The Prelate’s Sermon
Sunday, May 15
Today, the fifth Sunday of Easter, according to the Armenian Church Calendar is dedicated to the Apparition of the Holy Cross, an historical event, which took place in 351 during the reign of the Emperor Constantius, the son of Emperor Constantine the Great. In this regard, we have a precious Testimony of Bishop Cyril of Jerusalem which was written to the emperor, describing the miraculous event. Here is an excerpt from that letter:
“On the 7th of May, about nine o’clock in the morning, a vast luminous body, in the form of a Cross, appeared in the sky just over the holy Golgotha, reaching as far as the holy Mount of Olives, seen not only by one or two persons, but clearly and evidently by the whole city.’’
The Holy Cross is revered in Orthodox and Catholic churches simultaneously for its special place in the mystery of the Redemption. In the Garden of Eden, our fore-parents tasted of the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and through their disobedience, were exiled so that they might not likewise partake of the first Tree of Life. While crucifixion is a horrific form of death, the Cross of Jesus Christ is known as the New Tree of Life because by the obedience of the Only-Begotten Son, the Cross became the means of Eternal Life for all who believe.
The Cross, in addition to being the Holy Altar upon which the Lamb of God was sacrificed as the eternal atonement for our sins, has an existential message in the life of Christians of all ages. For beyond its material value, through the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ a new understanding was revealed as a lifestyle imitating the Life of Jesus Christ. To carry the cross, besides carrying it as a silver or gold ornament, means to live our life as the Incarnate One did on all levels. The life of carrying the cross is often difficult but it is not impossible for the Lord Himself promised that “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Mt 11.30). Being limited in human wisdom and experience, it is beyond our capacity to imitate Him “who emptied from His glory for our sake” (Phil 2:7); yet once wholeheartedly we trust Him, indeed we will witness a transformation of the law of flesh within us, and we will experience a new walk in the realm of the Spirit. Saint Paul through his own experience shares this truth by saying, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).
Being crucified with Christ influences all our thoughts, emotions, deeds, aspirations, behavior, and relationships, and this way of living also produces the greatest reward. On the Great day of His Glorious Coming, heralded by the luminous Cross, when all those who have followed in His footsteps will be raised from the dead, and by being the co-heirs of the Risen One will celebrate in everlasting life.
The position of the Apparition of the Cross carries a remarkable message to us all, when beyond the geographical dimension we penetrate the mystery of both locations. Golgotha is the final station of carrying the Cross while the Mount of Olives is the place from where our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven. The Angels proclaimed His return, and in turn, bring us the good news that all those who carry their cross and in due time commit their souls in the hand of the good Angel will partake in the fulfillment of the Divine eternal plan, prepared for His saints from the beginning of the Creation.
With this hope, let us all celebrate the Apparition of the Holy Cross, and let us ask the Crucified Servant of the Lord to impress the power of the Cross stretched in our body from our mind to our heart, to crucify all worldly temptations, and through our faith and hope unite with Him, in Whom we witnessed the glory of God (Jn 1:14), and through Whom the Gift of the Holy Spirit showers upon us, and let us praise the All-Holy Trinity. Amen.