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Homily for 9/30/07 Sunday after Cross - What will a man give...

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  • Fr David Moser
    Mark8:34-9:1 This past week we marked together the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. The Cross is the symbol of our victory and stands at the heart of our
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 30, 2007

      This past week we marked together the feast of the Exaltation of the
      Cross. The Cross is the symbol of our victory and stands at the heart of
      our salvation. To ascend the cross with Christ and there to die with Him
      to the world is the inescapable path of all who would follow Him into
      eternal life. Our own Archbishop Anthony of blessed memory brings to
      mind the hymns of the feast and through them points out the pivotal
      place of the cross in our salvation:

      “In the artistically figurative language of our marvelous Orthodox
      divine service, the Cross of the Lord is compared with "just scales." In
      the Church Slavonic language, this is expressed by the words "merilo
      pravednoe" ("just balance"). ’In the midst of two thieves, Thy Cross was
      found to be a just balance.’

      But how does the balance of the Cross act according to the explanation
      of the Church' s hymn? ’In the midst of two thieves, Thy Cross was found
      to be a just balance: the one was brought down to hades by the weight of
      his blasphemy, while the other was lightened of his transgressions unto
      the knowledge of theology; O Christ God, glory be to Thee!"

      This view of the Cross aligns directly with the Gospel which we heard
      read today, “ For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but
      whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For
      what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own
      soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” The Cross has
      become for us the criteria by which we evaluate our lives and reorient
      ourselves towards heaven. As the Gospel tells us, it is necessary to
      give up our worldly life in order to obtain heavenly life. The most
      extreme example of this is, of course, the martyrs who quite literally
      sacrificed their lives in this world that they might not lose the
      eternal life of Christ. However, we are not all called to die as martyrs
      for Christ, but we are all called to “lose your life for My (Christ’s)
      sake” What then does this mean for us? How do we lose our lives that we
      may gain Life?

      St Seraphim of Sarov spoke quite eloquently on this when he described
      the process of “acquiring the Holy Spirit” which is how he described our
      salvation. He began by comparing his former life as a merchant with the
      Christian life. The merchant’s goal, he reminded us, is to trade the
      goods that he has for something that will bring him profit and that each
      trade must be evaluated on the basis of what will bring the most profit.
      For the Christian, we too are trading constantly to gain a profit –
      however we do not seek the material profit of wealth, as a merchant
      would, but we seek instead the profit of acquiring the grace of the Holy
      Spirit. Our criterion then for how we conduct our lives is to ask what
      actions will bring us more of the grace of the Holy Spirit and to choose
      only those actions which bring the greatest spiritual profit. To apply
      the image described by St Seraphim to the gospel, we can see that we
      must indeed “lose” our life by “trading” what we have in order to
      acquire in its place the grace of the Holy Spirit. If on the other hand,
      we strive to hold onto the things of this world and our earthly life and
      are not willing to give them over into the hands of God, then we acquire
      only a little grace and the worldly life weighs us down. By saving our
      own life, we lose the Life that Christ gives.

      To return again to the hymn that Archbishop Anthony brings to our
      attention, we can now apply it to the Gospel and see the meaning in even
      greater light. Because of our sinful nature, our lives tend towards sin
      and we acquire a great weight of sins which tie us to this world. When
      we hold onto the sins of this life; pride, anger, remembrance of wrongs,
      vanity, lying, acquisitiveness, greed, sloth, love of pleasure and so
      on, we are weighed down like the thief on the cross who blasphemed
      Christ. (It is important here to note that all sin weighs us down in
      this manner. If we harbor pride or remembrance of wrongs or greed or
      sloth in our hearts, it does not matter if we do not also blaspheme, for
      we are still weighed down by our sins.) The only way to rid ourselves of
      the weight of our sins is to let them go – to “lose” them.

      The only way that we can lose our sins is by repentance. First we
      confess our sins – that is we admit to God and to ourselves that we have
      indeed sinned. Second we repent or turn away from our sin – changing our
      lives so that this sin will not recur. Here is a very difficult part,
      but something that relates to what we have already said. In order to
      turn away from sin, it is necessary to give up those parts of our lives
      which lead us into sin. The fathers also tell us consistently that the
      way to combat a particular temptation is to practice the opposite
      virtue. Are you greedy? then force yourself to give generously. Are you
      slothful? then avoid relaxation and force yourself to be industrious. Do
      you remember wrongs? then force yourself to forgive and act with
      kindness and compassion towards those who have wronged you. In this way
      we “lose” our lives so that we might instead gain the Life of Christ –
      we “trade” with what we have in order to acquire the Holy Spirit. Even
      temptations to sin can be used as opportunities to practice
      righteousness and thus can be turned to the acquisition of the grace of
      the Holy Spirit. In this way we turn our lives away from the paths that
      lead to sin and by losing that part of life that was unprofitable, we
      gain instead the Life of Christ.

      Whenever we consider the Cross; when we see it, when we think of it,
      when we speak of it, when we venerate it, when we trace it upon
      ourselves, at this time we are faced with the choice of whether or not
      to lose our lives. Will we ascend the Cross with Christ and trade our
      own life for His Life that He offers to us or will we try to preserve
      our sinful life in this world. Will we repent of our sins and acquire
      the grace of the Holy Spirit, thereby losing that which weighs us down
      and gaining that which draws us into heaven or will we continue in our
      sins which hold us like great stones and prevent us from following
      Christ and ascending with Him into heaven. The Cross is for us the just
      scales, the point at which we must evaluate our own lives. The Cross is
      the means by which we evaluate – will we lose our lives and ascend the
      cross with Christ or will we choose instead to save our lives and turn
      away from the Cross. Here is the decision point – a decision that we
      face every moment of every day – will I give my life in exchange for the
      life of Christ or will I turn away and hold onto my self centered and
      sinful life. What indeed will a man give in exchange for his soul?

      As we trace upon ourselves the cross of Christ; as we consider the Cross
      that we wear next to our hearts; as we see the Cross before us, let us
      consider its effect on us. Let us choose to lose our lives and follow
      Christ, to acquire from Him in exchange the Life that He gives. Let us
      no longer live for ourselves alone but instead live the Life of Christ.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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