On March 15, on the Third Sunday of Lent dedicated to the veneration of the Holy Cross, we had a beautiful celebration in our temple. It was headed by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. Before the reading of the Hours the Rector solemnly transferred decorated cross from the altar to the middle of the church and placed it on the stand.
During the Divine Liturgy, following the lessons from the Scripture Fr. Igor preached a sermon in the Russian language. An English version of that homily is as follows:
“On the Third Sunday of Lent when we are in the middle of our spiritual journey towards the holy Resurrection, the Church gives us an opportunity to venerate the holy Cross. The tree of the Cross stands on our way now in order to give us some rest, some comfort, some encouragement for our pilgrimage to the Holy Pascha.”
“The tree of the Cross reminds us that our Lord Jesus Christ offered a perfect sacrifice for us when He died on that holy tree. It tells us that He redeemed us, substituted for us in the punishment He underwent instead of us. He accomplished our salvation for us. We do not have to do anything about it. Our Lord did everything for us. St. Paul talks about that in today’s Epistle lesson calling Christ the High Priest “who has passed through the heavens”(Hebr. 4, 14). As the high priest who offered sacrifice for the people, Jesus offered a highest sacrifice being the Son of God. But if a high priest could do it entering the holy place in the temple, Jesus could offer it passing through heaven, being the Son of God. That makes such sacrifice the highest possible. This is a great comfort and consolation in all the troubles we may encounter in our lives. This is why St. Paul goes on saying: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in the time of need” (Hebr. 14, 6). Thus, the big part is done: we are saved. It is now time for us to do our part which is much smaller.”
“Today’s Gospel lesson tells us about our part. It consists of denying our very self, taking up the cross and following Jesus. We may say that it does not appear to be a “small” thing to do. And it is not. But it is much smaller than what the Lord Himself accomplished for us. He redeemed the whole world. We are called to finish, to confirm it for ourselves only. At this point we may be frightened by the words such as ‘denial’, ‘taking up the cross’ and so on. But let us think about them.”
“‘Denying himself’ does not mean that a man must renounce to be himself. We are not called to refuse to be who we are. But we are expected to reject the things which are transitory, unnecessary and pertaining only to this world. These are the things we will lose anyway when we will pass to the eternal life. Especially we need to reject passions, sins and wrong inclinations. Since those things very often become our nature, the Lord uses the expression “denial of himself”. We must refuse to follow what is wrong in our nature, to renounce it.”
“‘Taking up the cross’ means to do what we are doing anyway. Our earthly life is carrying a cross. Everyone has his own cross to carry. We may carry it in a lousy way or we may carry it with dignity. Jesus wishes us to carry our crosses with dignity. It means to accept the cross, to endure and to be obedient to the will of God. Again, the holy Cross of Jesus should be a great comfort for us while we are carrying our own crosses. We should remember and understand that His Cross was much heavier than ours and much harder to carry. It had a weight of all our sins. We carry only our own.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us take a rest under the holy tree of the Cross, let us come boldly to the throne of grace, let us obtain help from our merciful Lord Jesus Christ and let us continue our journey denying ourselves, taking up the cross and following Jesus. Let us follow Him into the eternity.”
After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector made a brief speech in English repeating main ideas of his homily previously preached in Russian. He also congratulated our parishioner, Sophia Kay on the occasion of her birthday and proclaimed traditional “Mnogaia leta”.
Following that the Rector and altar servers came out of the sanctuary before the stand in the middle of the church and venerated the Precious Cross.