle and of victory, it is the weapon of Christianity. The Apostle Paul includes this at the end of his epistle to the Ephesians, where he speaks about thr spiritual armor of the Christians. And as you are not just plantings of the Lord, but also strugglers and fellow fighters against the world, yourselves and satan, therefore, I will offer you some words regarding the Cross, due to their timeliness, I hope that you will give them greater care.
The Cross, my beloved children, the Cross is everywhere. It was at the summit of Hagia Sophia. It was illumined in the evening and enlightened the Bosporus, until the dark day when the Turks uprooted it, and in its place, placed the crescent moon. Let us hope that, “again with time and seasons”, that we might raise it again on the dome of Hagia Sophia. The Cross is on the domes of all churches. In the Holy Altar, the icon of Christ on the Cross takes center place, and under its shadow, stands the Holy Table and the Chalice and Paten and the Gospel. The Cross is on the graves. The Cross is on the Greek flag. The Cross is everywhere.
What is the Cross? I will not speak of myself, but someone else who loved it very much, and preached it to all the ends of the earth will. This is the Apostle Paul. The Apostle Paul, in his epistle to the Galacians, writes: “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galacians 6:14) With these words, the Apostle tells us what the Cross is. But let us try to explain this.
Men have a tendency to boast. Scientists, rich people, great and small people take boast in two-thousand things. It is a rare thing to find a man who is not boasting in something...But while the world boasts in these false boasts, the apostle Paul boasts in another great boast, one exalted, eternal. He takes boast in the Cross of Christ. Why is this?
He does not boast in the wood. The wood of the Cross was known even before Christ, but this was not something worthy of praise, but of fear, for upon the cross were crucified the most-incomparably terrible people of the Roman society, who were condemned to the ultimate penalty, the penalty of death. Paul boasts, because upon the Cross was sacrificed our Lord Jesus Christ, and from then on, the wood of condemnation became the wood of blessing. Christ was crucified, not because He did anything wrong, like the other two “who were crucified with Him”, who confessed: “we are receiving our just punishment” (Luke 23:41). No, Christ was sinless, He was innocent, He never worked any offense. And as an innocent person, He should not have been crucified, as I remark in my book: “Towards Golgotha”, which I encourage you to read, but He was crucified on behalf of our sins.
All of us—small, great, men, women—we are sinners and on us lies the burden of responsibility and guilt. On behalf of justice for our small and great sins, the debaucheries, the licentiousness, the arrogances, the blasphemies, and the other sins of our age, we should have been punished. Divine righteousness should have ordered that the earth open to swallow us up, and lift up the waters of the rivers and lake from Olympus to the Alps, and with a universal flood to drown everyone.
Did God do this? Glory to Your forbearance, O Lord! You did not that which we deserved. You did not punish us. And not only did You not punish us, but You came to this world as a man, and took upon Your shoulders the sins of the whole world, of all the ages, as the One Who “takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), and You redeemed with Your precious Blood the debt of our sins. Christ was punished instead of us. The sinless One for the sinners, the Righteous for the unrighteous. “The blood of Jesus Christ...cleanses us from every sin” (John I 1:7). One drop of the blood of the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is sufficient to blot out the sins of the whole world. If we could put the sins of all men on one side of a scale, and on the other, only one drop of the blood of Christ, the scale would lean towards the precious Blood!
This, therefore, is why we honor the Cross. Because it is the Holy Altar on which was sacrificed our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of this occurs Divine Liturgy, which is the re-enacting, or more properly, the continuation of the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, in order for us to partake within us of the Body and the Blood of Christ. This is the proclamation of the Priest: “Drink of it all of you, this is my blood, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Therefore, when we speak of the Cross, we are not thinking of faith in the sacrifice of the crucified Redeemer of the world, and not simple of the wood of the Cross, like the heretics condemn us of. As the Cross is in for parts, therefore it is the deep and enlightened nous of the Church, extending to the heights, to the depths, to length and width. Therefore, is from the height of the Cross—geometrically speaking—we noetically extend the summit of the wood above, towards heaven, passing the stars, the sun, the moon, we will pass all asteroids, and reach the courts of the Lord, and the Angels will behold the radiance and will chant of the grandeur of the Cross. If again we extend the wood of the Cross down, from the bloodied feet of Christ, we will pass the bark and the layers of earth, and reach the abyss, and the demons will tremble and shake. Finally, if we noetically extend the horizontal wood of the Cross, upon which the Spotless Hands of Christ were nailed to the left and the right, towards the East and the West, we will make the sign of an unending circle, a divine embrace, which desires to embrace and to unite and to make brethren of all men of the East and of the West, of the left and of the right. And if sometime there is some power that could unite the superpowers of America and Russia, which satan divided into to armies and pitted them against each other with fiery weapons. One day, may they gather together and have nothing happen, if, as I said, there were some power to unite them. This power is not the hammer and the sickle, nor the stars and the stripes, nor any other worldly symbol, but he Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us mention a hymn among ourselves:
“O paradoxical wonder!
The length and breadth of the Cross
is equal to heaven,
for with divine grace
it sanctifies the whole world
with it the barbarian nations are conquered,
with it the scepters of rulers are strengthened...”[Prosomoion from the Praises on the Feast of the Holy Cross]
I return to the word of the Apostle Paul: “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galacians 6:14) In other words, the boast of Paul is the Cross of the Lord. This is the boast, in other words, the deep faith in the Cross of Christ, which made him dead to the world and to sin. In order to understand better what it means to say: “the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world”, I will give you an example. Go to the graves and you will find the grave of the most greedy person, he who would kill for one cent. Put in front of it a sack of gold coins. What will happen? Will he be moved? No, because he is dead. Now go to the grave of the greatest lover of pleasure and licentious person, and place before the grave the most beautiful women. Will he be moved? No, because he is dead. Continue on to the grave of someone who loved positions and power and medals, and give him the greatest staff of authority. Will he extend his hand to take it? No, because he is dead. Therefore, when the Christian, every Christian with deep faith in the Crucified, deadens his sinful mind and nails down his passions, like Paul, then he becomes dead to sin, to the world, and the world to him, and he will confess with joy: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in me...” (Galacians 2:20)
(amateur translation of text, source)
Christ crucified, with the Theotokos (source)