Lost and Found:
The feast day of the "Elevation of the Precious Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" is observed on the 14th of September and is a commemoration of the finding of Christs Precious Cross in the 4th Century by St Helen the mother of St Constantine the Great. After the Holy Cross was taken by the Persians during the conquest of Jerusalem, the Emperor Heraclius ensured its speedy returned to Byzantium in the 7th century. It was finally triumphantly elevated in the "Church of the Resurrection" in Jerusalem. Subsequently the Cross was divided into large pieces and distributed to the ancient Sees of the Christian Church, in order to protect the Cross from ever being captured again.
Interestingly one notices that unlike many other great feast days of the Church, the feast of the Elevation of the Cross is a strict fast day. It is significant that the Church chose to make this day a day of abstinence, a day of repentance and prayer. It is precisely because the Cross is a symbol of self-denial that we are required to put all earthly things and our human will aside especially on this day. In this way we give proper honour and respect to the Precious Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Similarly in the Old Testament times (Leviticus 16:29, 31 ; 23:27, 32 ; Numbers29:7) it was required that the faithful deny themselves of doing work or of eating certain foods on certain days such as the Sabbath, the day of Atonement and other feast days in the Hebrew calendar. This was done to honour, worship and praise the Lord.
Before Jesus was betrayed and crucified on the Cross he gave these instructions to Peter and his other disciples; "If anyone would come after me, they must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25).
Self-denial is the greatest show of devotion and the greatest show of love one can have for God. When we deny ourselves, in other words, sacrifice what we want for what God wants then we are no longer doing our own will but Gods will. St John Chrysostom explains that Jesus does not only ask that we deny ourselves once or twice, but to deny ourselves continually and in a manner of speaking "to die on the cross daily".
Jesus asks us to sacrifice ourselves in order that God can work in us, so that we are no longer deceived and mislead as Adam and Eve were when they disobeyed God or as the Prophet Jonah was when he ran away from his calling, or as St Peter the Apostle was when learning about his masters plans. St Peter was rebuked by Christ because he had actually become a hindrance to our Lord. He was obstructing Jesus from doing the will of God. St Peter had in fact turned himself into an instrument of Satan by thinking in a humanistic way and not in a spiritual, holy way. He did not want Jesus to die since he did not understand the spiritual significance of Jesus crucifixion (Matthew 16:23).
The Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is both honourable and holy. The Holy Cross has greater meaning than could ever be described with mere words, however it can be briefly described as the symbol of selfless, pure and genuine love. The Cross formerly a symbol of death was transformed by our Lord Jesus Christs blood into a symbol of eternal life and a victory over death (1 Cor. 15:54). The Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is the enduring "finger-print" of Gods selfless love par-excellence for humanity. It is a reminder to us all that our Lord is truly with us always.
St Paul explains; although one may do many good things, perform many miracles, speak in tongues, prophesy, move mountains, have knowledge and wisdom beyond measure, give away all one possesses to the poor, or even die burning for ones faith, if someone does not have complete Love for God then they are empty and "they have gained nothing" (1 Cor. 13:1-3).
How does one receive this Love for God, one may ask? Firstly through baptism and the other holy sacraments, since "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (Rom. 5:5), then through spiritual exercise; namely repentance, prayer, fasting, and abstinence. Thirdly by renouncing or denying ones ego, in other words, ones self. Finally, in order to inherit the Spirit of Gods Love, one must renounce the world; renounce all that takes them further away from ones cross and their love for God.
St Matthew writes "No one can serve two masters " (Matthew 6:24a) similarly St John writes "If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them" (1 John 2:15b). one observes here that whoever has love for both the temporal world and for God, then they are deceiving themselves and the truth is not in them. The image of God is not perfected if we do not have truth and Gods undivided love inside us.
Power of the Precious Cross:
Finally, after gazing at our Lords Precious Cross may we remember our Lords undying love for us, may we also remember his great suffering, horrendous death and burial. May we then fix our minds on our own cross remembering our Lords words that " whoever loses their life for Me will find it."
Let us therefore with renewed vigour empowered by the power of the Cross, the true love and grace of God and the hope in the promise of the glorious Resurrection of the dead be motivated towards our own personal Golgotha. Let us lift up our own cross and follow Christs footsteps with selfless and genuine love so that our efforts may not be shown to be in vain.