On the Third Sunday of Lent the Orthodox Church venerates the Holy Cross. This year on this day, March 19 we had a beautiful celebration in our parish church conducted 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 the following homily in English:
“On this Third Sunday of Lent we come to the very middle of our journey towards Holy Pascha and, as we said before, of our spiritual journey of the return to paradise. On this stop we are offered a rest under the holy Tree of the Cross of Christ. As we venerate that Precious Cross, we have to realize that the only way to the Kingdom of God is the way of the Cross. If we wish to be back in paradise, there is no other way than this.”
“Everyone has his or her own cross in this life. Such a cross consists of our sorrows and sufferings, our worries and cares, our misfortunes and pains. The Lord says, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mk. 8, 34). It means that we need to carry our crosses and thus we will follow the Lord Jesus who Himself carried His Cross. It is understood that we may not like our crosses and even hate them. But let us remember that this is the difference between the Christian Church which wishes to carry the Cross and the sinful world which desires to reject the Cross and to find an easy way. However, those who attempt to reject their crosses, suffer anyway and suffer even more. For instance, if people do not wish to be patient with each other, and they fight and lose their temper, they suffer. If a person does not want to be abstinent and indulges in drinking or drugs, he suffers himself and also brings suffering to his loved ones. If a married couple does not want to have a child and they decide to have an abortion, that innocent child suffers, but the mother who does it suffers too. Every sin is a pain, and our enemy desires to tempt us not to suffer the cross, but then makes us suffer even more.”
“When our Lord Jesus Christ had been suffering on the cross, the devil through sinful people tempted him saying, “Save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Mt. 27, 40). In the same way the devil in many different ways tells us to avoid sufferings and to leave our crosses. But let us remember that our Lord remained on the cross to save us from our sins. If He did not take up His cross, we would not be redeemed. As the Lord teaches in today’s Gospel lesson, “Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it” (Mk. 8, 35). Jesus preferred to lose His life for us. As a result, He conquered death and redeemed us. Now it is our turn: if we do not take up our crosses, we do not follow the Lord, and we cannot be saved.”
“Today’s Gospel lesson ends with the following words of Christ: “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the Kingdom of God present with power” (Mk. 9, 1). What do these words mean? They were said about some of the Disciples of Christ who later had a chance to be witnesses of Christ’s Transfiguration. They did not taste death till they saw the divine glory of Jesus on Mt. Tabor. But these same words of Jesus are referred also to all of us. We may also do not taste death till we see the Kingdom of God.”
““To taste death” means to suffer from all that entered into the world when death entered into the world. For when Adam and Eve fell, not only did death enter, but also hard work, pain, sorrow, worry, disease, old age. And all these things are the taste of death. How then are we to overcome them? Only by returning to paradise. And to return we need to carry our cross. Christ is the New Adam and the Cross is the new Tree which is not forbidden. Its fruit is the Resurrection. The tasting its fruit is tasting the Body of the risen Christ. We do it when we receive Holy Communion. And this precisely is the meaning of the words in today’s Gospel that it is possible “to see the Kingdom of God come with power”. If we face up to the difficulties of life with the Cross of Christ, we shall not taste death, those difficulties, in the light of the resurrecting power of the Cross.”
“Everyone has his or her own cross. Let us then carry it following our Savior Jesus Christ. Let us ask Him that His eternal Kingdom may touch our souls. There is no pain, sorrows and sufferings in that Kingdom. Let us look for a comfort in the Holy Cross of Christ and let us put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ who died for us on the Cross and who was risen from the dead.”
After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian conveying the main ideas of his English homily.
Following that the Rector and the altar server came out of the sanctuary before the stand in the middle of the church and venerated the Precious Cross.