The Word of the Cross

by His Grace Bishop Joseph of Arianzos

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

Once again, Most Respectful Master, and again Reverend Co-presbyters, and again pious children of the Church, before us is the greatness of God's love for mankind! Once again, before us the more palatable, the more tangible and perceptible revelation of God's philanthropy! Once again before us are revealed the merciful compassion of our Lord!

The hands which hold within them the universe, the hands which created man from the earth, the hands which touched the dead and resurrected them, the hands that cleansed lepers, that gave sight to the blind, that fed the hungry, stretched out upon the wood of the Cross have been pierced with nails, the nails of mans ingratitude, and open in a wide embrace, are waiting to squeeze in with the love of a Theanthropic expression of love, every individual who is willing to say together with the grateful thief the: "Remember me Lord".

The feet which one afternoon in Paradise were seeking the fallen Adam, the feet whose footsteps when heard by Eve made her hide, the feet which {went about doing good deeds}, the feet which just yesterday accepted the myrrh and the tears of repentance of a prostitute, the feet which evangelised the peace of God to the souls and to the world, these too pierced with the nails of our ingratitude and unrepentance are laid out for a funerary greeting.

The immaculate side which enclosed the depth of divine compassion, pierced by the spear of our insolence, was changed to a spout of blood and water, a source of life and incorruptibility, which causes our soul, thirsty for life, love, joy and eternity, to bring our lips close and to drink to satisfy so as to quench the thirst.

The holy Head, which only three years prior, was touched by the trembling hand of the Baptist with awe and divine horror at the River Jordan; the Head - which commands the universe and rules over all the world, to both the earthly and the heavenly and to the depths of the earth - crowned with the mocking crown of thorns of our wickedness, awaits the kiss of worship. The kiss of Joseph and Nicodemus and not the kiss of Judas.

The mouth, where by with only its word "the heavens were consolidated and by His spirit all their powers", fed with the vinegar of sadism and the gall of our wickedness, is silent. It is silent, as a short while ago it was silent with dignity in the presence of Pilate "so as to make the governor greatly admire". It is silent, so we can come to our senses and to tell Him at some time and sometimes the salvationary words: "Speak Lord, for Your servant is listening".

The ears which at no time did not cease to be extended from the heavens, with alert concern" to hear the sighs of the suffering disgraced by the impious blasphemies and the jeering and laughter and other awful "woe to Him who would destroy the Temple"!, await within their sustenant death to hear from our mouth the confession of the Centurion: "He is truly the Son of God".

The crucified Divine-human All holy Body, which even now, the noble Joseph pleads with Pilate so as to take for burial: "Give me this stranger, so as to hide Him in a tomb, who as a stranger who has no where to lay his head... give me this stranger" who astonishes me seeing the way that He died".


"But God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom 5:8).

It is a fact of our Faith, Most Respectful Master, that GOD IS LOVE, and that philanthropy exists in His nature. This particular truth was revealed to us, but we also taste it and live it, to the degree with which each individual accepts it.

Today however, more so than any other particular time, this truth is revealed to us by the event of the death upon the cross and the burial of the divine body of the Lord Jesus.

Sure, God could have given us salvation in a more painless and cheaper way for Himself. However, he becomes man and enters into our history. The Powerful One becomes weak, the Master a slave, passionable He who is passionless in His Divinity, Life Immortal, the beginning of life takes on death. It is this precisely, the emptying and the humility on the one hand, and the bodily and spiritual passion and death on the other, at the moment in which we worms were unworthy of any divine offering because of our sins and our hard heartedness, this 'I say' "exceeds all the expectations of love, all the demonstrations of love, love worthy of a God-man!"

However, our mind can not comprehend this. The brain can not accept this. No particular logic can endure it; nor human, nor demonic, nor even angelic. That is why the crucified Christ is always "to the Jews a stumbling block, to the Greeks foolishness". And "The word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing". Only for those few who surpass logic, where their love for the God-man makes them stand out from human standards and boundaries thus becoming "fools for Christ" and for them only, the saved ones, "It is God's power".

