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 Day and Afternoon Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhood, the Young Adults and Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I greet you in the love of Christ our Lord on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross, a major feast of our Orthodox Church. This day is important because it accords us the opportunity to ponder the sacred quality of sacrificial love as we exalt and venerate the precious Cross in the midst of our communities. Each time we see the figure of the Cross, we are immediately reminded of our ultimate Christian mission, the essence of which is endless love and service to others.
As Orthodox Christians, we do not take lightly Jesus’ challenging words, “Whosoever would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). On the contrary, we recognize the tremendous weight of these words; we acknowledge the extraordinary travails which we must inevitably undergo in our approach toward an everlasting communion with God. In our contemporary society the challenge to take up one’s cross bears a special relevance, and raises critical questions concerning the nature and extent of our commitment to Christ. What are the crosses which we are called to carry today? How do the cumbersome burdens of a complex society such as ours impact our ability to follow Jesus Christ, the Crucified Lord?
In considering these questions, one is drawn to a particularly dominant trend within our contemporary society, namely, the tendency for the quality of our relationships with others to decline in terms of the level of personal interaction. This tendency may be seen particularly in instances where communication with others takes place solely via electronic means, or in instances where society refers to the identity of a person by means of a number rather than a name. The declining of the personal dimension within human relationships represents yet one example of a contemporary cross which each of us must carry in our sacred task of preaching the Gospel, a task which is intrinsically personal and intimate.
The psychological stresses that many of us experience in our daily lives also represent crosses that each of us must carry. This stress is seen in tensions that inevitably arise as we try to balance the conflicting demands of work and family. Financial difficulties and problems in our relationships with others also complicate our lives with considerable anxiety. These heavy crosses may at times be further weighted down by personal or family health concerns, or by problems with our children or loved ones who may be afflicted with addictions such as the abuse of alcohol or drugs.
Despite such burdens, the beauty of the Feast which we celebrate today rests upon the comfort of knowing that the exaltation of the Cross signifies an overcoming of every handicap which inhibits our ability to attain an everlasting communion with God and with one another. The exaltation of the Cross invites us to consider the manner in which Christ has overcome our own burdens and struggles, the loving ways in which He has elevated us from a fallen state to a state of grace. It is an event which brings us to a closer comprehension of the reassuring words of St. Paul, “if we have been united with (Christ) in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His” (Romans 6:5).
Brothers and Sisters,
As we consider the significance of this Feast for our personal lives and the lives of our families and communities, we also mark another significant occasion, the Name Day of our Holy Cross Theological School in Brookline, Massachusetts. The students of Holy Cross, by keeping themselves centered upon the symbol of the Cross, which is the hallmark of our Christian faith, develop keen sensitivities for God and others over a period of formation and study which lasts years. Many of them are studying for the Holy Priesthood and, God-willing, will be ordained into the ranks of the clergy in order to meet the growing needs of our parishes. All of them however--men and women from exceptionally diverse backgrounds with a deep love for God, His people, and the Church--are examples of persons who have demonstrated a contemporary response to the sacred call of our Lord to take up their cross and follow Him. I ask on this day that you offer a special prayer for all who labor, teach, study, and support this most sacred institution of our Archdiocese, that it may continue to flourish, provide spiritual nourishment for our communities in America, and edify the Body of Christ throughout the world.
May our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who was crucified on the Cross for our salvation, be with you each and every day of your lives, and may the victory of the Cross alleviate your every burden, inspiring you and your loved ones toward the attainment of an everlasting communion with God and with one another.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America