On the third Sunday of Great Lent, His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel offered his reflections on the Holy Cross as ‘the sign of crucifixion and spiritual feats’, as well as ‘the sign of triumph over sin, hell and death’.
During his homily delivered at St Spyridon the New Cathedral in Bucharest on March 31, the Patriarch of Romania offered three recommendations for the Lenten season: to give up the selfish way of living, to accept our own infirmities, and to follow Christ.
This way, ‘by following Christ through faith and love we turn suffering into hope and victory,’ Patriarch Daniel said.
The Patriarch explained that the Sunday of the Holy Cross was placed in the middle of Lent just as the Tree of Life stood in the midst of the Garden of Eden.
‘By disobeying God, by not fasting due to material greed, our first fathers Adam and Eve have lost their chance to taste the fruit of the Tree of Life and were expelled from Eden,’ the Patriarch of Romania noted.
His Beatitude said that we can draw closer to the Tree of Life, which is the crucified and risen Christ, by following Christ’s example who became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross, by listening to God’s word at the divine services, by obeying our spiritual father, by following the Gospel commandments to perform good deeds.
This Sunday refers to the spiritual meaning of the Cross
Although the third Sunday of Lent is dedicated to the veneration of the Holy Cross, the gospel reading from Mark does not refer the crucifixion of Christ, but to the spiritual meaning of the Holy Cross, which is the imitation of the Saviour.
‘That is why, today, the servants of the Church do not wear red vestments as on the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, on September 14, when we proclaim the Gospel of Christ’s crucifixion,’ Patriarch Daniel underscored.
‘The Sunday of the Holy Cross during Great Lent is the sign of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, a sign of spiritual feats and victories of the Christians who pray much, fast much, confess themselves often, receive the Holy Communion and give alms more often, fighting against their selfish passions, and by foretasting the joy of the resurrection of their soul from the death caused by sin.’
The day’s gospel reading presents ‘the three conditions of Christian life: self-denial, taking up one’s cross, and following Christ.’
Give up selfishness or self-denial
The Patriarch of Romania stressed that ‘in a world where everything is based on self-affirmation, the cultivation of individualism, selfishness, and self-overstatement, it si very difficult to talk about self-denial.’
‘Self-denial is the renunciation of an egotistic way of thinking, speaking and acting, the man’s liberation from a way of reasoning through which he is the centre of his life and focusing on Christ, the God-Man.’
‘Self-denial means to change the centre of our life, to turn our attention from a selfish attitude towards ourselves to a loving attitude towards God and our fellows.’
‘Self-denial is a liberation from the prison of human egoism,’ Patriarch Daniel stressed.
Self-denial is practiced not as suicide but ‘to experience genuine love, the eternal, merciful, holy, not possessive love rooted in God.’
Take up your cross
His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel said that taking one’s cross does not refer to picking up two pieces of wood but to assume ‘a spiritual, existential cross’ – the cross of our lives.
‘Taking up one’s cross means to recognize and admit our infirmities and suffering, but also the desire to overcome sin and wickedness in our life.’
‘The cross is not only the endurance of suffering but also a fight to overcome suffering, wickedness, lack of fulfillment, infirmity in our life.’
The Patriarch of Romania explained that the cross can be ‘a hardship of life, an incurable illness, unhealed passion, the sadness that we have not become or achieved what we desired (…), childhood without parents, family life without children or lifelong widowhood, a handicap or the pain of losing someone dear to us.’
What should we do with all these difficulties? ‘Let us present them to Christ so that we will not bear our cross alone but with His support.’
‘Christ wants to fill up our sad life with the presence of his merciful love so that we may not fall in despair,’ the Patriarch noted.
The Patriarch of Romania warned that if we carry the cross of suffering without following Christ we increase our suffering.
‘His power transfigures our suffering.’
‘Christ the Lord does not suppress suffering. He transfigures it, he illumines it with the presence of his love and turns it into victory.’
The cross of struggle turns into a ladder to resurrection
At the end of his speech, Patriarch Daniel said that during Great Lent we bear the cross of spiritual feats, of many prayers and prostrations, of fasting and repentance in order to proceed to victory, to Resurrection.
‘The cross of struggle turns into a ladder to Resurrection, on our way to victory.’
His Beatitude also explained that the holy cross is embellished with flowers to symbolise the link between suffering and joy.
Foto credit: Basilica.ro / Mircea Florescu