митрополит Антоний Су́рожский (Блум)

Sermon on the Sunday of the Cross (18th March 1990)

As we progress deeper into the weeks of Lent, we can say with an ever-growing sense of gratitude and joy, a serene and exulting joy, the words of a psalm, «My soul shall live, and with gratitude I will give glory to the Lord». In the first week of Lent we saw all the promises of salvation given in the Old Testament fulfilled: God became man, salvation has come, and all hopes are possible.

Then, in the second week of Lent, we had the glorious proclamation of all the Saints of Christendom that not only did God come and dwell in our midst, but that He has poured out upon us, into the Church, and into every human soul ready to receive Him, the presence, the transforming gift of the Holy Spirit that makes us gradually commune ever deeper to the Living God until one day, one day we become partakers of the Divine Nature.

And today, if we ask ourselves, «But how can that be? How can we be forgiven, how can evil be undone?» – one step brings us deeper into gratitude, deeper into joy, deeper into certainty when we contemplate the Cross.

There is a passage of the Gospel in which we are told that when Christ spoke of salvation and of its conditions, Peter said to Him, «Who then can be saved?» – and Christ answered «What is not possible to men is possible for God!» ... And He Himself came; the fullness of God abiding in a human person, and He has power to forgive because He is the victim of all the evil, all the cruelty and destructiveness of human history. Because indeed, no one but the victims can forgive those who have brought evil, suffering, misery, corruption and death into their lives. Christ does not only forgive His own murderers when He says, «Father, forgive – they don't know what they are doing», He goes beyond this because He has said, «Whatever you have done to one of my smaller brethren and sisters, you have done it to Me» – not only in good, but indeed in evil; because in compassion, in solidarity He identifies with every sufferer; the death, the pain, the agony of each of those who suffer is His. So, when He prays, «Father, forgive! They do not know what they are doing, what they have been doing», He prays for each of us not only in His own Name, but in the name of all those whom evil has visited because of human sin.

But it is not only Christ who forgives; everyone who has suffered in soul, in body, in spirit – everyone is called to grant freedom to those who have made him suffer. So, we can see why Christ says, «Forgive so that you may be forgiven», because both the victim and the culprit are tied in one knot of solidarity and reciprocal responsibility. Only the victim can say, «Lord – forgive him, forgive her», and only then can the Lord say, «I do!».

But do you realise what responsibility it puts on each of us with regard to all and everyone? Also the depth, the glorious depth of hope which opens up to us when we look at the Cross and see, that in solidarity with all mankind, Christ, taking upon Himself all the suffering of the world, accepting to die an impossible death, has said in the name of all sufferers, «Yes – we forgive!».

This is one more step towards freedom, this is one more step towards the moment when we shall be faced with Christ's Resurrection that engulfs us also, because the risen Christ is offering all and each of us the fullness of eternal life.

So again and again, we can say that Lent is the spring of a new life, a new time, a time of renewal, not only in repentance, but in being taken by Christ Himself as the shepherd took the lost sheep, as the Lord took up His Cross, brought It to the place of death, and undid death, undid evil by forgiveness and giving His life. Once more we are confronted with another step of our freedom and of newness. Let us enter ever deeper into this mystery, into this wonder of salvation, and rejoice in the Lord, and rejoicing, step after step, more and more, let us also express our gratitude by newness of life.

Amen.

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