For many Christians, the cross has become an everyday thing. They are used to wearing a baptismal cross, used to the crucifix in the church, to reading the Matins on Great and Holy Friday—the Twelve Passion GospelsWe have the Matins service for Great and Holy Friday on Thursday evening. The main part of the Matins is the twelve Gospels on the Lord’s Passion. For your convenience, these twelve Gospels have been posted here.
“>Passion Gospels. But what is behind all of this? Our faith radically differs from any national or world religion. Not one of those knows the humble-unto-death God. The first Christians were the laughingstock of the world. The Greeks and Romans offered sacrifices to Zeus and Jupiter, the Jews worshipped Yahweh, and the Egyptians honored the sun god Ra. But these Christians? They pray to God crucified on the cross, Who couldn’t even defend Himself?
The good tidings, according to the apostle Paul, are unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness (1 Cor. 1:23). And has anything changed for modern people? For some, nation takes the place of God, for others it’s money, for others, Power and career. From the legacy of the Optina EldersCan and should a church-going Orthodox person be a successful member of society? Can one take the path toward God and at the same time ascend the steps of a career ladder? Should one seek positions of authority or refuse them? St. John Climacus (“of the Ladder”) wrote his famous “Ladder” on the subject of spiritual growth. His book does not contain advice about how to make a career for yourself. It would seem that the Holy Fathers gave little thought to the idea of making a success of yourself in society.
“>power, for yet others it’s fornication and pleasure. Only the little flock, defenseless, persecuted, unseen by the world, follows after Christ. How many are them compared to all of mankind? Few.
They are those who have figured out the The Mystery of the CrossThat is the final criterion. You may judge everything by it. If you do not know what to do, if there are many paths that are tempting and luring you, look at the Cross.
“>mystery of the Cross. They know that the strongest person is the humble person, because love and humility are qualities of God Himself. Having an infinite number of choices as to how to deal with fallen mankind, the Lord became man and saved us through His own suffering. Having at His disposal the mighty angelic powers, God became helpless in order to help us.
And Christians also know the great mystery, hidden before the ages from the angels. Out of all the rational creatures, God decided to make the weakest and most helpless one a participant in His nature—namely, man. Having united with our nature, He now gives us the possibility of partaking in His uncreated grace. And the place where this unification happens is the Cross of the Lord. The marriage of the Lamb with the Church takes place on the Cross. As God entered into man through suffering and pain, so do we also enter into God through the carrying of our own cross. The Cross is the meeting point between God and man. Man does not grow up to God—God humbles Himself to man. The connection that can unite us forever with the Savior grows on the soil of our own cross, through great patience and obedience to the Master. Earthly life is not a place of entertainment and pleasure. It is a place where we share our crosses with Christ. Out of His love, the Lord saves people on Golgotha, and out of our love for Him, we partake of His Cross through our own cross. In this is the practical meaning of man’s life on earth.