Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Met Georges Khodr on the Elevation of the Cross

Arabic original here.

The Feast of the Elevation of the Cross

"Through the cross, joy has come into the world." This is a paradox for those who look at the surface. The cross is death, but in its meaning and its reality is the site of the resurrection-- I did not say the way to the resurrection. This is that the body of Christ hung upon the wood of the cross is His starting-off point in the sense that His resurrection on the third day was nothing other than the revelation of His victory that was realized on the wood of the cross.

This is the paradox in Christianity for those who want to understand it, that the Savior brought us new life in the moment when he was hung upon the wood of the cross and therefore we live in Him in death. That is, through putting our passions to death and repenting of them. This is the mystery that you who believe in Him do not have any life unless you put your harmful lusts to death and are raised up in righteousness and ardent, divine love to His kind face. What struck the pagans during the era of persecution was that they saw our numbers increase the more they killed us. According to arithmetic, we should have gone extinct, so why did we not go extinct but instead increase numerically? The secret is that the love that the martyrs demonstrated by their martyrdom of blood drew the pagans to the faith. That is, the pagans wondered how they could see the Christians smiling and joyful as they were on their way to die.

This is the mystery of Christianity, that through your suffering for Christ's sake joy appears upon you. Christians would wear white when one of them died. They did not know mourning. Everything was a Pascha for them. The symbol of this is that if you go forward to kiss the cross on one of its feasts, the priest gives you a flower.

During our seasons in which the cross is mentioned frequently, there is no indication of sorrow. There is no divine service in our rites in which there is weeping. You make no distinction in meaning between the prayers of Good Friday and those of Pascha. We are people of Pascha at every feast.

When a child is baptized, a cross is hung around his neck in order to show that he is called to follow a Paschal path and accompany Christ from His crucifixion to His resurrection in one procession. This is why we have great celebrations for our martyrs without any trace of mourning or weeping for them. When the cross is hung around your neck at baptism, it is to show that you are called to death and life all together. Or, to use a clearer image, you are called to a new life through your death.

If we celebrate the Feast of the Elevation of the Cross, we understand that we are all called to the resurrection of the Savior. We pass through death and transcend it in a single moment.

Therefore it is a mistake to imagine that Christianity is a religion of suffering. It does not welcome suffering; it observes it. Pain is a part of life. Christianity transcends it through the hope of the new life we have received through the resurrection of the Savior.

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