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The Feasts of the Cross

The Lord Christ and the Cross

The Lord invited to bear the Cross and said: “If anyone desires to come after ‎Me, let him deny himself, and take up his Cross, and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24; ‎Mark 8:34). And He said to the rich young man: “Go your way, sell whatever you ‎have and give to the poor,…and come, take up the Cross, and follow Me.” (Mark ‎‎10:21). ‎

He made the bearing of the Cross a condition for the discipleship to Him. ‎He said: “And whoever does not bear his Cross and come after Me cannot be My ‎disciple” (Luke 14:27).‎

He Himself, during all the period of His Incarnation on earth, lived ‎bearing the Cross. Since His Nativity, Herod wanted to kill Him, and He run away ‎with His mother to Egypt. When He began his mission, He suffered the fatigue of the ‎service, and had “nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9: 58). He lived a life of pain, so ‎that Isaiah said about Him that He is: “A Man of sorrow and acquainted with grief” ‎‎(Isaiah 53:3). He was bitterly persecuted by the Jews. Once they “took up stones ‎again to stone Him” (John 10:31). Another time they wanted to “throw Him down ‎over the cliff”(Luke 4:29). As for their insults and their accusation of Him, they are ‎very numerous. All these are Crosses which are other than the Cross on which He was ‎crucified…‎

The Cross in the Lives of Saints

The disciples of Christ also placed the Cross before their eyes. They ‎preached continually… and said about that: “but we preach Christ crucified” although ‎He is “to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness” (1 Cor. 1:23). ‎The apostle Saint Paul said: “For I determined not to know anyting among you ‎except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2). He would rather boast in the ‎Cross saying: “But God forbid that I should boast except in the Cross of our Lord ‎Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. ‎‎6:14).‎

Even the angel who announced the Resurrection, used this expression “Jesus ‎who was crucified”. He said to the two Marys: “I know that you seek Jesus who was ‎crucified. he is not here; for He is risen, as He said” (Matt. 28:5). Thus he called ‎Him “Jesus who was crucified” although He was already risen. The expression “who ‎was crucified” remained attached to Him, and our fathers the apostles used it and ‎concentrated their predication on it. As Saint Peter said to the Jews “know assuredly ‎that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts ‎‎2:36).‎

The Cross is the narrow gate in which the Lord invited us to enter. ‎‎(Matt.7:13). He said to us: ‎

  • ‎”In the world you will have tribulations” (John 16:33); ‎
  • “And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (Matt. 10:22); ‎
  • ‎”Yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers ‎God service” (John 16:2); and
  • ‎”If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because ‎you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the ‎world hates you.” (John 15:19). ‎

Thus the apostle Saint Paul taught: “We must through many tribulations ‎enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). ‎

The life of the Cross is evident in the lives of the martyrs, the abbots, and the ‎ascetics. In view of the faith, the martyrs and the confessors suffered unbearable ‎torments and agonies. The majority of the early apostles and bishops marched in the ‎way of martyrdom. ‎

When the Lord called Saul of Tarsus to become an apostle for the Gentiles, ‎He said about him “For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My ‎name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). We can mention as an example, Saint Athanasius the ‎Apostolic of the abbots and the Cross which they carried. He was exiled three times ‎and he was exposed to bad accusations. Saint John Chrysostom was also exiled…..and ‎the incarceration and ostracizing to which the fathers were exposed.‎

As for the fathers monks, the Church surnames them “the Cross-bearers”. ‎They have borne the Cross of solitude and aloofness from every human consolation, ‎and the Cross of asceticism in which they were denuded from every corporal desire. ‎They suffered the pains of hunger, thirst, cold, heat, poverty, and penury, in view of the ‎greatness of their love the King Christ. They also suffered the afflictions and the ‎warfare of the devils in various ways and kinds, as in the life of Saint Antony, and the ‎lives of the wandering anchorites.‎

The Cross Precedes Resurrection

Christ was elevated over the level of the earth in His Crucifixion. He was also ‎elevated over the level of the tomb in His Resurrection. He was elevated over the level ‎of all the world in His Ascension to heaven and in His sitting at the right side of the ‎Father. He was rather elevated over the level of this heaven.‎

These are degrees of elevation, all of which He had begun by the Cross. ‎Rather before that, He was elevated over the level of self preoccupation in His ‎Nativity. He “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant” ‎‎(Philippians 2:7).‎

