+ Fr. Simeon Johnson, St. Andrew | March 22, 2020
If we assembled in church today for worship, the very midpoint of the journey that leads to Holy Week, we would hear many references to the Holy Cross. We would see the Cross held up and presented to us as a reminder of what is to come as the Lord works out are salvation in His Passion. It to give us strength to continue and intensify our efforts to see His Glorious Resurrection.
From the Gospel of St. Mark we would hear the words of the Lord “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me (8:34).” As a condition to following Christ, He tells us that we must pick up our cross and, then and only then, follow Him. Clearly, the current pandemic is a cross placed upon all of us. The Lord will give us the strength to bear it and lead us through the crisis. Before the Epistle and Gospel we would sing “Before you Cross we fall down in veneration and your Holy Resurrection we glorify”. This reminds us that the Cross leads to the Resurrection. The symbol of death has become a symbol of victory. A major hymn for the day is “O Lord, save your people and bless your inheritance. Grant victory to the Orthodox Christians over their adversaries and protect your people by Your Cross”. My beloved, let us know forget that we are people under the protection of the Cross.
As much as the Lord’s Cross is a permanent reality for our entire life, this coming week it is placed before and is our focus. The entire week is centered on the Cross, it’s power in our lives, and the victory over death that is to come. We need to keep the Cross before us throughout the week even in our homes. Perhaps one way to do it is to actually place a Cross in a location where it is visible. The dining room table might be the perfect location. We could decorate it with flowers or basil and place a candle behind and lit for meals. The hymns mentioned above could be used before and after meals. In this way the Cross would be physically present and remind of our salvation and the life-giving power of the Cross. The Lord and His Cross protect us in this present crisis and lead us to the Resurrection.
We all are in pain at the suspension of Liturgical services, yet the Season of Great Lent goes forward towards the Life-giving death and Holy Resurrection of our Savior. As we see the Cross, we must remember that Jesus, our King and Messiah is coming to save us from death, sin and pain. Through the Cross and Resurrection, He gives us abundant eternal life. He, also, will lead us through the present crisis!