“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him nothing was made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Jn 1: 1-5)
Today, as those of us on the Older Calendar prepare for the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, and those of us on the “New” calendar celebrate the day of St. John the Theologian, I’m thinking about the fundamental, primary truth St. John reveals to us about our cross-carrying Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God. Namely, St. John identifies Him as the Source of Life and Light, God.
It is true that the Lord calls me to “love,” “mercy,...
“We bow down before Your Cross, O Master, and Your holy Resurrection we glorify!“ (Byzantine Hymn, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross)
Why the cross? Why would God choose a “cross,“ of all signs, as the sign of His (and our) victory; as the instrument by which He trampled, and we, in Him, continue to trample, death and darkness?
For one thing, when I make the sign of the cross, I become bigger than myself. Because the cross branches out, extending beyond me. As Chesterton noted in his brilliant comparison of the (Buddhist) circle and (Christian) cross: “The circle returns upon itself and is bound. The cross opens its arms to the four winds; it is a signpost for free travelers.“
Indeed, paradoxically, the “yoke“ and “burden“ of the cross-carrying Way make me “free.“ Free of what, exa...
“Then Moses led Israel onward from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur; they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’ And he cried to the Lord; and the Lord showed him a tree, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.” (Ex 15: 22-25a)
This passage is from the first reading at Vespers on the great feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, celebrated this Thursday (NC). What does this passage have to do with the feast? The “tree” that Moses throws into bitter water, and that makes the water sweet, is traditionally seen as an image of the “life-giving” Cross.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” (Jn 1: 14)
Are we divinizing a text, when we say that “the Word” became flesh? No. We’re talking about a Person, “the only Son,” and His relationship with Another, “the Father.” He is “begotten” or “born” of the Father, like a word is “born” of an intelligent being; It is conceived within, and brought forth when spoken. Do I entirely “understand” this and “know” God’s eternal, mysterious Being? No. And that’s OK.
It is OK, specifically because God is not an idea I construct in my mind so that I have someone to pray to, nor a philosophical system I map out, so that I have certain ethical “guidelines” for everyday life. No. He is a Living Being with Whom...
“As You were voluntarily raised upon the cross for our sake, / Grant mercy to those who are called by Your Name, O Christ God; / Make all Orthodox Christians glad by Your power, / Granting them victories over their adversaries, / By bestowing on them the Invincible trophy, Your weapon of Peace.” (Byzantine Kontakion-hymn of the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross)
As those of us on the Older Calendar celebrate the Exaltation of the Cross today, I am reminded that He didn’t “have to” die on the cross. His Father did not have unresolved “issues” of anger or resentment, with which He needed help. No. He was fine.
We were the ones with the “issues.” We had broken our relationship with Him, having lost our focus, our vision, or “missed the mark” of harmony with Him, in taking the path of “sin”...