These saved ones, the "fools for Christ", firstly the Apostles, following them the martyrs of all ages, the Hierarchs, the Venerable Ascetics and the Righteous, not being able to endure the challenge of Gods love, have responded and respond to the divine love, to the divine eros, with a holy love, with a holy eros. A love and an eros which drives some to a bloody and others to a bloodless martyrdom for the sake of the Name and Person of Jesus.

In this way we saw the God-bearer Ignatios write to the Romans, "My eros has been crucified and there is no burning love of material things for me... I voluntarily die for God... let me be food for the wild animals, flatter the wild animals, that they may become my grave...". In this way we heard Apostle Andrew, led towards martyrdom, saying: "O cross my great love, now I accomplish my incessant desire". In this way we hear another saint saying to Christ: "Seeing you wounded, I do not want to be unwounded". In this way we have seen millions of Martyrs and new Martyrs, men, women, children, old people, young girls, young men, babies, accepting with pleasure and happiness many forms of torture and painful deaths for the sake of Jesus.

In this way, we have seen and still see, millions of Ascetics, Virgins, Hermits, Heysichasts, Monks, Nuns, participating in Christs Passion, crucifying their will to the cross of divine love with obedience, the will of the flesh and the world, with their virginity and poverty, in deserts and mountains, in caves and in holes in the earth, in Sketes, and Monasteries. Being crushed in struggle, in fasting and in voluntary hardships of the body out of love, out of extraordinary love for Christ.

Thus, we have seen and continue to see a great number of souls dedicated to Christ, carrying around the insults of Christ within the world, echoing His words, carrying His cross, spending their time for the work of the Church and of the Bible, melting like candles in the service of love, at the bedside of the sick, close to a child or an aged person, inside "Benevolent Institutions" and shelters, in hospitals, schools and foundations, and being in the essence of the word "light of the world" and "salt of the earth".

"But God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom 5:8).

Listen fellow humans, my brother who struggles and despairs, my co-responsible and co-sinner.

Listen people, of all races and languages.

It is true that the external problems which surround us, together with the internal ones which chase away our joy, drive away peace, and accumulate thick black clouds on our horizons, are many and complicated.

It is true that the dangers which surround us are many and unprecedented. Not only terrorism for example, which has increased these days on an international level. Not only because many wars are in progress in all geographical areas. Not only because many types of misfortunes such as "Chernobyl" are not subjects of authors science fiction, but because for the first time in its history, mankind, is in immediate danger of a universal biological destruction if someone, perhaps even unwillingly, makes a mistake and "pushes the fatal button" as we say.

It is true that from a moral and spiritual point, in spite of other wonderful aspects of our civilisation, we live in the worst times these past 20 centuries since God's Incarnation.

It is true that the fears and depressive forecasts stated on the already much discussed article of a prominent theologian of our times eloquently named "Plaintive Conjecture", are not entirely groundless.

These are all true and many others like them.

There is however something else. There exists the "inspite of these" of God! And the "inspite of these" of God is that "Christ died for us", "He was crucified for us so that He would pour out forgiveness: he was pierced in the side so that He would gush out fountains of life for us".

Christ's death is the answer of our ethical problems, our personal problems and the more general problems ("the blood of Jesus Christ...cleanses our conscience of dead works", Hebrews 9:14), as well as the problems in relation to the natural evil and death.

Because as to Him "death does not prevail over Him" already at midnight on Saturday the bells will proclaim loudly His Resurrection, His Victory against Hades, and so to all of us who, crucify ourselves with Him and die with Him against our passions and sins, "death will not overcome us" but we will have a part in the Grace, the Light and the Joy of the Resurrection and there we will have a share of and communion of the eternal life and kingdom.

This "in spite of these" of God is our strength, our endurance and our courage. This "in spite of these" of God is our hope. We rely on and hope on the Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was spilt for the salvation personally for each of us, upon the humiliating (until then) wood of the Cross.

"While we were still sinners, Christ died for us".

from The Orthodox Messenger, v. 7(3-4)
published bi-monthly by the SA Central Youth

Other articles by Bishop Joseph

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