Sunday, March 11, 2018

Sermons for the Third Sunday of Great Lent

Sharing-TWO articles: Sermon for the Third Sunday of Great Lent: The Adoration of the Holy Cross-by St. Metropolitan Philaret of New York and Sermon by Blessed Theophylact on the same subject

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Dan Everiss

Sun, Mar 11, 2018 at 12:47 AM

Troparion, Tone One:
"O Lord save Thy people, and bless Thine inheritance; granting unto Orthodox Christians victory over their adversaries, and by the power of Thy Cross, do Thou preserve Thy community."

Kontakion, Tone Four:
"O Thou Who wast lifted up willingly upon the Cross,  bestow Thy mercies upon the new community named after Thee, O Christ God; gladden with Thy power Orthodox Christians, granting them victory over their adversaries; may they have as Thy help, the weapon of peace, that invincible trophy
of Thy Cross."

Another Kontakion, Tone Seven:
"No longer doth the flaming sword guard the gate of Eden, for a strange extinction hath come upon it, even the Tree of the Cross, The sting hath been taken from death, and the victory from hades.
And Thou, my Saviour, didst appear unto those in hades, saying: Enter ye again into Paradise."  

"Before Thy Cross, we bow down in worship, O Master, and Thy Holy Resurrection, we glorify!"


"Through the Cross, joy has come into all the world!"


By St. Metropolitan Philaret (Vosnyesensky) of New York:   

Sermon: Holy Cross 3rd Sunday Lent

Translated by Eugenia and edited by Joanna
for the final version see Living Orthodoxy magazine issue #188.

From the Collection of Sermons by St. Metropolitan Philaret, Vol. I, pp 123-126

The Holy Life-giving Cross of the Lord

“Rejoice, O life-giving Cross,"  "the invincible victory of piety,"  "the heavenly door,"  "confirmation of the faithful,"  "protection of the Church,"  "for by it the curse is destroyed" and "abolished," and the "reign of death is trampled" and "we are raised up from earthly to heavenly things,"  "invincible weapon,"  "resistance of demons,"  "glory of martyrs,"  the true "adornment of the saints", the "haven of salvation,"  "granting to the world great mercy.”   With these words (and many others) today the Church magnifies and glorifies the life-giving Cross, this weapon of our salvation.

We all know, of course, that the life-giving cross is our main holy object, our main spiritual treasure.  And the Church glorifies this holy object in a special manner.  During the course of the entire year, on Wednesdays and Fridays, in Church hymns and practically on every Sunday, the Cross is glorified.  It is brought out triumphantly three times during the year for veneration: in the summer, on the first of August [old style], we commemorate the procession of the Cross out from the cathedral in Constantinople and along the streets of that royal city;  on the 14th of September [old style] we commemorate the main feast, the triumphant and elevation of the Cross; and on today's feast, we commemorate the Cross in the middle of the Great Lent.

Why is it that the Church namely on this day, the third Sunday of Great Lent, so particularly offers us the Cross for prayer and veneration?

In the Old Testament there was an episode which the Holy Bible relates, when the Hebrew people who were wandering in the desert under the leadership of the prophet and God-seer Moses, were walking along the desert for a long time without water, and finally they began to grow weak from thirst.  Finally they saw a spring with water.  Exhausted, and at the height of their suffering they ran to this spring, but alas, the water turned out to be so unbearably bitter, that it was impossible to drink.  They called out to Moses.  Moses directly turns to the Lord Himself in prayer, pointing out to Him the woeful state of the people and this spring of water;  and the Lord indicates to him a tree which he must with prayer immerse into the water of this spring.  When Moses did this, a wondrous change occurred with the water, and it became pleasant to the taste and refreshing, as it happens only with the best and purest sources of water.

And it was this particular miracle, as the Holy Fathers pointed out, that was a prefiguration of how the Life-giving Cross sweetens the turbulent and bitter waters of the sea of life in which you and I now find ourselves.

But particularly now, during the Great Lent, the Church reminds us of the Cross and offers it to us, in order to give us courage and strengthen us for the continuation of our podvig of carrying the cross.

Of course, for him who does not fast, this is incomprehensible – he sees no need for this;  but for him who observes the fasts, he knows that human frailty becomes apparent during this labor of fasting and that a person grows weak;  and in order to encourage him and spiritually strengthen him, the Church reminds him of the Cross, of what the Lord Jesus Christ did for us people, how He took upon Himself our sins, nailed them to the Cross, became nailed Himself to it and through His sufferings upon the Cross, obtained for us our salvation and clemency from Divine Justice.

This is particularly comprehensible for great fasters and ascetics, true monks in strict monasteries.  In such places they fast strictly, harshly, not sparing themselves.  Certain fasters spend entire days completely without food and drink.  And in order to strengthen human frailty, which weakens with such fasting feats, ascetics turn to the wood of the Cross.  It speaks to us of what the Lord endured for us, and by this gives us wings for new labors, new podvigs/spiritual struggles

But remember, when we bow down in veneration before the Life-giving Cross, venerate it and kiss it, as our holy object, as our treasure which sanctifies us, we must always keep in mind remembrance of what occurred on the Cross.