The Cross of the Lord preceded His Resurrection; and His making ‎Himself of no reputation preceded His glory. Pain always precedes the crowns. ‎Thus, Saint Paul the Apostle said: “if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also ‎be glorified together” (Rom. 8:17).‎

Thus he showed us the value and the results of pain. He rather considered pain ‎as a gift in life to us from God. He said: “For to you it has been granted on behalf of ‎Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29). ‎

Pain is considered to be a gift because of its crowns. Our Lord established ‎the bearing of the Cross as a condition to discipleship to Him. He said: “If anyone ‎desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up the Cross, and follow ‎Me” (Matt. 16:24). He said more than that: “And whoever does not bear his Cross ‎and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:27).‎

Such as the bearing of the Cross is a condition for life with God, so also it is a ‎test of seriousness and steadfastness in His way. The tribulations to which the faithful ‎man is exposed during his life, are a test of the extent of his steadfastness in faith. Thus ‎the Lord said: “in the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). ‎

While He was on his way to the Cross, He permitted that his disciples should ‎encounter the bearing of the Cross, so that the extent of their steadfastness should ‎appear. He said: “Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat”(Luke ‎‎22:31).‎

For this reason, the Holy Church has placed the martyrs in the highest order of ‎saints because they were those who have suffered the Cross more than all the others, in ‎view of their constancy in the faith. The Church places also with them the confessors ‎who confessed the faith and suffered many torments, although they did not obtain the ‎crown of martyrdom.‎

If you bear a Cross, accept that joyfully because of the crowns which you ‎will obtain, if you do not complain and do not doubt.‎

It was said about the sufferings of Christ our Lord that He “for the joy that ‎was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the ‎right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). Here we find the Cross with joy in ‎enduring it, and glory resulting from it…You will encounter many kinds of Crosses. ‎Among them, there are exertion, toleration, patience, fatigue in service and in ‎repentance, and also discipline from God and from the fathers…‎

Do not grumble then, whenever you bear a Cross; and do not think that spiritual life ‎must be easy, and its way covered with flowers. Otherwise, on what account will you ‎be rewarded in eternity? And also, what is the meaning of the words of the Lord ‎concerning the narrow gate (Matt. 7:13)?‎

Christian Life is a Cross

In fact, Christian life is practically a journey to Golgotha; and Christianity ‎without a Cross is really not Christianity.‎ Those who have received their good things on earth, will have no share in the ‎Kingdom, as the story of the rich man and Lazarus explains to us (Luke 16:25). We say ‎that, as regards individuals, just as we say it as regards groups and churches also. For ‎Christianity is a participation in the sufferings of Christ, as the apostle Saint Paul said: ‎‎”that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His ‎sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:10). He said also about this ‎participation in the sufferings: “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I ‎who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).‎

So that if you want to live with Christ, you must be crucified with Christ, or ‎you must be crucified for Him, and suffer for Him, even if that would lead to die for ‎Him also.‎

The Cross and its Glories

In Christianity, you suffer, you find pleasure in suffering, and you obtain ‎crowns for your suffering which is transformed into glory. Christianity is not a Cross ‎which you carry, and grumble and protest in your complaint! No, but it is the love of ‎the Cross, the love of suffering and sacrifice and fatigue for the Lord and for the ‎expansion of His kingdom. ‎

It was said about the Lord Christ: “who for the joy that was set before Him ‎endured the Cross, despising the shame”(Heb.12:2). The apostle saint Paul said: ‎‎”Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in ‎distresses, for Christ’s sake”(2 Cor. 12:10). And after having been scourged, the ‎fathers apostles “departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were ‎counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41)… ‎

But about the glories of sufferings, the apostle says: “if indeed we suffer ‎with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Rom. 8:17). Therefore he said ‎after that: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be ‎compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). And thus, Saint ‎Peter the Apostle said, But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are ‎blessed” (1 Peter 3:14).‎

Hence sufferings are accompanied by blessings. The Lord Christ has ‎mentioned them saying: “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and ‎say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, ‎for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were ‎before you” (Matt. 5: 11-12).‎

Here we find that the sufferings for the Lord are associated with joy and ‎jubilation and with the celestial reward. ‎

