Δευτέρα, 18 Σεπτεμβρίου 2017

Sunday after the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross: "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me"


"The Sunday before the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is referred to in the Byzantine tradition, appropriately enough, as the “Sunday before the Holy Cross.” Likewise, and equally appropriately, the Sunday after this feast is known as the “Sunday after the Holy Cross.” Aside from the unassailable logic of these designations, there is the underlying fact that this feast, and hence the mystery of the Holy Cross, is of exalted importance in the faith and life of the Christian. The only other feasts that have Sundays immediately before and after on the liturgical calendar are Christmas and Theophany. While the Gospel of the crucifixion itself is read on the feast, the Sunday before gives us a little of the theology of the Cross, and the Sunday after gives its practical application" (from here).


Bishop Innocentios Byakatonda in western province Rwanda Nyamaseke district...

Orthodox Metropolis of Zambia and Malawi

There is a story about a monk who despaired of the cross God had given him and complained of it constantly. God finally relented and offered him a chance to select a different cross. He led the monk into a room filled with several crosses from which to pick. The monk was appalled at what he saw: huge crosses, bloody crosses, crosses with nails. He wandered through the room and finally spied a lovely small silver cross tucked away in a corner. He picked this cross and held it up saying, "I'll take this cross!" God simply replied, "But that is the cross you already had!"
We should ask ourselves: Do I embrace the cross God has given me? Or do I try to take my salvation or as St. Paul says, my justification, into my own hands? Am I trying to get to heaven without God's help or guidance? In today's gospel, from the Sunday after the Exaltation of the Precious Cross (Mark 8:34 - 9:1), Jesus says, "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me" (v.34). Like the monk we may not want the cross we've been given, or we may think we know a better way than the way Jesus is leading us.

This relates to St. Paul's words from today's epistle (Galatians 2:16-20) where he says, "A man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ" (v.16). Let us take a closer look at this verse. Whenever we hear the word "justify" in the scripture, we should think of the more accurate translation "righteous." So to be justified is to be made righteous which means to act in an upright, moral, virtuous way. When we hear "works of the law" we should think of the Mosaic Law, the Tablets of the Law given to Moses by God (Exodus 20ff).
This Law gave commandments for life that instructed the Israelites on how to relate to God and to each other. This law revealed the difference between good and evil and functioned as a tutor that would lead them to the Messiah—Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:24). In this particular verse "faith in Christ" should be translated "faith of Christ." The faith of Christ is the absolute trust and obedience Jesus placed in God the Father that He demonstrated throughout His life, especially leading up to and including His crucifixion and death. Reflected in many of his epistles, St. Paul was addressing the problem of Judaizers in the early Church. Judaizers were those Christians who demanded that new followers of Christ must be circumcised and follow the Jewish dietary laws.

 
Uganda, children in the Orthodox Church with the Holy Cross (from here & here)

So how does all of the above relate to us 2,000 years later? We no longer have the problem of Judaizers but we still have the problem of people thinking that their righteousness apart from Christ can do them good. How often do we think, "I did a good deed yesterday, I don't need to pray today; I went to liturgy last week, I can probably skip liturgy this week; I confess to God in my personal prayer, I don't need to go to the Sacrament of Confession with the priest; I received Holy Communion last year during Holy Week so I'm all set until next year." Even worse may be, "I did something good for someone or I attended liturgy or I received communion, so now I can sin a little bit. I deserve it or I earned it." It's like how some people approach dieting or fasting. Unfortunately, what we're doing is taking our spiritual life into our own hands instead of placing our trust in the the Lord.
In order to be made righteous by the faith of Christ, we must seek to imitate as best we can, the absolute trust in and obedience towards God the Father. Bargaining with God using our righteous actions as leverage is making the same mistake that the ancient Judaizers did: Placing our faith in our works rather than in God. To think or try to become righteous before God in order to get to heaven without living in the life of His Church, the Body of Christ, is to be ashamed of Christ and His words (Mark 8:38).

 
Orthodox Nuns in Kolwezi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Holy Monastery of St Nektarios the Wonderworker (from here)

"God, grant me to greet the coming day in peace. Help in all things to rely upon Your holy will. In every hour of the day reveal Your will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me and teach me to treat all that come to me throughout the day with peace of soul and firm conviction that Your will governs all things. In all my words and deeds guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforeseen
Kolwezi, from here
events let me not forget that all things are under Your care. Teach me to act firmly and wisely without embittering or embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring. Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray Yourself in me."

Hopefully, we can now understand better that to lose our life for Christ and the Gospel is expressed when we deny ourselves from what we want or what we think is best (Mark 8:34-35). That taking up our cross is to be crucified with Christ. And finally, that to place our complete trust in God is to have the faith of Christ. Thus, "it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).

