In the middle of Lent, we receive the strength to continue and benefit from our spiritual journey toward Pascha, hearing our Savior’s call to be His disciples: “Whoever wishes to follow Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mark 8:34). Halfway through Lent it is fitting that we should search our hearts and ask ourselves just where we are “along the way”. We cannot find an answer to this question apart from the Cross—our Savior’s and ours.
The symbol of Christianity is the Cross, yet this symbol is understood very differently among those who call themselves Christians. First of all, Roman Catholicism puts more accent on the sufferings Christ endured on the Cross, while Orthodoxy emphasizes His victory over death through the Cross. Then there is the fact that to become a Christian requires that we pass through the mystery of the Cross. We cannot have victory without suffering, for we cannot partake of the fruits of the salvation provided by Christ unless we crucify our own passions and weaknesses. Through the sin of Adam the sting of death is imprinted on our very being, but Christ conquered it in His own Body and gives us also the power to be victorious over it. To this end we must take up the “cross” of this life, admit our weaknesses, and assume our responsibilities.
It isn’t easy in these times in which we are encouraged on every hand to take the broad road. To be a Christian has always meant to be challenged moment by moment. We must have the desire and the courage to see ourselves as we really are. This means humility and the self-denial which is so foreign to our nature. We must also seek the grace of God; we must ask for it and allow it to work in us. It is grace that heals
our weaknesses and increases our gifts. This means taking up our cross. And if we have started on the road, “let us not look back” but continually press on, having faith that with the help of the One who conquered temptation and death, we too shall be victors.
To all the priests and faithful of our Archdiocese I address the following challenge and blessing: a challenge to press on in prayer and fasting, and a blessing to come through this time with spiritual growth. And may the Lord make us worthy of His glorious resurrection.