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Homily for 3/30/08 - Lent 3 - Cross on the horizon

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  • Fr David Moser
    Mark 8:34-9:2 When a person is traveling on a long trip, there is always the excitement of leaving and beginning the journey. That excitement lasts for a
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 30 12:33 PM
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      Mark 8:34-9:2

      When a person is traveling on a long trip, there is always the
      excitement of leaving and beginning the journey. That excitement lasts
      for a little while and then boredom sets in. That’s when the children in
      the backseat start to ask every 2 minutes “are we there yet?” or “how
      much further?” and things start to get difficult. When we were driving
      west across the plains, it was pretty featureless, the landscape was
      flat as far as the eye could see, there was nothing to indicate that you
      were any nearer your goal today than yesterday. But somewhere along the
      line, there appeared on the horizon a little cloud – but it wasn’t a
      cloud. It was the tops of the mountains! We could actually see the
      mountains (now remember we had lived in the Midwest – there were no
      mountains there). All of a sudden everything seemed lighter and easier.
      We knew we were going the right way because there were the mountains in
      front of us. They were small, and we knew it would take a long time to
      get there, but there they were – our goal was in sight and we felt
      better, more energized to finish the trip and get where we were going.

      Today is the half way mark of Great Lent. All the excitement of the
      first week got us going into the fast pretty well, but now that
      excitement has faded and well, its just boring. We kind of plod along
      day by day thinking “What can I eat today?” and “How many more days left
      anyway?” But here at the halfway point, there appears on the horizon the
      first glimpse of our goal. Just as the mountains were visible afar off
      and lightened our car trip so now the cross is seen on the horizon and
      it too encourages us, renews our excitement, assures us we are going in
      the right direction and gives us hope that we are nearing our journey’s
      end. Yes, today we stop looking backward at all the things we left
      behind and start looking forward to all that is to come.

      The cross is that unique marker for us during the fast and so it brings
      us many gifts here in the midst of lent with Holy Week still a ways off.
      First it encourages us and gives us strength. The cross is planted in
      the rock of eternity, and yet projects into this world. It is the bridge
      which carries us through death to eternal life. Because of this it is
      also our “invincible trophy” and our “weapon of peace”. The cross
      strengthens us in our struggle against the temptations and trials of the
      demons. Whenever we face temptation, no matter how small, one of the
      first things that we can do is to make the sign of the cross and pray,
      “Lord have mercy”. This simple act – to trace upon ourselves the mark of
      the Lifegiving cross – calls to mind that we have ascended the cross
      with Christ and we have died to sin, therefore this temptation, this tug
      towards sin that we feel really has no hold on us at all and that with
      the help of our Lord Jesus Christ, we can overcome it. This is the
      strength that the cross holds for us.

      The cross also assures us that we are going the right way. There are
      many many paths that claim to be the path of salvation. How do we know
      which is the right way, how do we know that we have not wandered off the
      path? Our assurance of this is the cross. Any path that does not lead to
      the cross is a false path and so when we see the cross, when we see the
      promise of the suffering of Holy Week, the intense prayer, the betrayal,
      the beatings and death, then we know also that we are in the right
      place. In order to approach Christ and to join ourselves to Him we must
      also undertake the struggle of self denial, ascending the cross in His
      footsteps and dying to ourselves and to this world. There is no avoiding
      this struggle. Any promise of salvation that does not include this path
      of tears and suffering is a false path. Thus when we see the cross ahead
      of us, we know that this is the right path, we know that we are headed
      towards that struggle to deny ourselves and ascend the cross as we
      follow Christ. And so today, looking ahead, we see for the first time,
      the cross – the marker that we are indeed on the right path. As long as
      we keep heading toward the cross we will not be led astray.

      If it were all about suffering, however, then who would follow the way
      of the cross? The cross does not end in suffering and death, but rather
      it is the instrument by which Jesus Christ defeated death and having
      descended in to Hades, He broke the bonds of sin and freed the captives,
      reopening and clearing for them and for us the path to paradise. The
      cross is the gateway which leads to the Resurrection. From the cross,
      death no longer emanates, but now Life streams from its branches. When
      Adam and Eve fell into sin in the Garden, they were forbidden to taste
      again of the tree of life and the Garden was shut to them. Now a new
      gate is opened – the gate of the Cross. Now a new tree is planted which
      gives us life – the tree of the Lifegiving Cross. The cross brings us
      not only strength and assurance, it also brings us hope. When we see the
      cross, we know that our struggles will not be in vain, we know that our
      lives will not be wasted or ruined, we know that our God Who endured all
      these same things for us voluntarily ascended the cross and suffered
      death and was buried … and rose again on the third day. When we see the
      cross, we see the gate that He has opened for us which will take us even
      through death and open into the Resurrection into the new life with Him
      in His Kingdom.

      The cross stands at the meeting of this world and the next. It is the
      gateway which our Lord opened for us to paradise. It is the new Tree of
      Life from which we can eat. The Cross is our assurance that we are on
      the path of salvation and that we have not gone astray. The Cross is our
      strength, our invincible trophy and weapon of peace, by which we repel
      and destroy the attacks of the demons and temptations of sin. Today we
      see the cross, and we rejoice, for we know that we are nearing the
      completion of our journey. Today we sing with the whole Church, with the
      hosts of heaven and the choir of the saints: Before Thy Cross, we bow
      down in worship, O Master; and Thy Holy Resurrection we hymn and glorify!

      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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