"Upon the Cross, the Lord Showed the Highest Degree of Selflessness, Meekness and Humility"
(Sermon on the Elevation of the Cross of the Lord)

From the Editors: In connection with the continuing observance of the Elevation of the Cross of the Lord and the approaching celebration of the 50th anniversary of the clerical service and 30th anniversary of the Episcopal ordination of His Eminence Archbishop Alypy, we offer a transcription of the following sermon given by His Eminence in 1994. The upcoming celebrations will be held at Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral in Chicago (Des Plaines, IL), in the middle of October. His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, His Grace Bishop Peter of Cleveland, the clergy and flock of his diocese will participate. The schedule will be posted soon.

On September 14/27, we observe the holiday of the Elevation of the Cross of the Lord. Bringing the cross out for our prostration and veneration, we also venerate the sufferings of Christ, which He enduring for the sake of the salvation of mankind. For this reason, the cross is a sign and symbol of Christianity. In the kondakion of this holiday, the cross is called "the weapon of peace" and "the invincible trophy."

The cross is called the "weapon of peace" because Christ slain enmity upon it (Eph. 2:16), which was introduced with the fall of mankind into sin, and this enmity grew alongside the increase of sin. In order to mitigate the growth of sin, law was given, but in the words of Apostle Paul, it could not eliminate sin, but only showed the weakness of mankind which was corrupted by sin. Sacrifices and immolation could not atone for mankind before God, for the blood of lambs and goats could not expiate sin. The Old Testament sacrifices were only prototypes of the great Sacrifice of Christ. In suffering upon the cross, the Lord made peace between mankind and God, "blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us" (Col. 2:14 and also the Sixth Hour).

The cross is also an expression of "the invincible trophy" of Christ. How did this victory come? Death upon the cross is the epitome of the suffering and humiliation of the Lord, in which was His main victory, with which the pride of the devil was crushed. The basis of sin is pride. In his pride, the devil rose up against God, in pride was mankind tempted: "Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." The foundation of good works is humility, which in the end destroys makes pride obsolete as its negative opposite, just as light disperses darkness, and so the devil fears it most of all.

In the life of St Macarius of Egypt it is recounted how the devil once met the holy man and sought to strike him with a scythe, and could not. Then he said: "Macarius! You are causing me great grief, because I am unable to vanquish you. Here I am, doing everything that you are doing. You are keeping fast - and I am not eating at all; you are keeping awake - and I never sleep. There is one thing, however, in which you surpass me." "And what is that?" asked the saint. "Your humility," replied the devil. "It is for this reason that I cannot cope with you."

Upon the cross, the Lord showed us the highest degree of selflessness, meekness and humility, in suffering. He prayed for those who crucified Him.

In elevating the cross of the Lord, we recall also His suffering. These sufferings were more horrifying, for Christ suffered for all the sins of mankind. That is why the cross is the highest expression of God's love for man: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son." But the cross can also be an expression of the love given by man to God in return. This love was shown to us by Apostle Paul, when he said: "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Gal 6:14). This love in return is expressed by wearing the cross. One can wear the cross internally and externally. Internally, in our battle with passion and lust. This struggle is not easy, since passion and lust, besides their basis in physical corruption, are also prodded by the devil, so our struggle is not only with flesh and blood, but in the words of Apostle Paul, "against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph 6:12). Fasting and prayer are effective weapons in this battle.

Wearing the cross externally means the suffering and sorrows which assail us from all sides. Mostly these sufferings are involuntary, but when they are accepted without grumbling, they greatly benefit us. Voluntary sufferings are those which are assumed for faith in Christ. These martyric sufferings are like those of Christ, and so martyrs have a special place before the Lord, and the Holy Church often appeals to them on behalf of worshipers for intercession.

In bowing before the cross, we immediately recall the Resurrection of Christ, showing that it is the result of the victory over evil, expressed by sin, the devil and death. And this victory took place upon the cross through humiliation and suffering.

Kneeling before the cross, through our humility we express veneration for the humility, humiliation and sufferings of Christ; in rising up again, we symbolize the Resurrection of Christ.

So let us venerate the cross not only in prostrations and genuflection, but in our lives, in emulating Apostle Paul, so that the bearing of our cross would be the greatest expression of mutual love for God. Amen.