A sermon for the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross

Giving thanks to God, overcoming our old selves

priests in altar

The Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross reveals to us the power of the Holy Cross. The Tree of Love rose over Mount Golgotha, and its fruit is Jesus Christ. Jesus died on the Cross, abandoned by everyone, and yet He was the victor. He was victorious when He asked for His Father's mercy to those who had put him on the Cross: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" His Body and His Blood give us life. We live because He suffered and died for us. We do not redeem ourselves with our suffering.

But people of this world have a different notion of victory. In these times and ours, many would say to Christ, "First come down from the Cross, destroy your enemies, and then we will bow to You and become our servants." Kings and victors do not act like Christ. They hold on to their thrones. They defeat and conquer. Christ came to this world to change this. He sacrificed himself for our salvation.

Our salvation calls us to adopt a different set of values and way of life. Our mission is to be the New Israel. Christians are the New Israelites who departed from Egypt, the world that lies in evil. To this day, the world has sought to control and disrupt our progress by subjecting us to its rules. It tries to bring these rules even to the Church. But that cannot stop our progress to the Promised Land, our Jerusalem in Heaven. But we are crossing a desert, and our progress is difficult. But Jerusalem in Heaven is within our reach. It starts in our hearts. Acquire the peaceful spirit, and thousands will be saved. Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all the rest will be provided.

Along the way, we must defeat our old selves. We must survive their demise and give up our lives to Christ. Are we ready? Or would we rather say, "sorry, but I need more time to take care of some unfinished business"? Do we have Christ and faith in Him in our hearts? Or are we trying to serve two masters keeping our worldly gains and serving God at the same time? Are we saying to ourselves, "Let fasting and prayer wait a little longer"?

Many things can wait. Even God can keep waiting for us to the end. Sooner or later, however, our time will come to leave this earth. Are we going to say then, "Lord, I am not ready?" But there will be no more time for us.

Our future is being made today, at this very moment. We are writing the book of our lives at this very minute. There is no time for waiting.

But within ourselves, we are divided. We do not know which part of us will prevail: our old man, or our new self. Two selves dwell in me!

A bitter war is going on inside us, an intense spiritual struggle. Our hearts are a battlefield.

This battle is intimidating. We are concerned about our health. We dread uncertainty and our future. We are dismayed at our situation and our future, we deplore the present times. Many fall into despair, fear and panic when we should behave differently.

How can we change our attitudes? Start by saying, "Glory to God for all things, for our joys and sorrows alike!" The liturgy is our thanksgiving to God. It is an angel's song that we sing throughout our lives. We took the Body and Blood of Christ into ourselves. What more do we have to ask? Let us give thanks to Him. As Elder Nikolay Guryanov says, we must thank God even in our worst circumstances, and He will give us comfort and shed His gifts on us.

By giving our thanks to God, we can overcome the natural course of things and have victory over this world. Victory is where Christ is. We have His resurrection. Without the resurrection, nothing would have meaning. Christ overcame this world. Only in Him, there is life.

Let us raise our thanks to God for giving us the strength to continue our Lenten journey and reach the Week of the Veneration of the Cross, despite all our temptations. Let us thank him for the joys to come. On Tuesday, we celebrate the tonsure of our new monastic sisters, the Standing of Saint Mary o Egypt next Monday, and the Annunciation of the Theotokos on Thursday.

Let us thank God for giving us life at the Church and raising us above our lives on earth that are finite and destined to end. As Saint John of Kronshtadt has said, our life at the Church is our heaven on earth. May God help and protect us.

Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok

March 31, 2022
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