Our analysis this week will have a different form and flavor. It will not deal with any issues of our ecclesial life, administrative and institutional. It will rather attempt to express some thoughts about the very foundation of our Faith. The Holy Cross!
We have already arrived at the middle of Holy and Great Lent. Last Sunday, March 31 we celebrated the Feast of the Veneration of the Holy Cross. It was a sacred and great day. Why, though? What does the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross mean for us Greek Orthodox Christians of 21st century America today?
How does this Feast appeal to contemporary generations existentially and not just as another folkloric custom or “tradition” as we used to say?
It seems to me that today, when we do things in the Church – including the celebration of feast days – we know that they are of great importance, but in essence we don’t really know what we are celebrating and why.
Allow me to start with the very basic position that the Cross and the resurrection are the very foundations of our faith. They are the hope of our life, both the present one and the one that is to come: the permanent and eternal.
The Cross is the blood-dyed banner of the Church. The supreme symbol of her leader and founder, Christ, who is our friend and our God; our savior and our brother; our whole life.
The Cross is the symbol of truth and life. It is the landmark of the purpose of our life.
The invitation of Christ was very simple and yet very substantial. It is contained in the phrase “whoever wants to follow me.”
If we decide to follow and march with Him we should also know that it will be a journey filled with loneliness and dereliction.
“Whoever wants to follow me”! This phrase includes the joy of choice or options, but at the same time the responsibility of our freedom. Our choices are based on our freedom, including our paradise or our damnation. The road to both paradise and damnation start from now and here.
In Orthodoxy, which is the authentic and unchanged form and expression of Christianity, all are free and they live, act, and walk freely. The journey of freedom is cruciform but it leads to the freedom of resurrection, liberation, and salvation. We are not talking here about a theoretical freedom, but about a salvific freedom from corruption and death. Freedom based on the crucified love of Christ.
It is a freedom for which God Himself fought and he became “the suffering God” – if I may use the expression – in order to embrace the suffering man and liberate him (or her) from the enigma and tragedy of death.
By the way, let us not forget that death is the common enemy of all of us no matter who we are, how old or how young, how poor or how wealthy, how educated or how illiterate.
The following of Christ is a full time journey of an entire life, which is a relationship of truth and love with God, who is the source of life and truth.
We shouldn’t forget that the Cross is the measure of the loving passion of God for mankind. That is the reason that the Church in her effort to define this measure uses the phrase “The Passion of the Lord.” This is exactly the Cross of Christ, the manifestation of His passion out of love for our love. In a few days, during Holy Week, Christ will come “as a Bridegroom in the middle of the night,” because he passionately loves His Church, which means us, because we are the Church.
I would like also to remind that in Orthodox Theology we do not speak unilaterally about the Cross. We do not run out an endless “crossology”, but we speak about the Cross and the resurrection.