In his Sunday homily, Patriarch Daniel reflected on the main theme of the day’s Gospel reading from Mark in which Christ calls us to self-denial. His Beatitude stressed that in order to attain to salvation, Christ asks us to renounce the selfish love in order to acquire the humble, grateful love towards God and the generous love towards our fellows.
‘It means that we should not live selfishly, being concerned only with ourselves, and first thank God, the source of our life, and help the fellow people who need our humble, generous love’, His Beatitude said Sept. 17.
Self-denial through a humble love of God and our fellows helps us exit the selfish prison of our soul and to acquire a passionless love, which is the resurrection from the grave of our own egoism and man’s joyful communion with God manifested in prayer and with our fellows manifested in good deeds, the patriarch added.
The patriarch pointed to the essence of self-denial saying that it means to free the soul from selfishness so that Christ’s generous love illumine human life, and that man can become able to convey Christ’s love to his fellows. Thus, self-denial helps us follow Christ on the path to salvation, he said.
The prerequisites to acquire salvation are human will to come to Christ, self-denial, taking up one’s personal cross, and following Christ. The patriarch noted that they are not imposed on us since God respects the freedom of the human nation he created from love. The patriarch cautioned that the salvation of the human being is a work based on the eternal God’s free offer to grant man eternal life and on the human’s free response to God’s invitation.
Patriarch Daniel stressed that it is our choice to obey God or be ignorant, to seek or ignore Him. Humans can respond to God’s love or refuse it, they can acquire or lose salvation, they can unite with God or separate from Him.
During his speech, Patriarch Daniel referred to the material and spiritual aspects of the Holy Cross, noting that the spiritual cross is a state of suffering and struggle that is invisible to physical eyes but can be experienced spiritually.
With reference to the spiritual cross, the patriarch added that it could also mean man’s struggle against an illness, a selfish passion or a difficult situation.
The patriarch said that everyone has a lighter or heavier cross of his or her life, a struggle to transform suffering into a spiritual victory in order to sanctify his or her life and acquire salvation.
Continuing to reflect on the everyday cross one bears, the patriarch said it means our effort or labour to sanctify our life through humble, generous love, adding that the efforts, the self-offering and the patience needed to establish a Christian family and to bring up children in faith, as well as the permanent struggle of monastics to become humble and to pray for their own salvation and that of others are also understood as a cross.
The patriarch urged the faithful to bear their crosses together with Christ and invited everyone to ask for His help, because He can change our cross into paschal joy, and transform our suffering into hope, our loneliness into communion, and our infirmity into victory.
In the end of his speech, His Beatitude urged us to seek the salvation of the soul more than any worldly treasure and to understand that when we pass through suffering, tribulations, temptations or shortcomings, Christ knows the cross we bear and calls us to draw near to Him, to feel His help, so that He might transform our loneliness and suffering into the joy we feel when we meet the crucified and risen Lord.
His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of Romania, offered his reflections on the day’s Gospel reading from Mark 8: 34-38; 9: 1, in which Christ speaks about the way of the cross, during the Divine Liturgy celebrated at St George chapel of his patriarchal residence.
Photograph: Robert Nicolae/Basilica.ro
When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” And He said to them, “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.”