Life-bearing Cross and death-bearing sin

Life-bearing Cross and death-bearing sin

Sofia Bekri, scholar-theologian

“Hail, o living Cross - door of Paradise, support of the faithful, protective wall of the Church", chants the hymn author on the Sunday of the Adoration of the Cross at mid-Lent. The Cross is also called “life-bearing” by the Church, because thanks to the “fruit of the Cross” – that is, by tasting the “tree of life” which is Christ, we the descendants of the first-fashioned couple, have savoured - not the bitter taste of death, but the sweet delight of life.

Therefore, with the ascent of the Lord upon it, the Cross has acquired a renewed meaning, becoming from a symbol of death to a symbol of life… from a symbol of ultimate humiliation and degradation, to a symbol of rectification and honor, from an instrument of death for sinners, το an instrument of salvation for repentants, and finally a symbol of redemption and resurrection!

But it appears that we humans have not perceived the Crucifix as a redemptive and saving symbol, which is why we stubbornly refuse to lift it. We prefer, therefore, to be weighed down by the weight of our sins, rather than strive to cast them off. We prefer to remain enslaved to our passions, selfishness, ambition, hedonism and the like, rather than struggle to shake them off. We prefer to fall ill by our sins, both mental and physical, rather than confess them and be finally cured of them. Also, in order to be freed from our sufferings, we prefer to trust terrestrial 'saviours' who even demand that we sacrifice all our goods and freedoms, rather than trust our heavenly Saviour, Who conceded to be sacrificed for our sake.

And when He does ask us to follow Him, He does not extort our will, because He created us free-willed and self-governing. He asks us to follow Him, but not in order to increase His followers, because quite simply, His authority is not “of this world” of corruption and sin. Nor does he want us to follow Him so that he may dominate us like earthly rulers do, because He “did not come to be ministered to, but to minister.”

Christ is vastly different to all other would-be saviours. They, promising our salvation from the evils of this world and in order to tempt us, at first generously scatter handfuls of riches, glories and pleasures, and as soon as they entrap us in their nets, they seize whatever they gave us, also depriving us of our much-desired freedom. In order to continue conceding those things to us, they demand ever greater and more difficult sacrifices. And when they achieve their goal in full and they no longer need us, then they throw us away too, according to the popular saying: 'the devil doesn't even love his own children'.

However, by sacrificing Himself first for us, our Christ shows us the path and the means, so that we too can earn our salvation, with His Grace! There are three steps to salvation, based on the Gospel of the day (Mark, 8:34 - 9:1): self-denial, lifting the cross, and walking with Him. Whoever renounces his evil self, automatically takes up his cross, that is, he is called to discard his own will and to clothe himself with the armor of virtues, as our saints did, in order to become a companion of Christ. After all, this is how our God-bearing Fathers interpret the above passage (Mark, 8:34).Of course our Christ knows that especially the first step - the denial of our evil self - is the most difficult step, because of our natural tendency towards mortal sin. That is precisely why He is available to extend a helping hand to us, to be our Cyrene and help us bear our cross, as long as we just consent to accept His help. But in order to do this, we need to believe that He is ”the way, the truth and the life” (John, 14:6).

If we believe that Christ is the truth, then we are called to follow His exhortation to strive, that is, to enter “through the narrow gate”, and to also be suspicious that “wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to perdition”, which is why “many are they who enter through it”.

On the contrary, we should be ready and determined that “narrow is the gate and sorrowful is the way that leads to life”, which is why “few are they who find it” (Matt., 7:13-14, Luke, 13:23-24).

Christ therefore not only did not lie to us about the way of the Cross and that salvation is difficult and uphill; He also offered us the criteria to distinguish genuine saviours from the false prophets of salvation. He warned us, in fact, that the latter are recognized ”by their (rotten) fruits” (Matth., 7:20).

Let us then keep our eyes open, lest we be deceived by all kinds of promises of the wily one and of all the wicked. Let’s not fool ourselves! The way of the Cross is the only liberating and salvific way; that is why our Church chants: “Hail, o life-bearing Cross, through which the power of death was swallowed, and we were elevated from earth to heaven”.

Subsequently, if we too want to be elevated to heaven, for which we had been created let us beseech our Crucified Lord and God, Whom the Church presents before us in the midst of Holy and Great Lent in order to empower us all to crucify our personal passions and expel all evil-spitting sin, in order to be made worthy of seeing the salvific Light of His Resurrection again this year.

Lord, may it be Your wish, and “Cross of Christ, save us by Your power!”

Translation: A.N.


active³ 5.4 · IPS κατασκευή E-shop · Disclaimer