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Homily for 3/27/11 - L3 - Encountering the Cross

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  • Fr David Moser
    The Hebrew nation, after fleeing the captivity of Egypt, wandered for 40 years in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land. In a general way this is
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 27 12:02 PM
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      The Hebrew nation, after fleeing the captivity of Egypt, wandered for 40
      years in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land. In a general
      way this is the story of our own salvation. We are delivered out of our
      slavery to the passions by the power of our Lord Jesus Christ and just
      as the Hebrews passed through the Red Sea so we are baptized and set
      upon the path of salvation. Upon this path we follow Christ just as the
      Hebrews followed the pillar of cloud. When we have finished our
      wandering upon this earth, we cross from this life to the next just as
      the Hebrews, having finished their time of wandering entered into the
      Promised land. This period of wandering in the wilderness is brought
      again into our attention by this fasting period. Rather than 40 years,
      we struggle for 40 days and at the conclusion of our Lenten struggle, we
      enter into the joy of Pascha, the great feast of the Resurrection of Christ.

      During their 40 years wandering in the wilderness of the Sinai, the
      children of Israel suffered from constant need, they hungered and God
      gave to manna, the miraculous food and they thirsted and God raised up
      for them springs in the desert; they were sick and God gave them
      healing. During this time they learned by harsh experience to trust in
      God alone who provided all of their needs. At one time the Hebrews came
      upon a spring of water but were unable to drink of it as the water was
      bitter. At the instruction of God, the prophet Moses plunged into the
      water a staff of wormwood and the bitter water was made sweet and fit to
      drink. There are many times during the fast when we experience a similar
      bitterness. The weight of our struggles, of our suffering, seems to
      become too great and to weigh us down – our life becomes bitter and
      unbearable. At this point the wood of the cross is given to us as the
      means by which that great weight is eased and the bitterness of lent
      becomes sweet. Today in the midst of lent, when the weight of our
      sorrows and struggles begins to seem unbearable, when because of our
      tears, life begins to become bitter and the water of life seems
      inaccessible to us, then the cross is set before us and we see our Lord
      Jesus Christ who comes to us and fills the emptiness of our sorrow with
      joy and transforms our mourning into dancing. The cross becomes the hook
      upon which we hang our sorrows, exchanging them for the yoke of Christ.

      What effects this change, what makes it possible for the bitter to
      become sweet and for mourning to become dancing? The cross, which is the
      instrument of our salvation, brings hope and that hope transforms our
      suffering to joy. What we at first experience as suffering is
      transformed by hope in Jesus Christ into the process of our spiritual
      healing. The bitterness that we experience is the symptom of the purging
      from our hearts the effects of sin. The suffering that we undergo is the
      detachment of the passions which had bound us in slavery to sin. The
      God/man Jesus Christ came into the world and took our flesh and our
      whole nature that He might transform all that we are into His own
      likeness. The struggle and suffering that we undergo is not our
      permanent condition, nor is it some punishment, but rather it is the
      indication that the healing has begun, that we are on the path of
      salvation. The holds of sin on us are being methodically broken and
      completely cut away and extricated from our soul. We learn that we do
      not rely upon anything in this world but that God provides all that we
      need. We learn that we do not trust in princes in the sons of men but
      that our hope is in the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

      This hope, that transforms our suffering to joy and our mourning to
      dancing, is the hope of the life in Christ. It is the hope that we have
      that God has not abandoned us but that His love for us remains firm and
      unchanged. It is the hope that the God/man Jesus Christ has come to us
      to heal us, that He will protect and deliver us from the assaults of the
      evil one. It is the hope that He has destroyed death and that He will
      bring us along the path of salvation so that we might share in and enjoy
      His life. It is nothing less than the hope that we will live in union
      and communion with God throughout eternity. This is the hope that
      transforms the bitterness of our lives, which we experience most acutely
      during Great Lent into the sweetness of the Living Water.

      This present feast, the feast of the Cross, is placed in the midst of
      Great Lent as an oasis. Just as a man on a long journey through the hot
      desert is refreshed by sitting under the shade of a tree and quenching
      his thrist with the sweet water of hidden spring, so the feast of the
      Cross allows us to rest for a moment in the midst of our journey and
      regain our strength under its protecting arms. The cross is the standard
      of the victory of Jesus Christ over sin, death and the devil. It is the
      emblem of our salvation. It is the means by which we are set free and
      healed and with the dew of grace that falls from the branches of this
      spiritual tree, our soul is refreshed so that we might again continue
      our journey with renewed strength and with a light heart.

      As we venerate the cross we sing the hymn, “Before Thy Cross, we bow
      down in worship, O Master, and Thy Holy Resurrection, we glorify.” By
      placing the cross here in the middle of Lent, we are reminded of the
      Resurrection which is the victory over death and our release from the
      captivity of sin. As we bow down before the cross we set our burdens,
      the load of sorrow and suffering that we carry, at the feet of Christ.
      Receiving this offering as a most valuable gift, He takes from us the
      load that we carry and in return provides us with the assurance of His
      love and provision. We no longer need to carry our load of sorrows on
      our own, for Jesus Christ carries it for us. We have traded the burden
      of our self reliance and personal anxieties for the light yoke of
      reliance upon Christ and the hope that He gives us by His grace. If we
      do not bow before the cross, we cannot set down our burden. If we do not
      embrace the cross of Christ we cannot receive the light yoke of His
      grace. If we do not let go of our sins, our worries, our sorrows, our
      self – we will not be able take up the joy that He offers to us. This is
      the point in our Lenten journey that we let go of all our own baggage,
      and leave it at the foot of the cross. From this point on we take up
      instead the yoke of Christ which is His love for us and His compassion.
      It is His provision and care for us allowing us to depend not upon
      ourselves and our own strength, but instead upon Him for all things.

      Today we encounter the Holy and life giving cross. Today we have come to
      the cross-roads where we no longer carry our own burden but we take up
      the cross of Christ. Today we have passed over the top of the mountain
      pass and begin the long and joyful descent to the promise of the
      Resurrection. Today we have encountered the Cross which leads us to
      Jesus Christ Who is our Hope and our Salvation.

      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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