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Homily for Sept 26 2010 - Sunday before the Cross

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  • Fr David Moser
    John 3:13-17 Tomorrow we honor the Cross of our Lord on the day of its discovery by the Empress Helen. The Cross, in and of itself, is nothing, it is just two
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 26, 2010
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      John 3:13-17

      Tomorrow we honor the Cross of our Lord on the day of its discovery by
      the Empress Helen. The Cross, in and of itself, is nothing, it is just
      two pieces of wood which have been put together: and instrument of
      torture used by the Romans to execute criminals. But the One Who was
      voluntarily crucified on that Cross, Who willingly gave His life so that
      He might accomplish our deliverance from death, by ascending the Cross,
      transformed it from an instrument of torture and death into standard of
      victory over sin death and the devil and the instrument of blessing and
      eternal life. Thus tomorrow we honor the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ
      and all that it encompasses – His suffering and death, His victory over
      sin, death and the devil, His resurrection, and our salvation and the
      gift of eternal life.

      Today is the Sunday before the feast, however, and today, we prepare for
      this great celebration. As we prepare, in the Gospel today we are told
      three things about the feast – Who, what and why.

      “No man has ascended up into heaven but He who came down from heaven,
      even the Son of man who is in heaven” This Gospel is a excerpt of the
      conversation Jesus had with Nicodemos a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews,
      who had come to Jesus by night seeking to understand who He really was.
      In this statement, Jesus tells Nicodemos that he is not simply a prophet
      and a teacher as Nicodemos had supposed, but rather that He was God
      incarnate. It is only God Who could have “come down from heaven” that He
      might again “ascend up into heaven”. Let there be no mistake here, Jesus
      is very clearly explaining to Nicodemos Who He is in Truth. This is
      unlike most of Jesus’ dealings with the Pharisees for often they would
      come not to learn the truth but to trap Him by the cleverness of words
      and therefore judge Him and condemn Him. To these disingenuous
      approaches, Jesus would speak in parables and in equally clever
      “riddles” matching the Pharisees with the same cleverness with which
      they approached Him. But Nicodemos came not seeking to trap Jesus or to
      judge Him, but rather to learn from Him the truth. When he thus came
      with an open heart and with true faith, Jesus responded with the same
      simple and clear teaching.

      Jesus did not stop here with just saying that He was the one who
      descended from heaven, but added “even the Son of man who is in heaven”.
      Here is the full teaching of the incarnation laid out – that God the Son
      descended from heaven and taking on flesh became the son of man. He did
      not bring his body from heaven but rather came as the son of man, taking
      his body from the Virgin and being born of her as a man. And having
      descended from heaven He is not separated from God but remains at the
      same time in heaven and is eternally united with the Father. This is the
      core of the Gospel, that God has become man, and it is revealed to those
      like Nicodemos who sincerely seek the truth. This is the “Who” of the
      feast – it is about the God/man Jesus Christ for indeed without Christ,
      the Cross is only two pieces of wood and an instrument of torture.

      “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 eternal life.” Now that we know Whom the feast is
      about, we learn what the feast is about. Here Jesus refers to the Old
      Testament event when the Hebrew people, having fled Egypt, were
      wandering in the desert. They began to complain against God and the
      serpent of discontent in their hearts became an infestation of venomous
      snakes. The people then repented of their discontent and called out to
      God for relief. God, in His mercy and compassion, instructed Moses to
      put up a brass serpent upon a pole and everyone who was bitten would be
      healed if only he were to gaze upon that serpent. This event is a
      foretelling of the crucifixion for just as this image of a serpent was
      placed on a pole for the healing and preservation of the people who were
      afflicted with the venom of their own sin, so also the Son of man (God
      incarnate) was lifted up upon the Cross so that all who through their
      belief, gaze upon Him with the eyes of the heart will be healed from the
      wounds of their own sins and become a partaker in the eternal life.

      This is the “what” of the feast for the Cross is nothing without the One
      Who is crucified on it. The Cross, with Jesus Christ, has become no
      longer the instrument of death, but the fountain of life. Through the
      Cross, joy has come into the world; through the Cross we who were
      condemned to die now receive life; through the Cross sin and death are
      overcome and destroyed. When, on the feast of the Exaltation of the
      Cross, we will see the Cross lifted up – this is what we celebrate, that
      through the Cross, the victory over sin death and the devil has been
      accomplished and what was once an instrument of death is now become the
      fountain of 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 everlasting life.
      For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that
      the world through him might be saved.” This is the reason that all this
      has been done, this is the “why” of the feast – God loves us. God loves
      us so greatly that He Himself, descended from heaven, took our flesh and
      became man. He then voluntarily ascended the Cross so that by death He
      might defeat death in which we were caught, free us from the tyranny of
      sin and give to us eternal life. All his He did because of His great
      love for us. How simple and yet how great and infinite and beyond our
      ability to comprehend. God loves us. And as a token of that love as a
      reminder of the depth of that love and what it has accomplished for us,
      we have the Cross. This is why we celebrate the Exaltation of the Cross
      – it is a celebration of God’s love for us.

      When two people are betrothed, they exchange rings as a symbol of the
      promise and love that they give to one another. That ring becomes a
      reminder and talisman of the all the love that they share together. In
      times of distress and in times of joy it is not uncommon to see a person
      touch that ring and twist it and grasp it as if to remind themselves
      that they are not alone and of the love of their spouse. So also do we
      as Christians have a token of the love of God for us – the Cross. We
      wear the Cross about our neck, next to our skin at all time as a
      reminder that we are not alone and that God loves us. In difficulty and
      in joy we may well reach up and touch the cross as reminder that God is
      with us. At this feast we bring out the image of the Cross and we lift
      it up and venerate it for it is the reminder, the token of God’s love
      for us.

      God did not become man and descend from heaven in order to judge us and
      condemn us. He did not come to us out of anger or wrath. He came to us
      out of love in order to accomplish our salvation, in order to give us
      life. He came not to condemn us, for we had already condemned ourselves
      through our own sins. He came to free us from that condemnation, to
      deliver us from the trap of death in which we had become entangled and
      to open the door of salvation to us that we might pass through it and
      enter into union and communion with Him. That door of salvation that has
      been opened to us and through we must now pass is the Cross. The Cross
      is the fountain of life, the token of God’s love and the instrument of
      our salvation. For this reason we rejoice in it and lift it up with
      honor and rejoicing. Through the Cross, joy has come into the world.

      --
      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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