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Orthodox Metropolis of Zambia and Malawi
 
St Mark

Mark 8:34-38
34 And when He had called the people unto Him with His disciples also, He said unto them, “Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the Gospel’s, the same shall save it.
36 For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
38 Whosoever, therefore, shall be ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed when He cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

Mark 9
1-And He said unto them, “Verily I say unto you, that there are some of them that stand here who shall not taste of death till they have seen the Kingdom of God come with power.”


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Marcos 8:34-38
Cada um deve levar a sua própria cruz
34 E, chamando a si a multidão, com os seus discípulos, disse-lhes: Se alguém quiser vir após mim, negue-se a si mesmo, e tome a sua cruz, e siga-me. 35 Porque qualquer que quiser salvar a sua vida perdê-la-á, mas qualquer que perder a sua vida por amor de mim e do evangelho, esse a salvará. 36 Pois que aproveitaria ao homem ganhar todo o mundo e perder a sua alma? 37 Ou que daria o homem pelo resgate da sua alma? 38 Porquanto qualquer que, entre esta geração adúltera e pecadora, se envergonhar de mim e das minhas palavras, também o Filho do Homem se envergonhará dele, quando vier na glória de seu Pai, com os santos anjos.

Marcos 9
9 Dizia-lhes também: Em verdade vos digo que, dos que aqui estão, alguns há que não provarão a morte sem que vejam chegado o Reino de Deus com pode
 

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ﻣﺮﻗﺲ 8:34Arabic Bible: Easy-to-Read Version (ERV-AR)

34 ثُمَّ دَعا إلَيهِ الجَمْعَ مَعَ تَلامِيذِهِ، وَقالَ لَهُمْ: «إنْ أرادَ أحَدٌ أنْ يَأتِيَ مَعِي، فَلا بُدَّ أنْ يُنكِرَ نَفسَهُ، وَأنْ يَرفَعَ الصَّلِيبَ المُعطَى لَهُ وَيَتبَعَنِي. 35 فَمَنْ يُرِيدُ أنْ يُخَلِّصَ حَياتَهُ، سَيَخسَرُها. أمّا مَنْ يَخسَرُ حَياتَهُ مِنْ أجلِي وَمِنْ أجلِ البِشارَةِ، فَسَيُخَلِّصُها. 36 فَماذا يَنتَفِعُ الإنْسانُ لَو رَبِحَ العالَمَ كُلَّهُ، وَخَسِرَ نَفْسَهُ؟ 37 وَماذا يَستَطِيعُ الإنسانُ أنْ يُقَدِّمَ لِيَستَرِدَّ حَياتَهُ؟ 38 لِأنَّ كُلَّ مَنْ يَخجَلُ بِي وَبِكَلامِي فِي هَذا الجِيلِ الفاسِقِ الخاطِئِ، سَيَخجَلُ بِهِ ابنُ الإنسانِ حِينَ يَأتي فِي مَجدِ أبيْهِ مَعَ مَلائِكَتِهِ المُقَدَّسِينَ
.»9 ثُمَّ قالَ لَهُمْ يَسُوعُ: «أقُولُ لَكُمُ الحَقَّ: إنَّ مِنْ بَينِ الواقِفِينَ هُنا أشخاصاً لَنْ يَذُوقُوا المَوتَ قَبلَ أنْ يَرَوا مَلَكوتَ اللهِ آتِياً بِقُوَّةٍ.»
 

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Marko 8:34
34 Ndipo akawaita wale watu pamoja na wanafunzi wake aka waambia, “Mtu ye yote akitaka kunifuata, ni lazima ajikane mwe nyewe, auchukue msalaba wake, anifuate. 35 Kwa maana mtu ye yote aipotezaye nafsi yake kwa ajili yangu na kwa ajili ya kuitangaza Habari Njema, ataiokoa. 36 Mtu atafaidi nini kama atapata ulimwengu wote lakini akayaangamiza maisha yake? 37 Au mtu atatoa nini apate tena maisha yake? 38 Mtu ye yote atakayenionea aibu mimi na maneno yangu katika kizazi hiki kiovu na kisichomjali Mungu, na mimi, Mwana wa Adamu, nitamwonea aibu wakati nitakapokuja katika utu kufu wa Baba yangu na malaika watakatifu.”
Marko 9
9 Yesu akaendelea kuwaambia, ‘ ‘Ninawahakikishia kuwa wapo watu hapa ambao hawatakufa kabla ya kuuona Ufalme wa Mungu ukija kwa nguvu.


Click:

Giving Thanks for All Things – The Cruciform Life
An Atonement of Shame – Orthodoxy and the Cross
Jesus Christ and Nicodemus - A little of the theology of the Cross: The Sunday before the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14): the crossroads of history and the Tree of Life...  

Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy

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