Sunday, September 16, 2007

Diaconal Homily for the Sunday after the Feast of the Cross

Every third Sunday, our Deacon preaches the homily. Today, the Sunday after the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, he preached a good one!* Below is the text. It's a "keeper".

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (Mark 8:34)

The Cross changed from a means of death and torture in ancient Rome to a symbol of joy and salvation because of the Resurrection of Jesus after his awful torture and death on the Cross.

A sign of execution and torture was changed to a sign of a means for our salvation.

The disciples saw Jesus’ miracles and listened to his teachings but Peter and the other disciples did not know at the time of Jesus’ Crucifixion that he was to rise again as the Son of God.

Peter even proclaimed to Jesus that he believed Jesus to be the Christ. 29And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”(Mark 8).

But at the time the Crucifixion the disciples did not know that Jesus was to rise in Glory on the Third Day.

Jesus had to show the disciples his wounds after his Resurrection and give them Divine Revelation for them to understand that He was raised from the dead, that the Cross was not His end.

The Cross of Jesus does not cast a shadow of death. Instead it emits the light of salvation. The Cross is now a beacon of light to lead people to salvation.

Crosses surround us Catholics. There are Altar-Cross, The Processional Cross, Papal Cross, Pectoral Crosses, Absolution Crosses, Crosses on Vestments, and Crosses for Private Devotion.

Today is the Sunday after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Precious and Life-giving Cross.

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Precious and Life-giving Cross, which was to be celebrated last Friday, is so important within the Melkite Church that the Sunday before and the Sunday after, today, are designated as such.

Within the Church Calendar we have the beautiful celebrations of the Holy Days.
The Church Calendar of Holy Days is for us our own personal compass to live our lives in the light of salvation of the Cross.

The feast of the Exaltation of the Precious and Life-giving Cross and all the Holy Days of the Church and our whole Church Calendar of celebrations makes us unique.

That we celebrate these Holy Days makes us Melkite.

The Antiphon Prayers from Friday’s Liturgy plead our case for salvation to Almighty God and describe our faith.

I. O Christ God, who were nailed upon the Cross for our sake, purify us from our sins. Strengthen our faith. Fortify our hope. Inflame our hearts with love for your Cross. Make us temples of the Holy Spirit. For You are our Light and our Life.

II. O Christ God, enthroned with the Father and the Holy Spirit, when You extended your arms on the Cross, You attracted the whole world to your knowledge. Illumine us today by its light. Sanctify us by its power. Comfort us by its Exaltation. And make us worthy to partake of your divine glory.

The beauty and holiness of our celebrations of the Holy Days gives us true sustenance and meaning to our lives.

Celebrating the Holy Days keeps us centered within the Church.

Each Holy Day teaches us a vital portion of the means to salvation, of our church history, of characters in the story of sacrifice and martyrdom that is our Melkite heritage.

When everything around us pulls us from holiness our life within the Church, when celebrated fully in the framework of Holy Days, in Vespers, in the Divine Liturgy on Sundays, when we live our life within the Calendar of the Church, makes our lives full, complete, and happy.

We have innumerable tentacles of the octopus of modern life pulling at us, dragging us here to this activity, tugging us there to this obligation, pushing us everywhere to the point we are wondering what is next on our endless list of stuff to do.

After a difficult week at school, or at our offices, or traveling in our jobs it requires great physical and mental effort to push us to attend the Holy Days within the Church calendar.

But as I tell my own sons, as I try to instill in them what truly matters in our brief life, true happiness and sustaining strength comes from a life centered in the Church. Little else matters in comparison.

True happiness and sustaining strength comes from a life lived within the Holy Days of the Melkite Calendar where we hear of the Saints throughout the ages who are our guides to a pious life.

We gain strength and sanctification from the sacraments received during the Holy Day celebrations.

We live in love when we gather during the Holy Days, during Vespers, and Divine Liturgy as a parish family, with all our warts and all of our shortcomings and all of our wonderful qualities.

Let us not look at how tired we may be, or how busy we may be, or how our health may not allow us, or all our endless obligations.

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (Mark 8:34)

Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church tells us of the Cross:

“For the Cross of Christ, which was dedicated to the salvation of mortal man, is both a sacrament and an example; a sacrament, in which the divine power is made known; an example, by means of which devotion is kindled among men; for to those freed from the yoke of slavery their redemption also brings them this: that they my imitate it.

For if human wisdom takes such pride in its errors, so that each one copies the notions, the manners, all the ideas, of the one he has chosen as guide, what share have we in the Name of Christ if we are not wholly united with Him Who is, as He has taught us, the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6).”
Let us pick up our Cross and follow Jesus through our Melkite Calendar of Holy Days where Jesus shows us the Way of holy living; the Truth of divine teaching; and the Life of happiness without end. Amen.
*The good Deacon's homilies are generally always good!

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