THE CROSS: SIGN OF LOVE, VICTORY AND UNITY
Man is involved in a constant search to relieve suffering. Great effort is poured into research to find the cure for disease and when the cure is found, man rejoices in his
victory. Imagine the tremendous joy all experienced when Dr. Jonas Salk discovered a
vaccine that would prevent polio. Now man could live in freedom — no longer afraid of
that crippling, often fatal disease.
The Christian Community celebrates just such a victory. For centuries man had been
plagued with spiritual death. His separation from God was a source of constant suffering
and, in his total loneliness, man sought a cure for his plight.
This cure came in the form of the God-Man, Jesus Christ. The instrument was the
cross, through which the separation between God and man was conquered. It was through
the wood of the cross that man no longer lived in spiritual death but rather rejoiced in
Next Sunday, September 14, we celebrate the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy
Cross. What a joyous feast! What a victory!
The Cross is the great sign of the Christian Community. First, it is the sign of love. If
the world were to inquire about this God we worship and His love for us, we could show
the cross — this is how much our God loves us — enough to die on the cross.
Secondly, it is a sign of victory. Man no longer sees life ending in death but rather,
because of Christ’s death on the Cross, life ends with eternal life. Each of us, because of
Christ and the Cross, has conquered death and sin. We have won the battle.
Lastly, the cross symbolizes unity. Jesus Christ the Son of God and our brother, dies
on this cross and while dying draws all together. His arms are outstretched as though to
embrace the whole world. Just as the shepherd gathers his sheep to safety, so Jesus
gathers us to the Father. We are one with Him, and His victory is ours, His glorious cross
is our cross.
We Christians, then, rejoice in the cross. We use it as a sign or symbol of our unique
position — saved, redeemed.
Each time we make the sign of the cross we are really expressing to the world our
belief in Jesus Christ and in His victory over death and sin. Each time we venerate the
cross, we rejoice in the fact that through this cross we are one, a holy people.
We join together and show to the world this sign of salvation, saying, “Behold the
wood of the Cross, on which has hung the salvation of the world. Come, let us adore.”
Your Parish Priest
For God so loved the world
that He gave His only-begotten Son,
that those who believe in Him may not perish,
but may have life everlasting.
Mary’s figure first appears in the third chapter of Genesis as crushing the head of
the serpent (Genesis 3:15). She is the “Predestined Woman whom God has selected from
all eternity to be the shining dawn introducing Christ, the Sun, into the world” (from the
Akafist Hymn). “For God Who rests upon the spiritual thrones, has made ready for Himself
a holy throne upon the earth. He Who has made firm the earth in His Wisdom has prepared
a living heaven in His love for man” (Vespers for the feast). She is the prologue of the
pleasure of God and the first announcer of salvation to mankind. According to tradition,
Mary was born in Jerusalem near the Pool of Bethsaida, in the house of Joachim and
Anne. St. John Damascene wrote in one of homilies, “I will enter this house and I will
cover with kisses the walls which are so dear to me, the walls which sheltered the Mother
of God.” Since there is no distance for those who love, let us go, in turn, and enter in
spirit and cover with kisses the birthplace of the Mother of God, the Queen who gave
birth to the King of the Universe — our Mother.
God entered our human history through a woman “when the designated time had
come, God sent forth His son born of a woman . . . so that we might receive our status as
adopted sons” (Galatians 4:4). He became one of us to make us one with Him. He took
what we are and gave us what He is. He took our infirmities and gave us His Divinity and
all that we have received from Him was lavished upon us through the “Woman full of
grace” whom all generations shall call blessed forever. If the Lord, Who promised the
sinful woman who washed His feet with her tears that “wherever the Gospel is preached,
what she did for Him will be told in her memory,” (Mark 14:9), how much more will He
not do for His Mother “the all-holy and blessed Virgin?” Whoever honors the Son, honors
the Mother who gave Him birth and, whoever honors the Mother, also honors the Son,
for they are so intimately associated in the Mystery of Redemption that they cannot be
dissociated. If our worship must be Christ-centered, we will not forget that it was the fiat
of Mary which made it all possible, in order to always associate the Mother of Light with
the Author of Life — Christ the Redeemer and Savior of mankind.
