The Veneration of the Precious and Life-Cross
The Third Sunday of Great and Holy Lent
Mark 8:34-38; 9:1
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:1-6.
The Halfway Point for Rest and Reflection along our Lenten Journey
The Third Sunday of Great and Holy Lent is the Midway Point on our Lenten Journey together, and, in Its wisdom, the Church has placed the Most Precious Cross of Christ before us in order to inspire us, motivate us, focus us, and keep us moving and progressing so we may complete the course of the Fast with concomitant vigor and fervor.
On this Sunday, we venerate the Most Precious Cross with great relief. It is as if we were traveling through a vast, harsh, and merciless desert and found a verdant, vibrant oasis in which to rest, cleanse, and refresh ourselves for the journey ahead. We take rest in the shadow of this Life-Giving Tree, cool off, relax, and smell the fragrant flowers, hear the songs of the birds in this Lenten Spring, and taste the sweet spiritual fruit that this Tree of Life provides. It is also a time for us to pray, meditate, reflect, and take an inventory of our spiritual progress.
We are now at the half-way point of our journey. The Cross is the signpost. We can see and measure how far we have come and how far we must go. For some, the progress has been slow and arduous; for others, it has been less so, but now, we are all here together, having arrived from different places, by different means, and at different paces.
Notwithstanding how we have arrived at this point, we must be inspired and refreshed to complete the journey here below, knowing that in this imperfect and difficult world, we share the same fate as mere sojourners destined to complete the beckoning journey so as to arrive at the heavenly Jerusalem of which the earthly Jerusalem is but a metaphor and pale reflection.
The Banner of Assurance
In Medieval and Ancient times, the King would send his banners with his messengers well in advance of his arrival to proclaim and trumpet his victory over his people's enemies to give them heart and encouragement. The Cross for us is this banner of victory, emblem of triumph, and trophy of invincibility; but It is not a standard of just any king or a trophy memorializing just any victory; but rather It is the Standard of the King of Kings and the Trophy of Eternal Victory.
Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, two thousand years before, has fought all our enemies and destroyed them all through His Most Precious Cross. Moreover, He has defeated the last enemy that any of us will ever have to face--namely, Death. Furthermore, we do not have to fight this battle. It has already been won, and all is assured.
Looking upon His Cross, we take courage, hope, and inspiration, knowing that whatever lies ahead of us must be faced by all of us, but by His Cross, all of us are totally victorious and forever triumphant, if we but follow unwaveringly and intrepidly in the Path of His Cross, for through the Cross, comes victory, ascension, and glory. The Cross, like a Bridge, is the Passover from death to life, from the Jerusalem below to the Jerusalem above, from exile to Paradise, from ignominy to glory.
The Crossroads and Confrontation of the Cross
To each and every one of us, the Cross, with Its intersecting axes, is a type of crossroads, confronting us to choose to follow the path that is difficult and sacrificial but, ultimately and eternally, infinitely rewarding. Looming above us, with Its imposing and foreboding shadow, we know that the time for rest and comfort is over, and we must get up and go forward, or give up and go back.
It is time to choose, and to choose now. However, benefiting from history, we can look back and remember what God has accomplished for His People Israel, and benefiting from Faith, we can look forward knowing what He has permanently and eternally accomplished for His New Israel. In Sacred Scripture, we see the Cross of Christ foretold, and in His living Church, we see His Cross fulfilled.
The Cross Pre-figured in Shadow and Type, but Ever Present
Through a Tree, we lost Paradise, but through a Tree (The Cross), we regain Paradise. Through the Wood of Noah's Ark, the water that baptized the world was blessed and opened to reveal the earth and the promise of a new beginning and a new creation. Through The Wood of The Cross, we are granted a new beginning, and we are made a new creation.
