The Universal Exaltation of the Cross
A Sermon of Metropolitan Moses
Universal Exaltation of the Cross
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We have just heard a selection from the Gospel account of Saint John regarding the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ for the feastday of the Universal Exaltation of the Cross. On this day we celebrate the great mystery of our salvation that was kept hidden from the foundation of the world. These things are beyond the mind of man, beyond the inventions or ideas of man. As our Savior said in the Gospel of Saint John,
If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to Heaven, but He that came down from Heaven, even the Son of man which is in Heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have life everlasting. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have life everlasting. For God sent not His Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:12-17).
Our Lord did not come to condemn us, but rather to save us. He the wise Physician came in the spirit of co-suffering, self-sacrificing love. He expressed this love with the words, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Our Savior, the God-Man Jesus Christ was lifted up so as to become conspicuous, a sight that should shake any man or woman of understanding to their core.
Our first parents were egocentric. They were not faithful to their Creator and were grasping of the fruit of the tree and the Lord of Glory was hung on the tree of the Cross to demonstrate His love for us and show us the way unto salvation. What is that way? “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). To follow Christ is to live an exalted life, to identify with the Lord of Glory and to sacrifice oneself. The Cross is the symbol of the saving therapy of self-sacrificing love. The Cross is the symbol of the mystery of God’s love for us. The Cross is the symbol of immortality and victory over sin and death.
The feast of the Exaltation of the Cross had its origins with the finding of the True Cross during the days of the first Christian Emperor Saint Constantine and his mother Saint Helen.
After the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D. the pagan authority covered the whole area where the Crucifixion of our Savior took place with a large mound of earth and built a temple to the pagan goddess Venus, hoping that in time this would obscure the memory of what occurred there. Around the year 326 Saint Helen was inspired to make pilgrimage to the land sanctified by the footsteps of our Savior and she sought out the Cross of our Savior with great fervor of heart.
When the location of Golgotha was found and the excavations were made, efforts were not fruitless, but they discovered not one but three crosses. How to identify the Cross of Christ? The crosses were placed one by one upon a woman that was nigh unto death and when the True Cross touched her she was completely healed. It is also said that the touch of the Cross raised a dead man.
The then patriarch of Jerusalem, Saint Makarios, solemnly took the Cross in his hands and the enthusiastic crowd called out that they could not see the great object of their desire, The Cross, because of the multitude. Then Saint Makarios lifted the Cross on high and blessed the multitude. The literal translation of the name of the feast in Greek, Ὕψωσις τοῦ Τιμίου Σταυροῦ is the "Raising Aloft of the Precious Cross"
We also celebrate the appearance of the Cross in 1925 over Mount Hymettus just outside of Athens. In 1924, in violation of the Pan-Orthodox Council of 1583, the State Church of Greece changed the Church calendar. This was the beginning of the age of Ecumenism, a betrayal of the Traditions of the Holy Apostles and the dissemination of false teachings concerning the essential nature of the Church. At that time many did not understand the full extent of this pernicious heresy, but a number of pious priests and laity broke communion with the State Church of Greece and commemorated those bishops who rightly divided the word of truth, wherever they may be. Some of the bishops of the State Church of Greece responded by severely persecuting the faithful. They would send in the police and disrupt the services, even beating the priests and trampling the Holy Chalice. On the eve of the feast of the Universal Exaltation of the Cross a large number of the faithful gathered at the country chapel of Saint John the Theologian near Mount Hymettus. Some police were sent to break up the service, but since they were greatly outnumbered, they remained present, but did nothing. At approximately 11:30 pm a large three bar Cross appeared in the night sky, that completely overpowered the light of the stars and illuminated the courtyard of the chapel. This sign made believers out of the police and for the rest of the service all present worshiped with one mind and one heart. This sign was a divine confirmation of the liturgical and ecclesiastical Traditions of our Church.
The fact that our Savior chose to work such a dramatic sign on this feast is cause for reflection.
The path of Traditional Orthodoxy is the way of the Cross. The false teachers who control the ancient Sees of the State Churches in the Orthodox homelands, have betrayed the Holy Fathers and their teachings by embracing Ecumenism, and yet, they call Traditionalist Orthodox Christians “uncanonical” and refer to us as a sect. Our Lord has provided us with a divine confirmation. The Church is where there is One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism (Eph 4:5). For the love of our God Who loved us first, let us continue in our struggle in love for each other and love for the truth. It is by this that we exalt the mystery of the Cross in our own lives.
The Kingdom of self-sacrificing love is within and it is made manifest in day-to-day living within the family and local parishes. We worship the Cross and glorify the Holy Resurrection. It is only by the Cross that we partake of the Resurrection. May our Merciful Savior provide for you and your families participate in these two Mysteries through your faithfulness to our Savior. To Whom be all glory, honor and worship. Amen.