Truly: because after the Cross, there is Resurrection and Ascension, and also ‎sitting at the right hand of the Father. If Christianity were only a Cross, without glories, ‎people would have been tired, and as the apostle said: “If in this life only we have ‎hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Cor. 15:19). But Christians in ‎their bearing of the Cross, look at the eternal glories “while we do not look at the ‎things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are ‎seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18).‎

Therefore, with the external fatigue, there is peace and consolation. While ‎they were stoning him, Saint Stephen saw the heavens opened, “and saw the glory of ‎God” (Acts 7: 55,56). What joy had he at that time….! ‎

There is another joy which the martyrs felt; it is that they had completed the ‎days of their expatriation on earth and the moment of their encounter with the Lord ‎approached……Some of them saw the crowns and the glories……. and some others had ‎holy visions that consoled them…‎

We do not separate the Cross from its rejoicing and its glories: also we do ‎not separate it from the assistance and grace of God.‎

The Christian might carry a Cross, but he does not carry it alone, and God ‎does not leave him alone. There is a divine assistance that supports and upholds. It is ‎that assistance which stood with the martyrs till they supported the sufferings, and ‎which stands with the faithful in every tribulation. There is the encouraging expression ‎of the Lord: ‎

  • ‎”Do no be afraid… for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt ‎you” (Acts 18: 9,10); ‎
  • ‎”Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for ‎the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). ‎
  • ‎”They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you. For I ‎am with you”, says the Lord, “to deliver you” (Jeremiah 1:19).‎

The Love of Christianity for the Cross

The Cross is an emblem to which every Christian clings because of its ‎spiritual and doctrinal meanings. We suspend it on the churches, we include it in all ‎our sculptures, we suspend it on our breasts, we make its sign on ourselves, we begin ‎our prayers with it, we sign it on our food, we sanctify with it all that we possess. The ‎men of the clergy carry it in their hands, and they bless the people with it. The Cross is ‎used in all the ecclesiastical sacraments, and in all the signings and the consecrations, ‎in the belief that all the blessings of the New Testament came as a result of the Cross. ‎The clothes of the clerical men are adorned with the Cross, not just for ornamentation, ‎but for its benediction and its power. We celebrate two feasts for the Cross, and we ‎carry the Cross during the processions and the celebrations.‎

We see that there is a power in the signing of the Cross, which the devils ‎dread. All the pains of the devil to ruin human beings, has been lost by means of the ‎deliverance which was realized on the Cross. Therefore Satan dreads the sign of the ‎Cross…on condition that the signing of the Cross is done with faith and reverence. ‎Saint Paul said: “For the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are ‎perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). That ‎is why a Christian fortifies himself with the signing of the Cross. ‎

How to Bear Your Cross Practically

‎1. The Cross is a sign of love, bestowal, sacrifice, and redemption, which you ‎carry each time you are tired in view of the practice of these virtues.‎

‎ ‎Try to get tired for the rest of another, and for his deliverance and his service; ‎and be confident that God does never forget the fatigue of charity, “and each one will ‎receive his own reward according to his own labor.” (1 Cor. 3:8). Train yourself to ‎give: whatever you bestow and support and sacrifice…and train yourself to give from ‎your necessities, as the blessed widow had done (Luke 21:4)…Tire yourself in your ‎service, because the more you tire, the more your love will appear, and therefore the ‎greater your sacrifice will be.‎

‎2. The Cross is also a sign of sufferings and endurance:‎

In the midst of the sufferings which the Lord endured for us–whether the ‎sufferings of the body, of which He said: “They pierced My hands and My feet; I can ‎count all My bones” (Psalm 22:16-17), or the sufferings of shame which He joyfully ‎endured for us–He was rejoicing for our salvation.‎

Therefore the apostle said about Him: “who for the joy that was set before ‎Him endured the Cross, despising the shame” (Heb: 12:2). How great is the ‎endurance when it is joyfully done. That is a lesson for us. ‎

While you suffer a Cross, if you endure the tribulation of the Cross for the ‎Lord, or if you encounter persecution because of your justice, or if you are hit with ‎disease or weakness for that…likewise if you endure the wearisome deeds of people ‎without taking revenge for yourself, but rather you turn the other cheek, and you walk ‎the second mile, and do not resist an evil person (Matt. 5:39), but rather you act with ‎patience. Such patience is a Cross, whether your endurance is within the circle of the ‎family, in the field of service, or in relation to your work.‎