The mystery of the Savior's podvig on the Cross consists in His being nailed to the Cross in His Human nature and in this nature he received all sufferings of crucifixion.  But at the same time, since He was not merely a man, but God-man, His divine, omniscient nature revealed to Him the full knowledge of all the sins of all people of all ages.  And of ours as well.  And when He was suffering there, experiencing grievously in these torments the sins of all mankind, our own sins were also there in front of Him, and He sorrowed for them and received crucifixion for them – for the sins of each one of us. 
Concerning this, the Holy Fathers tell us the following: since the power of His podvig on the Cross, its salvific effect, extends over all times, and consequently touches all mankind's sins, then each time, when you and I commit a sin, it is as if we exacerbate the suffering which the Lord endures on the Cross for us.  The Holy Fathers said this directly; that sinners who sin impenitently are crucifying the Son of God a second time, as if nailing Him to the Cross again, as if personally participating in the terrible blows under which the nails of the Cross pierced the body of our Lord.
There is an account concerning the miracle-working icon of the Mother of God “Unexpected Joy”, where it is said, that a certain man, a sinner, often walked by the Icon of the Mother of God, despite the fact that he was on his way to commit his sins, yet with faith and reverence  glorified Her, pronouncing the angelic salutation “Rejoice O Virgin Theotokos, Mary full of grace, the Lord is with Thee, blessed art Thou among women.”  And then one day, after such a greeting, he suddenly sees with horror, how the image seems to have come alive, that the Mother of God and the Savior seem to be alive on it, and from the wounds of the Savior, live blood is streaming.  He began to shake, and falling before the image in horror, he asks the Mother of God: “Mother of Mercy, intercede for me a sinner before Thy Son, that He would forgive me my lawlessness.”  And She answers him: “You call me Mother of Mercy, yet you are not merciful to My Son, for each time when you sin impenitently, you nail Him a second time to the Cross.”  The sinful man implored and persuaded her.  She obtained forgiveness for him from Her Son – but what an edification is this for us!
Remember this, Christian, and when bowing down before the cross and kissing it, pray to the Lord, that the Lord, through the power of the Cross, would strengthen you in your battle against sin, so that you might not sin impenitently and through this unrepented sin, not nail again your Lord to the cross.  Amen


Third Sunday of Lent
Veneration of the Holy Cross

Mark 8:34b - 9:1

From The Explanation of the Gospel of St. Mark

by Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria

34-37. And when He had called the people unto Him with His disciples also, He said unto them, Whosoever desireth to follow after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whosoever desireth to save his life, shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the Gospels, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit  a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? [In this passage of St. Mark, and in the following commentary, the single Greek word, psyche, has been translated as either "life" or "soul" as it has both these meanings. See also Theophylact's Explanation of St. Matthew, pp. 30, 61, and 193. Tr.] Since Peter had rebuked Him for wanting to be crucified, the Lord called the people unto Him, and said in the hearing of all, but directing His words mostly towards Peter, "Do you find fault with Me, Peter, because I take up the cross? I say to you, that neither you, nor anyone else, will be saved unless you die for the sake of goodness and truth." See that Christ does not compel a man to die on a cross against his own will. Instead He said, Whosoever desireth. The Lord is saying: "I compel no one. I invite him to something good, not to something bad to which he must be forced. Whoever does not want these things is not worthy of them." We can learn what it means to deny oneself if we understand what it means to deny another. He who denies another is he who, when he sees his brother, or servant, or father, being flogged or even murdered, does not turn towards him and pity him in his suffering, but acts as if he were a stranger to him. In this same manner the Lord wants us to show no pity towards our own bodies, so that even if we are flogged, or worse, let it make no difference to us. Let him take up his cross, that is, accept a most shameful death, for at that time to die on a cross was considered the most shameful of deaths. But since many were crucified for being bandits, the Lord added to the crucifixion something else: that one ought to have virtue. This is what it means to follow Me. Although His command that one give oneself over to death seemed hard and cruel, the Lord straightway shows this commandment is given out of love for mankind. For whosoever shall lose his life for My sake shall find life. (But the death of a condemned man, or of one who hangs himself, is not for Christ's sake and brings no such reward.) And, on the contrary, he who appears to have saved his life, far from finding life, shall lose it by not remaining steadfast during his time of martyrdom. Do not say to Me, "But he has saved his life", it means nothing. Even if you say that he has gained the whole world as well, it is of no benefit. No one can exchange money for his salvation, for if that were so, a man who had gained the world but lost his soul, could, while burning in the flames of hell, use his money to buy innocence. But at that time and in that place no such trade can be made. Here let us shut the mouths of those who say, following Origen, that all the souls in hell will be restored [and reunited with those in heaven] after they have been punished in accordance with their sins. (1) Let them hear that there is no exchange that can be made there for ones soul. No one is kept in hell as a punishment. Rather, it is the weight of his own sins which holds him there.
38-9:1. Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when He cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels. And He said unto. them, Verily I say unto you, that there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power. Intellectual faith does not suffice, but confession of faith with ones mouth is required as well. Since man himself is two-fold, let his sanctification be two-fold as well. The soul is sanctified by faith, but the body is sanctified by confessing. Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed to confess that the Crucified One is his God, of him also shall the Crucified One be ashamed. For the Lord shall judge that man to be an unworthy servant, when He comes with glory, escorted by the angels, and no longer in lowly form. At the second coming He will not appear, as He did before, to be of base origin and circumstance, and an object of scorn. Since He speaks of His own glory, He desires to show that He is not vainly boasting, and says, There be some of them that stand here, namely, Peter, James, and John, who shall not die until I have shown them at the Transfiguration the glory with which I shall appear at the second coming. For the Transfiguration was nothing less than a foreshadowing of the second coming, and as He appeared in radiance then, so will He shine at the second coming, as will also all the righteous.

1. This false teaching of Origen, apokotastasis, the general restoration of all fallen creation, was condemned by the Church as heresy at the Fifth Ecumenical Council held at Constantinople in 553

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