NATIVITY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
“Your birth has filled all the universe with joy, O virgin Mother of God, for from you
arose the glorious Sun of righteousness, Christ, our God. He destroyed the age-old curse and
replaced it with a blessing. For having conquered death, He gives us everlasting life.”
(Troparion of Nativity).
September is the beginning of our ecclesiastical liturgical year, and the first feast
which we celebrate is the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
What is the purpose of the liturgical year? To recall to the minds of all the followers
of Christ the great drama of divine Redemption of which St. Paul writes: “You see, God’s
grace has been revealed and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race. . . .
He (Christ) sacrificed Himself for us in order to set us free from all wickedness and to purify
a people so that it could be His very own and would have no ambition except to do good”
There are many mysteries in the divine drama of the salvation of mankind. But all
these mysteries start with the birth of the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is
the first feast of the ecclesiastical year in the Eastern Church, because the birth of the
Blessed Virgin has started a new era in the history of mankind, fallen into sin, and then
redeemed by Christ, Mary’s divine Son.
No wonder why our Church sings on Mary’s birthday: “Your birth has filled all the
universe with joy!” With these words our Church invites all her spiritual children to
rejoice and be happy. We read a similar invitation in the prophet Zechariah which he
addressed to the Jewish people, promising them that the future Messiah would come
and free them from both spiritual and national slavery: “Rejoice, daughter of Sion. Shout
with gladness, daughter of Jerusalem! See now, your king comes to you. He is victorious.
He is triumphant” (Zechariah 9:9).
The daughter of Sion represents the Chosen People, the people of Israel. And who
has the symbol of Israel? Who was the privileged daughter of the Chosen People? The
Blessed Virgin Mary who represents the whole Jewish people and mankind in general,
because the Angel deals with her about the salvation of the whole human race at the
moment of Annunciation.
WHY SHOULD WE REJOICE AT THE BIRTH OF MARY?
Because Mary is the fulfillment of the promise and hope which God gave to our first
parents in Paradise after their fall into original sin. When Adam and Eve forfeited the
happiness of paradise, God punished them, but He punished as a good father punishes
his child who has offended him. He still loves the child.
God still loved mankind after the fall of Adam and Eve. In punishing them, He
promised to repair their mistake and sin. As Eve started our fall by inducing Adam to
sin, so another Eve, the New Eve, Mary will become God’s instrument in carrying out
God’s promise. “I will make you enemies,” God told Satan who had seduced Eve, “of
each other, you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring. It will crush your head”
The same promise was confirmed and renewed through prophet Isaiah who said:
“The maiden is with child, and will soon give birth to a Son Whom she will call ‘Emmanuel’,
which means ‘God with us’ ” Isaiah 7:14).
This blessed Son is Jesus Christ our Savior. St. John says: “The Word was made
flesh (became Man) and lived among us” (John 1:14).
Thus the birth of Mary is God’s signal that the new era of God’s mercy was close at hand. It was the era of salvation for all mankind through Christ Who would be born of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is why our Church calls her “the morning star,” announcing the coming of the Sun. Mary’s birthday announces that Christ, the Savior of the world, would come soon and save us from sin.
We should be thankful to the Blessed Virgin for what she has done for all mankind by becoming the Mother of God’s Son and by offering her works, suffering and prayers for our salvation, and for praying and interceding for us even now in heaven where she enjoys the beatific vision, seeing God face to face and glorifying the Blessed Trinity together with all the Saints and Angels.
Our Church sings in her honor at every Divine Liturgy that is celebrated: “It is truly right to bless you as the Theotokos, as the ever-blessed and immaculate Mother of our God. More honorable than the cherubim and by far more glorious than the seraphim, without corruption you gave birth to God the Word. O true Mother of God, we magnify you.”