‎3. You will bear a cross if you crucify the flesh with its passions (Gal. 5:24).‎

Each time you attempt to overcome a craving or a guilty desire, you are ‎bearing a cross. You also crucify your thoughts each time you control them from ‎wandering. Likewise, when you restrain your senses, bridle your tongue, constrain ‎your body, endure hunger, avoid appetizing food, escape bodily pleasure, and control ‎the love of money, you bear a cross.‎

‎4. You bear your cross in your self-denial, by taking the last place. ‎

By not seeking dignity, by your giving up your rights, by not taking your ‎reward on earth, by preferring others to yourself in everything with love that “does not ‎seek its own” (1 Cor. 13:5), by humility and renouncement, and by keeping away ‎from praise and dignity.‎

‎5. You bear your cross by bearing the sins of others, as our Lord the Christ did.‎

There is no objection that you would bear the guilt of another one and be ‎punished for that instead of him; or that you bear the responsibilities of another one, ‎and to carry them on instead of him. And as Saint Paul said to Philemon about ‎Onesimus: “But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account. I, ‎Paul, an writing with my own hand, I will repay” (Philemon 18-19).‎

As much as you can, participate in the sufferings of others, and carry them in ‎their place. Be a Cyrenian bearing the Cross of another.‎

Spiritual Meanings of the Cross

When we make the sign of the Cross, we remember many of the theological ‎and spiritual meanings which are connected to it: ‎

‎1. We remember the love of God for us, Who accepted death instead of us, in view ‎of our salvation. ‎

‎”All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned, every one, to his own ‎way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Is. 53:6). When we make ‎the sign of the Cross, we remember “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the ‎world” (John 1:29). “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ‎ours only but also for the whole world.” (1 John 2:2).‎

‎2. And in the Cross, we remember our sins.‎

Our sins which He has borne on the Cross, and for which He Incarnated and ‎was crucified…With this remembrance, we are humbled, our souls become contrite, ‎and we thank Him for the price which He paid for us “For you were bought at a price; ‎therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. ‎‎6:20).‎

‎3. And in the Cross, we remember the divine justice:‎

How forgiveness was not on account of justice. But the divine justice took his ‎right on the Cross. We do not then consider sin as a slight matter, the sin whose price is ‎such as that.‎

‎4. In our signing of the Cross, we declare our discipleship to this Crucified One.‎

Those who take the Cross simply by its spiritual meaning, inside the heart, ‎without any apparent sign, do not openly manifest this discipleship. We declare this ‎discipleship in many forms: by doing the sign of the Cross, by carrying the Cross on ‎our breasts, by kissing the Cross in front of everybody, by imprinting it on our wrists, ‎and by raising it above the places in which we worship.‎

With all this, we openly declare our faith, for we are not ashamed of the Cross ‎of Christ in front of people. Rather, we boast of it, we hold fast to it, we celebrate ‎feasts for it…Even without speaking, our plain aspect manifests our faith…‎

‎5. We do not make the sign of the Cross on ourselves in a silent manner, but we ‎concurrently say: “In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”‎

Thus, each time we declare our faith in the Holy Trinity who is One God ‎forever and ever, Amen. The Holy Trinity is continually in our thoughts, and that is ‎not available to those who do not make the sign of the Cross as we do.‎

‎6. In making the sign of the Cross, we also declare our belief in Incarnation and ‎Redemption:‎

When we make the sign of the Cross from upward to downward, and from the ‎left side to the right side, we remember that God has come down from heaven ‎downward to our earth, and transported people from the left side to the right side, from ‎obscurity to light, and from death to life; and how many are the meditations which ‎come to our hearts and minds from the signing of the Cross!‎

‎7. We remember the forgiveness in the Cross,‎

When we look to the cross, we remember how our sins were forgiven and how ‎our Lord addressed the Heavenly Father saying (while He was on the Cross): “Father ‎forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34)….‎

‎8. In the signing of the Cross, there is a religious instruction for our sons and for ‎others:‎

Whoever makes the sign of the Cross, when he prays, when he enters the ‎church, when he eats, when he sleeps, and at every moment, he remembers the Cross. ‎This remembrance is spiritually useful and biblically desirable. In it, there is also an ‎instruction for people, that Christ was crucified. This instruction is especially important ‎for our small children, who grow from their childhood being accustomed to the Cross.‎

