His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America

Great Vespers of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

September 13, 2020

Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church

Brooklyn, New York

 

My Beloved Christians of this Blessed Community,

I am so very glad to be with you this evening, in the days that follow the Twentieth Anniversary of September Eleventh. All our communities in Brooklyn bore much of the pain of that day, and you also brought forth ministry to bring real and tangible help to people.

This Feast of your Parish, the Universal Exaltation of the Holy, Precious, and Life-giving Cross, coming just days after 9/11, speaks to the events of that Day like no other. For that Day was a day of horrible suffering – in truth, a day of crucifixion. It was a Day when the Tree of the Cross became the only way to interpret the madness around us. The loss, the pain, but also the heroism of the all the First Responders – Fire, Police, and Emergency Services. What capacity for sacrifice the human being has!

As the Lord Himself said:

Μείζονα ταύτης ἀγάπην οὐδεὶς ἔχει, ἵνα τις τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ θῇ ὑπὲρ τῶν φίλων αὐτοῦ.

Greater love has no one than this, to sacrifice your life for your friends.[*]

Yes, my beloved Christians. On 9/11, this Feast was in full force just three days in advance. For on this Feast, we celebrate the discovery of the Holy Cross by Saints Helen, the mother of Constantine the Great, and Makarios, the Archbishop of Jerusalem. It was literally centuries after the Crucifixion of our Lord, when the Crosses of our Master Christ and the Two Thieves were tossed aside. But they were not forgotten! The power of the Cross transcends space and time.

And so it was on 9/11, in the midst of such hatred and cruelty that brought the Twin Towers down, men and women rose up and sacrificed their lives for friends they had never even met. They found their own Cross on 9/11. They mounted it as they climbed every stair in those fated Towers. Such is the power of love! It is why we pray:

Δυνάμει τοῦ τιμίου καὶ ζωοποιοῦ Σταυροῦ!

By the power of the precious and life-giving Cross!

This same δύναμις pours forth across the centuries into every human heart that is open to grace, to compassion, to mercy, to forgiveness, and above all else, to love. But it does not come without sacrifice, and sometimes the ultimate sacrifice of one’s life.

My brothers and sisters:

We must ask ourselves on this Eve of the Elevation of the Cross:

What are we willing to sacrifice, for the sake of this Divine love? What egoistic desires? What self-appointed privileges? What impatience, intolerance, and the uncharitable thoughts that we harbor in our minds?

Are we prepared to give them up? Those heroes of 9/11 embraced the Cross of our Lord and gave up their lives! We can give up a little as well.

For their sacrifice will never be forgotten, and it has won them an eternal habitation with God in Heaven. For us, we can also experience the first fruits of the Resurrection, which always follows the Crucifixion, just as Pascha always comes after Holy Friday.

Our fruits can be those spoken of by Apostle Paul, the fruits of the Spirit:

love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. [†]

Lives that are full of these fruits are lives that have known the blessedness of the Holy Cross. They have known what sacrifice is and what love truly is. And they are prepared to experience the Resurrection when the day comes for them to mount up to Heaven.

May we always be graced to live in such a way, that the Holy Cross is manifest in our words, our actions, and in every aspect of our lives.

Δυνάμει τοῦ τιμίου καὶ ζωοποιοῦ Σταυροῦ!

Ἀμήν!

 

 

 

[*] John 15:13.

[†] Galatians 5:22-23.