On the Crosses of Christ

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

Who shall measure this universal cross borne by the Captain of our Salvation? Who shall tell its weight ? Who shall number the various multitudes of crosses of which it is formed, like the sea of drops of water? It was not from Jerusalem to Golgotha alone that this cross was borne with the help of Simon the Cyrenian; it was borne from Gethsemane to Jerusalem, and to Gethsemane from Bethlehem itself. The whole life of Jesus was one cross, and no one put forth his hand to this burden except to make it the more burdensome. “He hath trodden the winepress “of the wrath of God “alone, and of the people there was none with Him.”

…They number unto the Eternal One eight days of this new life, and then subject Him to the bloody law of circumcision. The Lord of the temple is “brought into the temple to be presented unto the Lord: “and He Who came to redeem the world, is redeemed “by a pair of turtle doves.”

Whilst He was yet without power of speech, the sword of the preaching of the cross is already being sharpened in the lips of Simeon, and pierces through the soul of His mother.

A few men of a strange tribe come to salute Him with the title of King of the Jews; but even this faint glory excites against Him the enmity of the Jewish king, makes Him the innocent cause of bloodshed, and obliges Him to withdraw Himself from among the people of God into a land of idolatry.

And what did not Jesus suffer afterwards from the very day of His entering on the solemn ministry of the salvation of mankind? The Holy One of God coming to sanctify mankind, in company with sinners, seeking purification, bows His head beneath the hand of man, and receives baptism; baptism indeed, my brethren, that is to say, immersion, not so much in the water, as in the fulness of the cross [*].

…Wilt Thou not rest, Thou divine Cross- bearer, even for one moment from the yoke, ever pressing more heavily on Thy shoulders ? Wilt Thou not rest, if not to renew Thy strength for new labours, at least in condescension to the infirmities of Thy followers? Yea, on coming nigh unto Golgotha, Thou wilt rest on Mount Tabor. Go up then unto that mountain of glory; let Thy face be lighted up by heavenly light— let Thy raiment become white and glistening— let the law and the prophets come to acknowledge in Thee their fulfilment— let the voice of Thy Father’s goodwill be heard! But do not you perceive, my hearers, how the Cross follows Jesus even to Mount Tabor, and how the preaching of the Cross is inseparable from the preaching of the glorification ? Even there, amidst such great glory, of what do Moses and Elias speak unto Jesus? They speak of His Cross and Death: “And they spake of His decease.”

…Words fail, my brethren, to follow the Great Sufferer from Gethsemane to Jerusalem, and thence to Golgotha; from His inner Cross to His outer one. But the mystical rites celebrated this day by the Church have already traced unto you this road and His last cross. (Sermon 5, On the Cross)

[*] Translator’s note: In Russian, the word baptism, krestsbenie, is derived from the word cross, krestt; so that to be baptised is equivalent to being crossed.

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