‎9. By making the sign of the Cross, we preach the death of the Lord for us, ‎conforming to His commandment.‎

Our Lord Who redeemed us commanded us to preach His “death till He ‎comes” (1 Cor. 11:26)…‎

In making the sign of the Cross, we remember His death at all times, and we ‎keep remembering Him until His Second Coming. ‎

We also remember Him in the Sacrament of Eucharist. Although this ‎sacrament is not done every moment, we can still make the sign of the Cross at every ‎moment, remembering the death of Christ for our sake…‎

‎10. In making the sign of the Cross, we remember that the retribution of sin is ‎death:‎

Because otherwise Christ would not have died; “we were dead in trespasses” ‎‎(Eph. 2:5). But Christ died instead us upon the Cross and gave us life. Having paid the ‎price on the Cross, He said to the Father: “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34).‎

‎11. In making the sign of the Cross, we remember the love of God for us:‎

We remember that the Cross is a sacrifice of love. “For God so loved the ‎world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not ‎perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).. ‎

We also remember that “God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that ‎while we were still sinners, Christ died for us…and we were reconciled to God ‎through the death of His Son.” (Rom. 5: 8,10).‎

In the Cross, we remember the love of God for us, because “Greater love has ‎no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John: 15:13).‎

‎12. We make the sign of the Cross because it gives us power.‎

The apostle Saint Paul felt that power of the Cross, and said: “by whom the ‎world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14). And he also said: ‎‎”For the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us ‎who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).‎

Note that he did not say that the Crucifixion is the power of God, but he said ‎that the simple word of the Cross is the power of God. Therefore when we make the ‎sign of the Cross, and when we mention the Cross, we are filled with power; because ‎we remember that the Lord trampled death by the Cross, and He granted life to ‎everybody, and forced and defeated Satan. ‎

Therefore….we make the sign of the Cross, because Satan dreads it: All ‎the labor of Satan since he fought Adam until the end of time, has been lost on the ‎Cross. The Lord has paid the price and erased all the sins of people with His blood, for ‎those who believe and obey. Therefore, whenever Satan sees the Cross, he is terrified ‎and remembers his greatest defeat and the loss of his labor. So, he is ashamed and runs ‎away. Thus, all the sons of God constantly use the sign of the Cross, considering that it ‎is the sign of conquest and victory–the power of God. As for our part, we are filled ‎with power inside. But the enemy outside is scared. ‎

And as in ancient times, the bronze serpent was lifted up, as a healing for ‎people and salvation from death, even so the Lord of glory was lifted up on the Cross. ‎‎(John 3:14). Thus is the sign of the Cross in its effect.‎

‎13. We make the sign of the Cross, and take its blessing:‎

In ancient times, the Cross was the sign of malediction and death because of ‎sin…But on the Cross, the Lord bore all our maledictions, in order to grant us the ‎benediction of the reconciliation with God (Rom. 5:10), and the benediction of the new ‎life. Therefore, all the gracious things of the New Testament come from the Cross. ‎

Consequently, the clergymen use this Cross while giving the benediction, as ‎an indication that the benediction is not issued from them personally, but from the ‎Cross of the Lord who has entrusted them to use it for granting benediction–for they ‎take their ministry from the ministry of Him who was crucified. All the blessings of the ‎New Testament follow the Cross of the Lord and its effect.‎

‎14. We use the Cross in all the holy sacraments of Christianity. ‎

Since all of the sacraments originate from the merits of the blood of Christ on ‎the Cross, the Cross is an essential element in each of the holy sacraments. Without the ‎Cross, we could not deserve to come near to God as sons in Baptism; and we could not ‎deserve to partake in the Communion of His Body and Blood in the Mystery of ‎Eucharist (1 Cor. 11:26). Nor could we enjoy the blessings of any mystery from the ‎mysteries of the Church.‎

‎15. We pay attention to the Cross in order to remember our participation in it.‎

We remember the words of Saint Paul the Apostle, “I have been crucified with ‎Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me”(Gal. 2:20). And also his ‎word: “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship ‎of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” (Philippians 3:10). Here, we ask ‎ourselves when shall we enter into participation with the sufferings of the Lord and ‎shall be crucified with Him. ‎

