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The Life-Giving Cross
On the three components of the Life-Giving Cross and our own cross.

We are now glorifying the Life-giving Cross of our Lord. On this occasion it would be quite fitting, dear brethren, to remember how the Church and the Holy Fathers and spiritual instructors teach us to look upon the Life-giving Cross and the bearing of our own cross.

The Life-giving Cross of our Lord.
The Life-giving Cross of our Lord.

The great spiritual instructor in faith, Saint Theophanus the Recluse, said that the Cross of Christ was threefold. The cross which each Chris-tian must bear in his life is also threefold, similar to the Life-giving Cross which, according to prophecy, was composed of three tree varieties (cypress, pine and cedar). Thus, in bearing our own cross, we see three sides to it, three crosses which merge into one.

The first of these crosses is the cross of fallen mankind. This cross was described briefly but accurately and powerfully by the Apostle Paul, who said of himself: I know not what I do: the good which I wish to do - I do not; the evil which I do not wish to do - I do. And man is a captive of his sin - this is the sin of fallen mankind from which no one can escape, and of which the same Saint Theophanus said: Imagine a man who has a rotting and foul-smelling corpse firmly attached to his back: wherever he goes, wherever he runs, he is unable to escape from this horrible foul decay. It follows him persistently, pursues him relentlessly.

The second cross is the one which we usually understand as being our own cross: this is the combination of all the sorrows, all the misfortunes, all the difficulties of which our lives are composed. This, precisely, is what is meant by bearing ones cross. But that is not yet all.

The holy fathers say: here is a man surrounded by affliction, illness, misfortune. As soon as he gives himself up completely into the will of God, saying that the Lord does everything well and, therefore, whatever may be sent to him on this path of the cross, he accepts it all as being good - as soon as he says this in his heart (says Saint Theophanus) - everything will disappear as if by magic. Everything around him remains the same: the same afflictions, the same worries, but it is he who has changed and sees everything differently. Thus must a man have the firm conviction that the Heavenly Father will not give him a stone in place of bread.

If God sends us difficulties, that means they are needed and are to our benefit. The elder Ambrose of Optina said: Whatever will be, will be, and what will be, will be whatever God gives us, and God gives us everything for our good.

The last component of our cross is such that Saint Theophanus spoke of it with his usual deep humility. He said: That cross is known only to those who have attained a high spiritual level. Such a person has already overcome all temptations, has easily overcome all difficulties. But there are higher temptations - the temptations of pride, the temptations of vainglory, the temptation to consider oneself, through ones spiritual labors, as being better and higher than others. This cross is the heaviest to bear and is known only to those who, albeit with great difficulty, have overcome it.

Saint Theophanus says that each Christian must be a cross-bearer. The life of each Christian begins with a cross: he is baptized and a cross is placed around his neck at the very moment of his entering the bright sacrament of baptism. When he is buried, the cross remains with him, and a cross is also placed over his grave, indicating that a faithful Christian is buried there.

Let us keep that in mind, my beloved, and let us always wear a cross, which strengthens us and saves us in difficult circumstances. Do not forget, Christian soul, of the strength of the cross, and that with the power of His Cross the Lord will always save you from all possible misfortune. Amen.

Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky).
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