Feast of the Procession of the Precious Cross

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Hearts in Harmony with Christ
10th Sunday after Pentecost
Feast of the Procession of the Precious Cross
1 August, 2010
1 Corinthians 4:9-16 ; Matthew 17:14-23


In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Today, we have the blessing to be able to celebrate the Feast of the Procession of the Precious Wood of the Holy and Life-giving Cross of our Saviour. The decorated Cross is in our midst today, a testimony to our Lord’s unending and self-emptying love towards us. This Cross, on which He voluntarily stretched out His arms and died the death on our behalf, is the source of our life. What was before the sign of defeat and death and disgrace has been transformed and transfigured by our Saviour into the instrument of life and healing and reconciliation. When the holy and precious Cross is in our midst, the Lord Himself is in our midst. As He embraced the whole of creation when He was crucified on this Cross with His outstretched arms, He embraces you and me now, here, today, from this Cross. His arms are stretched out in love towards you and towards me. He, who is always the same towards each one of us, then as now, brings healing love to us.

Today, we see our Saviour healing the son of this person who comes asking for help. His son is often falling into fire and into water. I have to say (as a parenthesis) that there is a translation problem in what we heard today. In the translation that we have, the man says that his son is an epileptic. That is not exactly what the Greek says. The Greek says that he is “moonstruck” (that is, a lunatic). The word “lunatic” refers to an older understanding that certain phases of the moon (and particularly the full-moon) had strong effects on certain vulnerable people. At such times, a “lunatic” could behave very strangely. Sometimes, the strange behaviour would be so dangerous to other persons or the “lunatic” him/herself, that the person would be locked away from society for a longer or shorter period. Nowadays, people are aware of what a high percentage of water makes up our bodies, and they speculate that this may contribute to the phenomena. Be that as it may, people in the fields of public health and safety still comment on strange things that occur in certain persons, especially at the full moon. There is a considerable difference between being mentally ill, and being an epileptic. This young boy was not falling into fire and water just because he was having seizures (although this could happen to an epileptic). This falling into fire and water (which is characteristic of this boy’s condition) conveys something much more – that is, this boy was considered to be mentally ill.

However, the Saviour could see through the whole situation. Mental illness does not regularly throw a child into fire and water in order, as it were, to kill and torture this child. The Saviour sees that this child is oppressed and enslaved by a particularly difficult devil. We hear the apostles saying that they tried to get rid of this devil, but they could not do it. The Saviour responds : “‘This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting’”. With “prayer and fasting” He is indicating that this is not only for a particular case but for life in general. This characteristic of a life of prayer and fasting is what keeps the hearts of the apostles and our hearts in harmony with the Lord’s heart so as to understand clearly not only what is the situation, but also what must be done according to the will of God.

It is the heart that has to understand what is necessary. The apostles had difficulty because they had not grown up, yet. They were using their reasoning and their thoughts too much. They thought that there was a technique about it. We have not changed, because human beings in the 21st century still tend to think that there is a technique about how to heal a person who is oppressed by the devil. There can be a certain amount of technique involved in addressing mental illness, no doubt ; but real healing, real freedom and real relief from slavery only comes with the love of Jesus Christ. It is He who tells us what to do. He informs our hearts. When our hearts are in communion with Him, our hearts will understand what has to be done. In His time (which is always the right time), when He says that something must be done, it will be accomplished.

The Apostle Paul is underlining this very fact today. He is exhorting us to live in communion of love with the Lord. It is important for us to understand what the Apostle means when he says : “‘For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers’”. He understood his relationship with all the people whom he had been encountering to be that of a spiritual father. The members of the church in Corinth (to whom he is writing in this particular case) were his spiritual children. Education about our Faith is important, but “knowing” is only a small part. Intellectual understanding and reasonable application of facts is only a small part. All this education and all these details actually mean nothing (and come down to zero) if it is only in the mind or in the head, or if it is only a collection of facts that is involved. All these facts have no meaning at all unless the heart, in communion with the Lord, is making sense of all those facts and details and is giving them life, direction and purpose. Even the devils, themselves, believe in their own way. They accept all these facts and they shudder (see James 2:19). However, they do not believe the facts of faith. They do not take them to heart and they do not live by them. They understand that God is God but they are living in denial of the fact that He is in charge. With their own intellectuality and confusing thoughts, they are daring to think that they are greater than God. That is how it is, to this day. It began with a rebellion of Lucifer and his associates, and it remains like that to this day.

We, who have the opportunity to be in communion with the Saviour, and even participants in the All-Holy Trinity in the Saviour, do this in the heart. It is vital for us always to understand the importance of the heart, and to know that communion with the Lord is our first priority. The Lord accomplishes wonders and miracles, things beyond our expectations and things beyond our wildest imaginations when our hearts are in harmony with Him, informed by Him and His love, and living His love. Everything else falls into its right order and place. All the confused thoughts in our heads come into focus. Details then have their purpose. Conflicts are resolved. Unity is achieved. Harmony is achieved. Life is achieved. Healing is achieved. Deliverance is achieved in harmony with the love of the Lord.

Brothers and sisters, on this day when we have the Lord before us in our midst with His arms stretched out, embracing us from His most holy Cross, let us ask the Mother of God to intercede for us, so that our hearts will be ready to become as her heart in harmony with the heart of her Son. May our hearts be renewed, refreshed and strengthened so that we can become our true selves in our Saviour. Let us ask our Saviour Himself to protect us, to save us, to guide us, to correct us, to renew us and to enable us (following the words of our beloved Elder and Wonder-worker Herman of Alaska) to love our Saviour Jesus Christ above all and to do His holy will all the days of our lives. In doing so, we will thereby glorify the All-Holy Trinity : the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.