The serpents brought the sting of death to the people of Israel in the wilderness, but the serpent on the staff (the Wood) in the shape of the Cross redeemed the people of Israel from the sting of death. The Cross redeemed Israel from the venom, the poison, the pain, the corruption, and death of the viper, and the Cross redeems the New Israel from sin, suffering, and death of the Serpent who once hung upon the Tree—namely, Satan.
With the wooden Rod of Moses, the rock was struck, and water flowed to refresh a perishing Israel.
On the Wood of the Tree, Christ's Side was struck, and from It, flowed water for cleansing and eternal regeneration, for He is our never-ending Source and our Rock. With wood, the bitter water was made sweet so that Israel may drink and be saved temporarily. From the Wood of the Cross, water flowed from His Side to save us eternally.
Prefiguring the Cross, Jacob crossed his hands and blessed his heirs for his realm below. From the Cross, Christ blesses His eternal heirs for the realm above.
With his Staff, Moses parted the sea so the people of Israel could cross over from slavery to freedom, and then, he crossed his staff to bury the enemies of God's People.
With the Cross, we cross over from spiritual slavery to an eternal freedom, never looking back, but perpetually going forward.
Marching in the formation of the Cross, the armies of Israel, in a spiritually impenetrable phalanx, were victorious over their enemies. Following in the path of the Cross, we will, the End, be victorious over any enemy.
Standing high above on a rock for Israel's armies to see, Moses (“Son of” in Egyptian) held his hands spread out wide, with the help of Aaron and Or (Α Ω), making the Sign of the Cross with his body to vanquish their enemies. Elevated high upon the rock of Golgotha, Jesus the Son of God spread His transfixed hands upon the Cross to vanquish Death—the Last Enemy of the People of God. Christ is the Alpha and Omega prefigured and proclaimed Who is the Love of God on the Cross that conquers the hatred of the world.
Through Prayer, in Trial, The Cross is Revealed in Christ
Today, we hold up high the Cross to declare victory over our common enemy, Death, through the power of the Cross. Praying with their hands held in a way that their bodies made the sign of the Cross, Daniel was delivered from the lions' den and Jonah from the belly of the Great Fish.
Through the Cross, all dangers are obliterated, and we are liberated from death. The Angel of Great Counsel in the burning furnace held his arms wide, making the sign of the Cross over the Three Holy Youths, protecting and delivering them from a horrible fate.
The Cross protects and delivers us, in the end, from all dangers and perils. From a tree, a curse hung and ensnared us in death. On a Tree, Christ hung and became a curse for us to deliver us from the curse of death. With a tree, we were deceived and entrapped; with a Tree, the greater Deceiver was himself deceived and hooked, being forced to disgorge all that he had devoured and release all who had been chained and held captive.
The Mystery and Message of the Cross
God, in His Mysterious Way, brought us redemption, release, freedom, life, and salvation through His Tree He had planted from the beginning of the world for the salvation of the world. Christ is the Tree of Life planted in the Virgin's Womb, Which became a Spiritual Paradise.
From the wood of the manger as a Child, to the wood He fashioned as a Carpenter, unto the Wood of the Cross as a Man, He had His Divine Plan in the New Testament, just as He had His Plan in the wood of the Ark, the wood of Abraham's sacrificial altar, the wood of the lintel that absorbed the Blood of the Passover Lamb, and the wood of Moses' Staff in the Old Testament.
This Life-giving Tree is His Most Sacred and Precious Cross--an instrument of intimidation, humiliation, suffering, and death that He has transformed into a vehicle of love, exaltation, glorification, and life.
This is His Cross that loomed and cast Its long Shadow across the pages of the Old Testament and pointed like an arrow to the New Testament. This is the Cross that was in the Heart of the Logos before creation and pierced the heart of His Mother that gave Him birth.
This is the same Cross that we, on the Third Sunday of Great Lent hold high, process with honor, thereby declaring God's Infinite Love in His Mysterious Plan--foretold and fulfilled--for the Redemption and Salvation of the world.
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Jim's Archived Spiritual Messages