In the Name of the Father, the Son and
the Holy Ghost.
We have been keeping these days the
Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. There is a passage in the Gospel
in which the Lord says to us, "No one has greater love than he who gives
his life for his neighbour". And these words resolve the antinomy
between the horror of the Cross and the glory of it, between death and
the Resurrection. There is nothing more glorious, more awe-inspiring and
wonderful than to love and to be loved. And to be loved of God with all
the life, with all the death of the Only-Begotten Son, and to love one
another at the cost of all our life and, if necessary, of our death is
both tragedy but mainly victory. In the Canon of the Liturgy we say,
"Holy, most Holy art Thou and Thine Only-Begotten Son and Thine Holy
Spirit! Holy and most Holy art Thou because Thou hast so loved Thy world
that Thou hast given Thine Only-Begotten Son that those who will believe
in Him do not perish but have life eternal, Who hath come and hath
fulfilled all that was appointed for our sakes, and in the night when He
was betrayed - no! - when He gave Himself up, He took bread, and brake
it and gave it to His disciples ..."
This is the divine love. At times one
can give one's own life more easily than offer unto death the person
whom one loves beyond all, and this is what God, our Father has done.
But it does not make less the sacrifice of Him who is sent unto death
for the salvation of one person or of the whole world.
And so when we think of the Cross we
must think of this strangely inter-twined mystery of tragedy and of
victory. The Cross, an instrument of infamous death, of punitive death
to which criminals were doomed, because Christ's death was than of an
innocent, and because this death was a gift of self in an act of love -
This is why Saint Paul could say, "It is
no longer I, it is Christ Who lives in me." Divine love filled him to
the brim and therefore there was no room for any other thought or
feeling, any other approach to anyone apart from love, a love that gave
itself unreservedly, love sacrificial, love crucified, but love exulting
in the joy of life.
And when we are told in today's Gospel,
‘Turn away from yourself, take up your Cross, follow Me' (Mark 8: 34) -
we are not called to something dark and frightening. We are told by God:
Open yourself to love! Do not remain a prisoner of your own
self-centredness. Do not be, in the words of Theophane the Recluse, like
a shaving of wood which is rolled around its own emptiness. Open
yourself up! Look - there is so much to love, there are so many to love!
There is such an infinity of ways in which love can be experienced, and
fulfilled and accomplished... Open yourself and love - because this is
the way of the Cross! Not the way which the two criminals trod together
with Christ to be punished for their crimes. but the wonderful way in
which giving oneself unreservedly, turning away from self, existing only
for the other, loving with all one's being so that one exists only for
the sake of the other - this is the Cross and the glory of the Cross.
So, when we venerate the Cross, when we
think of Christ's crucifixion, when we hear the call of Christ to deny
ourselves - and these words simply mean: turn away from yourself! Take
up your cross! - we are called to open ourselves to the flood of Love
Divine, that is both death to ourselves and openness to God and to each
and to all.
In the beginning of the Gospel of St. John we are told,
"And the Word was with God". In the Greek it says "Godwards". The Word,
the Son had no other love, no other thought, no other movement but
towards the Beloved One, giving Himself to Him Who gave Himself
perfectly to Him. Let us learn the glory of crucified Love, of this Love
sacrificial which is, in the words of the Old Testament, stronger than
death, stronger than hell, stronger than all things because it is Divine
Life conquering us and poured through us onto all those who need to be
loved in order to come to Life, to believe in Love and themselves to
become children of Love, children of Light, inherit the Life eternal.