We also remember the thief who was crucified with Him, and deserved to be ‎with Him in paradise. Probably, he is in Paradise singing with Saint Paul, who said ‎later “I have been crucified with Christ.” ‎

Our greatest wish is that we ascend on the Cross with Christ, and to boast ‎about this Cross which we remember now whenever we touch it with our senses.‎

‎16. We honor the Cross, because it is a subject of joy for the Father.:‎

The Father accepted Christ on the Cross with all joy, as a sin sacrifice and ‎also as “a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord” ‎‎(Lev.1: 5,13,17).‎

The Lord Christ has satisfied the Father with the perfection of His life on ‎earth, but He entered into the fullness of this satisfaction on the Cross, where He ‎‎”became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the Cross.” (Philippians ‎‎2:8). ‎

Each time we look at the Cross, we remember the perfection of obedience, ‎and the perfection of subjection, in order to imitate the Lord Christ in his obedience, to ‎the point of death.‎

As the Cross was a subject of joy for the Father, so also it was a subject of joy ‎as regards the Son Who was crucified. For it was said of Him: “who for the joy that ‎was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame.” (Heb. 12:2). Thus was ‎the fullness of Christ’s joy in His crucifixion. May we be like that.‎

‎17. In the Cross, we also bear reproach. ‎

In the Cross, “we go forth to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach” ‎‎(Heb. 13:12) with the same feelings which we have in the Holy Week…and in that, we ‎remember what was said about the prophet Moses: “esteeming the reproach of Christ ‎greater riches than the treasures in Egypt” (Heb. 11:26). The reproach of Christ is ‎His crucifixion and His sufferings.‎

‎18. On the Cross, we remember salvation. ‎

When looking to the cross, we remember the thief on the right, who was ‎crucified with the Lord and obtained salvation. This gives us a wonderful hope. How ‎could a man be saved in the last hours of his life on earth, and get a promise to enter ‎Paradise? ‎

We remember how the Lord, with His spiritual influence on this thief, had ‎been able to draw him to Himself. We remember the faith and confession of the thief, ‎without remembering any of his previous sins. How great is that hope which was ‎realized on the Cross! ‎

‎19. The Cross reminds us of His Second Coming:‎

As it has been mentioned in the gospel about the end of the world and the ‎Second Coming of our Lord: “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in ‎heaven” [that is the Cross]…and they will see the Son of Man coming on the ‎clouds….” (Matt. 24:30). Let us remember the sign of the Son of Man on earth, so ‎long as we expect this sign of His in heaven in His majestic coming.‎

The Cross in the Life of a Servant

The Cross is a symbol of suffering and three crosses symbolize three cases: ‎The Cross of Christ is a symbol of suffering for righteousness’ sake, while the other ‎two crosses refer to suffering as a penalty for sin. These are divided into two kinds: one ‎suffers because of his sins then repents and returns. The other suffers because of his ‎sins but complains and grumbles, then dies in his sins… ‎

The Cross which is for righteousness’ sake is also of different kinds: The ‎Cross of love and sacrifice is like the Cross of Christ who endured suffering to save us. ‎‎”Greater love has no one than this, to lay down his life for his friends” (John ‎‎15:13). ‎

There is another Cross in offering. The greatest offering is that given from the ‎needs where you prefer others to yourself. You become in need to let others take, like ‎the widow who gave all that she had, her whole livelihood. Another Cross is that of ‎endurance: turning the other cheek and walking the second mile. It is not only bearing ‎people’s abuses, but being good to those who spitefully use you and also loving them! ‎

There is another Cross in the spiritual struggle: in the victory of the spirit over ‎the body, in enduring the hardships and wars of the world, the body and the devil. It is ‎also in crucifying the body and its desires, having victory over oneself, and entering ‎through the narrow gate. It is a Cross to suffer for righteousness sake. This is only for ‎beginners…As for the perfect, the Cross turns into joy and pleasure. We feel the ‎narrowness of the gate at the beginning of the way but later on, we find pleasure in ‎carrying out the commandment and loving it. By that time the way would not be ‎distressful and what at first was a Cross becomes a pleasure. ‎

