Take up your Cross

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Take up your Cross
Sunday after the Elevation of the Life-giving Cross
28 September, 2008
Galatians 2:16-20 ; Mark 8:34-9:1

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

We just heard our Saviour say to us : “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me”. So important are these words, that every time a priest or a bishop puts on his Cross, he recites what our Saviour has just said. Therefore, it is crucial that we Orthodox Christians keep these words in the forefront of our daily consciousness. Every Orthodox believer who is carrying a Cross from Baptism, when kissing this Cross every day, should be saying the same words, too. Bishops and priests are saying these words when they are putting on the Cross because they are leaders of the faithful. However, bishops and priests are not different from or separated from the faithful. In fact, the faithful of the Church are called “sheep” by our Saviour, and even if they are leaders, the bishops and the priests are still amongst the sheep. There is only one, true Shepherd, and this Shepherd is the one who is teaching the bishops and the priests how to lead the flock.

We Orthodox Christians need to understand that everything about our life concerns the relationship of love between us and our Saviour. Thus, in carrying the Cross of our Saviour every day of our life, we are living in harmony and union with Him every day of our life. The way of the Orthodox Christian is to put Jesus Christ first in life. We are involving Him in every detail of our lives. He is with us while we are gathered here together in this Temple. He is with us when we are eating. He is with us when we are sleeping. He is with us when we are working. He is with us when we are travelling. He is with us in everything. It is the Orthodox way for us to invoke His blessing upon everything that we are and everything that we are doing.

The environment in which we live in Canada certainly does not support us in this way of life, nor in the mindfulness of this way. Orthodox believers easily forget what is the normal way of life while living here in Canada. In Canada, instead of people living as close as they can to the Temple, they tend to live far away, wherever it is comfortable and cheap. It was a different story 100 years ago, it is true ; but now this is how we are living. People live far from the Temple, and because of that, they do not go very often to the Temple of the Lord. Soon, it happens that Orthodox believers in Canada become like almost everyone else. Instead, worshipping the Lord, which is the center of the Orthodox life, goes into the background, and to the bottom of life’s priorities.

Instead of coming to the Temple of the Lord very frequently to pray and to worship the Lord, people now tend to come only on Sunday morning. Even then, they are often impatient because everything seems to take a long time. Also, instead of having the Temple be open because people are always coming and going there, the doors are locked, and it is hard to get in. Then people get angry because the doors are locked, and they say : “Where is the priest ?” “Where is the starosta ?” The question is wrong. Instead, the question should be asked : “Where am I ?” It is because I am absent that those doors are locked. It can be said that we cannot simply leave the Temple open for thieves. In Canada, thieves do not have the honour that they used to have amongst them. They do not have the respect for holy things that they used to have. Meanwhile, we do not have the confidence in the Lord and His holy angels that we used to have that He is able to protect His Temple. I have realised that I no longer see people blessing their doors when they leave their homes, so we certainly forget to invoke the Lord’s blessing and protection on our spiritual homes, the Temples in which we worship. We forget. We neglect.

When the Apostle Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, our Saviour said to him, as it were : “You did not come to this understanding on your own; you came to understand this because God showed it to you” (see Matthew 16:17). Brothers and sisters, we are in the same position as the Apostle Peter. We have weaknesses. We have doubts. However, the Saviour is still the Saviour. He comes to us in our needs because of His love. Let us follow the example of the Apostle Peter. Let us confess with our lives that Jesus is the Christ. Let us confess with our lips and our hearts that Jesus is the Christ. Let us ask Him to give us the strength to recover the normal way of living an Orthodox life.

Let us ask Him to renew our love so that our lives will be able to glorify Him as He created us to do. Finally, let us follow the words of the exhortation of Saint Herman of Alaska, North America’s first recognised saint, who says to you and to me : “From this day, from this hour, from this minute, let us love God above all, and do His holy will”. In doing this, let us glorify the all-holy Trinity : the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.