September 14, 2007
The Universal Exaltation
of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross
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 glorious feast of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross we are guided through the worship of our Holy Orthodox Church to contemplate the great victory accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ, "the pioneer and perfecter of our Faith", as He is described in the twelfth chapter of the Epistle to Hebrews. The opening verses of this chapter present to us, in very applicable ways for our modern life, a set of distinct visual images that describe the endurance and victory of Christ and its meaning for our salvation.
As we face the challenges of life, for example, we are exhorted "to run with perseverance the race that is set before us" (12:1). We are encouraged to "lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us…"(12:1). We are called to consider the One who experienced tremendous hostility through His suffering and through the Cross, so that we do not "become weary and discouraged in our souls" (12:3). Through the endurance of Christ on the Cross we can find strength for living and hope for salvation.
The endurance of our faith in God and our commitment to His will are essential in a world that is filled with obstacles, hindrances, and threats to life and truth. Many people today are weighted down with the cares and burdens of this life, with spiritual, physical and emotional challenges that may seem insurmountable. Many face temptations and are ensnared by sin and unhealthy addictions that keep them from knowing a deeper experience and understanding of God’s blessings and presence. In the face of this we can look to the endurance of Jesus Christ and be reminded of His triumph when we gaze upon the Precious and Life-Giving Cross. By the power of His Cross, we can be assured of the protection, peace, and victory that will come to us through our faith in Him.
When we speak of this feast of our Church and of endurance, we particularly remember those who have answered the call to priestly service in the kingdom of God. It is our tradition on this day to offer our prayers and support for our seminarians at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts, in recognition of the commitment they have made to the path of ministry. This is the path of the Cross, a path that requires great endurance through the challenges that come with the care of souls and pastoral leadership of communities of faith in our contemporary age. Let us offer on this day our prayers and our contributions of support to our seminary, that those who have answered the sacred calling of the Lord to follow Him will have continued strength and endurance to keep their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus during their time of preparation. As they look to Him and carry the Cross of service, may they be assured that victory will come through the transformation of lives and the salvation of souls.
My beloved, as we gather in commemoration of the Cross and in worship of our victorious Lord and Savior who offered Himself for us, may we find strength in one another and hope from those who have finished the race and gone before us. Their examples of faith and endurance affirm the power of the Cross to lead us to victory and to an eternity of life and peace with God.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America
September 14, 2007