Martyrdom used to be a Cross, then it turned out to be a pleasure. Saints ‎began to desire martyrdom and long for death, and rejoice in it. Laboring and suffering ‎for God’s sake became a pleasure and an enjoyment. Therefore, the Bible considers ‎suffering a gift from God… “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not ‎only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil. 1:29). ‎

When will the Cross be a joy in our life? ‎

The Just Empress Saint Helen

The Coptic Orthodox Church remembers the life of Saint Helen the queen on ‎three separate occasions:

‎1) On the 9th of Bashans, (the 17th of May), we commemorate her departure ‎in the year 327. ‎

‎2) On the 17th of Tout, (the 27th or the 28th of September), the day of the ‎Feast of the Cross, we remember her role in finding of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. ‎

‎3) The Church also remembers her in the chanting of the Commemoration of ‎the Saints during the Holy Psalmody. In this prayer, the church asks for her prayers ‎and the prayers of her son the Emperor Constantine… ‎

Our brethren in the Greek Orthodox Church, build many churches after her ‎name, and celebrate her feast with the feast of her son on the 21st of Ayar. The Latin ‎Church celebrates her feast on the 18th of Aab (August). ‎

Her son, Emperor Constantine, also honored her by giving her the surname ‎‎”Augusta,” meaning queen. He also gave her the power over the Imperial treasures, ‎which she spent generously and liberally on the construction of churches. She also ‎gave to the poor and the needy persons and cities.‎

Eusebius of Cesarea, the historian, said that during her wandering in the ‎Eastern States, she presented numerous proofs of her magnanimity as an Empress and ‎of her imperial generosity upon the inhabitants of the various cities as communities and ‎upon the individuals, as well as she offered many aids with the utmost lavishness. She ‎gave money to some, and big quantities of clothes to others. She liberated some from ‎prisons, or from the slavery of service in the mines. She delivered others from the ‎violence of persecution, and brought back some others from exile (K3 F44).‎

She was also very religious. She went to church, with simple modest clothes, ‎although she was an empress, and she stood with all veneration among the masses. ‎She was constant in her prayers, attended the religious celebrations, and lived as a ‎worshipper more than she lived as a queen. She visited the holy places, and bore the ‎fatigues of travel in her old age.‎

Then, the Lord suggested to her in a vision, to go to Jerusalem, and to search ‎exactly for the place of the glorious Cross. Accompanied by Saint Macarius, the ‎Bishop of Jerusalem, she traveled there, inquired, and discovered three Crosses. ‎

God manifested the holy Cross with a miracle, as it appears in the Synexarium ‎on the 17th day of Tout. She placed the Cross in a golden box, and gave it to the ‎bishop, and she kept a part of it for her son Constantine, who placed some of the holy ‎nails in his protective covering.‎

Saint Helen then constructed several churches: one in Bethlehem, at the cave ‎where our Lord was born; another at the Mount of Olives, where our Savior Ascended; ‎and one at tomb, where our Lord Resurrected. ‎

Her son, the Emperor Constantine, presented to her all that was necessary for ‎her holy work. He sent letters in relation to that, to the governors and to the bishops. ‎This saint specified numerous unalienable properties for the churches and the ‎monasteries, and for spending on the poor. She celebrated a feast in Jerusalem for the ‎sacred virgins, and she herself served them. ‎

She built a church on the name of the martyr Saint Lucianos in the town ‎where she was born, which her son called Helenopolis on her name Helen, in her ‎honor.‎

Then, she died in 327 AD at the age of 84. She wrote her testament to her son ‎and grandsons the Caesars, inciting them to be firm in the life of faith and justice.‎

Verses for Study and Memorization about the Cross

+ ‎”I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in ‎me” (Gal. 2:20).‎

+ ‎”And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and ‎desires” (Gal. 5:24).‎

+ ‎”But God forbid that I should boast except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus ‎Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. ‎‎6:14). ‎

+ ‎”For the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to ‎us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). ‎

+ ‎”…having made peace through the blood of His Cross” (Col. 1:20).‎

+ ‎”For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus-Christ and ‎Him crucified” (1Cor. 2:2).‎

+ ‎”And whoever does not bear his Cross and come after Me cannot be My ‎disciple” (Luke 14:27).‎

+ ‎”Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him” (Rom. 6:6).‎

+ “For had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. ‎‎2:8).

Posted by Fr. Moses Samaan

February 22, 2009