September 14, 2012
The Universal Exaltation of
The Precious and Life-Giving Cross
But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our
Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been
crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)
To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On this blessed Feast of the Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross, we join with the heavenly hosts and all creation in glorifying Christ and venerating the Cross by which He has brought us healing, restoration, and the triumph of life over death. As we experience in the hymns and prayers of this feast, it is a day of great joy and celebration. It is an occasion upon which the Church throughout the world lifts up a symbol of power, love and faith, and Orthodox Christians call every person to look upon the Cross and encounter our Lord in the magnitude of His unsurpassed and absolute love.
The challenge for many in this encounter and their contemplation of the meaning of the Cross continues to be how an instrument of torture and death can be the cause of celebration. How do we find glory in a means of suffering and shame? How can we claim victory in an event that ended in defeat? How can we celebrate life in death? These are not new questions. They have been asked down through the ages, and they have been answered by the constant witness of God’s people through the testimony of the power of the Cross in our lives.
The Apostle Paul addresses these questions and the challenge of the Cross in his first Epistle to the Corinthians (1:21-24). He emphasizes that through the Cross, Christ revealed the power and wisdom of God. The Passion of our Lord revealed that the power of God was a spiritual and eternal power, much greater than the temporal power of physical might and authority. Our redemption through His Crucifixion accomplished a divine plan that embraced all aspects, needs, and potential of our humanity with God’s grace.
It is also by the power and wisdom of God that through the Cross and Christ’s death came true life. The way of the Cross led to Jesus’ Resurrection and to our resurrection. We who were dead in our trespasses were made alive together with Christ, having our sins forgiven. All that was against us and destroying us was nailed to the Cross. (Colossians 2:13-15) Through the Cross and our faith in Christ, we are able to put off corruption and be renewed for the purpose and potential of our existence. We are able to turn from falsehood and deception unto truth. We are able to leave behind the old that leads us to death and embrace the new that leads to life, to holiness and to righteousness. Because of this we glory in the Cross, and we are in a position to proclaim with Saint Paul, I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The Feast of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross is also a day on which we support the mission and ministry of our beloved Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. This year we have the blessed opportunity to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the founding of Holy Cross in 1937 under the leadership of the then Archbishop Athenagoras of blessed memory. We also offer our gratitude and prayers of remembrance for the many faculty, students, alumni, trustees, staff, and benefactors who have given generously and faithfully of their resources and abilities. Through their legacy, Holy Cross together with Hellenic College has contributed to the growth and ministry of our Holy Archdiocese through nurturing the faith of our future clergy, offering them an environment of learning and spiritual development, and enriching them with the qualities of leadership and guidance in service.
Our School has also been a place where many have and continue to experience the meaning and way of the Cross. In worship and theological study they engage with the power and wisdom of God as revealed in the Crucified and Risen Lord. Through prayer, fasting and spiritual growth, through carrying the Cross, students strengthen their relationship with God, meet the challenges of life with faith, and strive for holiness and righteousness that will prepare them for their calling of service and sharing the Gospel.
As we celebrate this feast, may we offer our prayers and support for Holy Cross and for the preparation of the future servants of God and His Church. May we also be joyful as we lift up the invincible standard of our faith and proclaim a victory by which Christ has brought us peace and life without end.
With paternal love in Him,
Archbishop of America