Following Christ through faith and love for God changes sufferance into hope

Church of Romania – March 2014

On 23 March 2014, the Orthodox Christians were on the 3rd Sunday of the Lent. At Cernica Monastery, close to Bucharest, the spiritual joy was increased by the presence of His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of Romania in the middle of the monastic community and of the faithful who attended the religious service.

The Orthodox Church scheduled the evangelical pericope of Mark 8:34-38 and 9:1 to be read at the Divine Liturgy this Sunday.

Self denial, carrying or assuming the cross and following Christ – conditions for reaching salvation

The Patriarch of Romania showed that this Gospel, although short, is very deep in spiritual meaning representing a spiritual programme for the entire period of the Holy Easter. At the same time, the Primate of the Romanian Orthodox Church emphasised the fact that this Sunday refers to the Mystery of the Cross as work of Christ for resurrecting our soul from the death of sin.

His Beatitude has also emphasised the three conditions for reaching salvation: “Christ, our Lord, shows us that whoever wants to follow Him must deny himself first of all, take his cross and follow Him. Therefore, the self denial, carrying or assuming the cross and following Christ are the three conditions to be Christian and reach salvation”.

Self denial means getting rid of the selfish way of living

His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church explained what self denial means and showed that this is the first condition to be a disciple of Christ: the very notion of self denial is hard to understand for today’s man. In other languages, but Romanian, this is translated as self denial. In an individualistic world, in which the self is affirmed and selfishness is cultivated as greed of profit, self denial, as spiritual programme to give up selfishness is something hard to accept. Jesus Christ, the Saviour Himself says that the first condition for following Him, namely to be His disciple, is self denial. But self denial does not mean dissolution or self annulment, but changing of the selfish way of living. Self denial means giving up the selfish way of living and forgetting about God and our fellow beings. Christ, our Lord, shows us, in fact, that we can follow Him only when the focus of our life is no longer on us, but on Him. When the human life is no longer focused on the possessive, temporary, limited self, but on the relationship of eternal infinite love with Christ, God-the-Man, the human life becomes communion for eternity, openness to spiritual enriching in the eternal love of the Most Holy Trinity. Thus, self denial means to make room to Christ in our soul, to rid of the passionate love for ourselves and fill us of the merciful love of Christ. We deny ourselves, but we do not remain with anything instead, but receive Christ as our life.

To carry the cross means to fight to unite with Christ in spite of sufferance

The Primate of the Romanian Orthodox Church has also spoken about assuming the cross and about the significance of this assuming: “Assuming the cross means to admit the limits and fragility of human life, namely to recognise the limits and helplessness of human life, as well as the will to defeat evil or sin. This means to carry the cross: to fight not against some other people, but against the evil in us in order to become better, the fight to unite with Christ in spite of sufferance, of troubles. Thus, this is a fight of fidelity, faithfulness, for following Christ. In today’s Gospel, the Cross may mean admitting a failure or a personal sufferance, an incurable disease, an unhealed passion, or sadness because we have not achieved what we wanted”.

Following Christ through faith and love for God changes sufferance into hope

“Only Christ, our Lord, can change our cross into a ladder to heaven, into a chance of spiritual elevation from sin and sufferance, through His working and healing power inside our sufferance and helplessness. Christ, the Lord, carries our cross together with us and changes it, namely gives meaning to our sufferance as place of our meeting Him, the Crucified and Resurrected. (…) There are people who know that their disease is incurable, but because they came close to God a lot, through often confessing and having the Holy Communion, the sufferance of the disease is changed into the hope of salvation, so that we see peace and quiet on their faces, because they passed from revolt to fasting and rapprochement to God. We change sufferance into hope through the faith in God and love for Him, we come closer to God and look for salvation which is the best good of ours because it means the man’s union with God for eternity”, His Beatitude said.

Today’s Gospel relates the mystery of the Cross to the mystery of the Resurrection

The Primate of the Romanian Orthodox Church emphasised the relationship between assuming the cross and the mystery of the Resurrection and showed that the one who carries his personal Cross following Christ is making for Resurrection.

“On this 3rd Sunday of the Lent we learn that the mystery of the Holy Cross is a source of renewal, of crucifying the sin or our selfishness in order to cultivate the merciful devoted love which prepares us to receive the joy and light of the Resurrection. Therefore, it is very significant that the Saviour speaks both about carrying or assuming the Cross and about the foretaste of the Kingdom of God or about the power of Resurrection. So, today’s Gospel relates the mystery of the Cross to the mystery of the Resurrection. The one who carries his personal Cross following Christ is making for the Resurrection. The light of the grace of the Kingdom of God mysteriously gets deep into the soul of the faithful man and into his life, so that he feels the joy of the call of Christ and following the Christ Crucified and Risen from the dead, who mysteriously participates in the man’s sufferance in order to give him the joy of His Resurrection”, the Patriarch of Romania said.

The Holy Cross is the banner of Christ’s victory

The Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church has also shown the fact that the Holy Cross is both the sign of the crucifixion and of the Resurrection of Christ. The Cross of King Christ, the sign of His victory over the sin and death is shown at the middle of the Lent to all faithful to strengthen them in fasting and prayer.

“In conclusion, we can say that the Holy Cross is the banner of Christ’s victory. The synaxis and the religious services of the 3rd Sunday of the Lent show us that this Sunday of the Holy Cross is an encouragement and strengthening on our way to Resurrection. Due to all these reasons, while seeing the Holy Cross in the middle of the church on the 3rd Sunday of the Lent, we already think of the Holy Week of the Holy Passions of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, after which the glorious feast of the Resurrection of Christ follows. This is why when we kiss the Holy Cross we say: “We pray to Your Cross, Christ, and we praise and glorify Your Holy Resurrection”. The Holy Fathers of the Church say that the Holy Cross is the banner of Christ’s victory. It is the sign of His love stronger than death and this is why the Holy Cross is both the sign of the crucifixion and of the Resurrection of Christ. In ancient times, when the emperors used to victoriously enter a city, they first sent the insignia of their victory to the city, their banners, and then the victorious army came together with the emperor. Through analogy, in a spiritual meaning, the Cross of King Christ, the sign of His victory over the sin and death is shown at the middle of the Lent to all faithful in order to strengthen them in fasting and prayer, as victory over the sin and preparation for the Resurrection. May God help us feel even now that the joy of the Resurrection is mysteriously hidden in the Cross of fasting, for the glory of the Most Holy Trinity and for our salvation!”, His Beatitude said in the end.

History of the Romanian Monasticism

To end with, the Patriarch of Romania offered several liturgical and spiritually useful books to the monastery library. One of the books offered was the History of the Romanian Monasticism about which His Beatitude said: “It is a very rich album which the Romanian Patriarchate prepared together with the Romanian Academy.

Here is the beginning of the Christian monasticism in general, in the East and West, with the stress is laid on the History of the Romanian Monasticism. It has 1040 pages and this volume will be followed by another one entitled: Contribution of monasticism to the culture and social life of the Romanian people, while the third volume will include all the monasteries and sketes present and dissolved in the history of the Romanian people”.

A history of the parishes of the Romanian Patriarchate will be drafted in the near future.

“Not to forget the parish, the Holy Synod approved our proposal to draft a history of the parishes of the Romanian Patriarchate in 12 volumes. Thus, we want to promote not competition, but cooperation between parish and monastery”, His Beatitude also said.

The next Sunday of the Lent is dedicated to Saint John Climacus.

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