Sermon on the Sunday of the Cross

by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony Bloom (1914 โ€“ August 4, 2003) was bishop of the Diocese of Sourozh, the Russian Orthodox Church in Great Britain and Ireland. He wrote masterfully about Christian prayer, and many Orthodox Christians in Great Britain and throughout the world consider him to be a saint.

In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

Together with the Holy Scriptures we proclaim that our Lord Jesus Christ is King, Prophet and High Priest of all Creation. And the Lord has told us that in the Christian Church and in the Kingdom, a King is not one who overpowers others to exact from them unconditional and slavish obedience, but He is the one who serves and gives His life for others.

St. John Chrysostom teaches us that anyone can rule, but that no one but a king gives his life for his people, because he so identifies with his people that he has no existence, no life, no purpose but to serve them with all his life and if necessary with his death.

When we keep the Feast of the Cross we can realise with new strength, perceive with new depth what the Kingship of our Lord Jesus Christ means. It means a love for us so complete, so total that He can forget Himself ultimately, without any reservation, forget Himself to the point of existing, of living and of dying for us and together with us; forgetting Himself to such an extent, and identifying Himself with us in such a way that in His humanity He accepts the loss of the perception of His oneness with God, with the source of life eternal – indeed, with life eternal within Himself, and become one with our deadness, with our mortality.

This is the love that makes our Lord Jesus Christ our worthy King; this is a Kingship which makes every knee to bow before Him.

And it is because He is such that He can also be the High Priest of all Creation. The high priests of the pagan world as well as the High Priests of Israel brought forth as a sacrifice victims with which they identified only metaphorically, symbolically, ritually.

The Lord Jesus Christ brought as a victim His own Self, although there was nothing in Him that condemned Him to the death He has taken upon Himself. Doesn’t He say in His High-priestly prayer, talking to His disciples that the adversary is coming near, but there is nothing in Him – in Christ – that belongs to him. There is nothing in Christ which belongs in the realm of death and of sin.

And to His Father He says: I sanctify Myself for them, I bring Myself as a holy offering for My people. The High Priest who brings Himself frees thereby all other creatures from the horror of blood-offering, but confronts us with an immensity, a depth of love divine which otherwise we could not even fathom: life accepting to be quenched, light accepting to go out, eternity accepting to die the mortality of a fallen world.

And that is why the Word of God can speak to us as a Prophet. A prophet is not one who foretells the future; a prophet is one who speaks for God.

One of the prophets of old says that a prophet is one with whom God shares His thoughts. Christ, the Word of God, Christ, the perfect image of Love divine, Christ who not only speaks for God, but who acts, enacts in His life and in His death the Love of God, sacrificial, total, perfect, given …

And this is why the Feast of the Cross is such a wonder in the experience of the Church. We will never be able to experience what it meant for Him to die upon the Cross, even our own death cannot disclose to us what His death was: how can Immortality die? But what we can learn, what we can discover by communing ever more deeply, ever more perfectly through a daring, wholehearted endeavour with the life, and the teaching, and the ways of Christ – what we can learn is to love in a way that approximates more and more to that love divine, and discover in this love the quality which unites death as forgetfulness of self, ultimate and perfect, with the victory of love, Resurrection and eternal life. Amen.

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