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Revista Studii Teologice

REVISTA FACULTĂŢILOR DE TEOLOGIE DIN PATRIARHIA ROMÂNĂ



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Importanţa Sfintei Cruci pentru cultul Bisericii

The Importance of the Holy Cross in Divine Worship

Autor(i): Marian-Florin BĂBUŞ


The Cross and Resurrection are central to the Orthodox faith and worship, to the new life in Christ. They are landmarks in the earthly life and activity of the in-carnate Son of God, because through the death and resurrection of the Saviour the dominion of death and darkness were abolished and the world was given life. The Cross sums up the entire Church doctrine, it is its very essence. Beholding the cross, Christians recall all the Lord’s teachings and acts, intended to release mankind from the bondage of sin. It has the transformative, sanctifying and salvific power that turned „fishermen into apostles” and gentiles into Christians. The Cross, with its transfiguring power, made the Holy Apostle Paul – once a persecutor of the Church – be forever united to Christ.
By means of various types and symbols, God revealed the importance and role of the Cross in the history of mankind. In the Old Testament, the Holy Cross is pre-figured as early as the Edenic times and throughout the entire Old-Testament peri-od, as symbol of the restoration of the severed bond between man and God. Prefigu-rations are placed in the context of human salvation during the times of Saviour Jesus Christ. Thus, Old Testament messianism includes – beside foretellings concer-ning the wonder-working activity of Jesus Christ – clear mentions of the Lord’s pas-sions and death on the Cross. Thus the Cross which was prefigured by the Tree of life in the middle of the Eden, later acquires a new dimension and reveals its myste-ry and operation, always in conjunction with the Person of our Saviour Jesus Christ, as well as all its significance and workings partially revealed and partially hidden in symbols and metaphors in the Old Testament, where it appeared as an yet unde-ciphered „prophetic sign”. It is confirmed by our Saviour Jesus Christ Himself, when He speaks of the copper serpent raised by Moses in the desert, to heal those bitten by venomous snakes. It is the sign of the exchange of love between man and God. And Christ was not ashamed by His Cross because through it He saved us, remitted our sins, showed to us His greatest love. Therefore the Cross becomes „Christ’s Cross”, as well as „the Cross of Christ’s followers”. The Cross was honored and vene-rated by the Holy Apostles, becoming the subject of their preaching and their pride, because – as the Holy Apostle Paul says – «the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God» (1 Cor. 1, 18). He can only find glory in the Cross of the Lord: «May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world» (Gal. 6, 14).
The Cross has been venerated by Christians since the earliest days of the Church and will be venerated until the end of time, when it will accompany Saviour Jesus Christ in His glory, as a sign of the „Son of Man”, as a token of His triumph over sin, death and devil. Once it had been elevated under emperor Constantine the Great, the Cross became an actual, historical object of veneration. The Church dedi-cated to it feasts of remarkable beauty and theological depth, as well as a special hymnology that extols it as true «giver and maker of life». Our liturgical books con-tain many hymns dedicated to the Holy Cross expressing dogmatic, moral, spiritual truths of great depth and beauty. In glorifying the Holy Cross, Church Fathers tho-roughly studied the Old Testament and compiled all prefigurations of the Cross on which our Saviour Jesus Christ was crucified and especially its divine power manifest in the prophets, priests or kings, in the historical and religious circumstances of the Jewish people. They showed the salvific power of the Cross and developed an astoun-ding poetical-dogmatic demonstration of the link between Cross and Resurrection, and between the Cross and the resurrection of the dead. They showed that it is through the sanctifying, renewing and transfiguring power of the Cross that people fight the temptations coming from the devil.
The Orthodox Church has never venerated the Cross alone, without Christ crucified on it and has never mistaken veneration for worship. There is a close con-nection between Cross and Resurrection and they are interdependent. There is no resurrectin without Cross, while the Cross is meaningless without the Resurrection. The Incarnation of the Son of God would be meaningless without the culmination of the way of the cross through Resurrection. The Incarnation, the Cross and the Re-surrection make up a whole in the economy of man’s salvation; each of these mo-ments holds a particular, indispensable place in the process of salvation. The Cross is the altar on which our Saviour Jesus Christ was sacrificed, and also the instrument by which the world was saved. And if the Old Testament greatly honored the altar because it was consecrated to God, and therefore those who touched it were deemed to be sanctified, we owe all the more veneration to the altar where Jesus Christ was sacrificed to redeem us from the bondage of the devil. From an instrument of doom and mockery, as it used to be in the Old Testament, the Cross becomes, in the New Testament, a means for saving us from the devil. The Cross now becomes the divide between sin and virtue, between the lot of worshippers who honor it, and the lot of its foes. The Cross is an indispensable path and means of salvation and an object of God’s love for people. This is why the Cross is preached by our Saviour even before His crucifixion on this ancient instrument of torture, in order to prepare His disciples for this unique moment in the history of mankind. The pain caused by the crucifixion of the Lord has turned into empowerment of the Christians and in its eschatological becoming the Cross has turned into weapon against the devil, as the sign of the One who was like us in all things, except sin.
We note that, in venerating the Holy Cross, we do not adress the material of which it is made, but the One crucified on it who sanctified it with His precious Blo-od; its saintlines is conferred by Christ because His Holy Blood was shed on it. As Christ has sanctified it with the power of the Holy Spirit, the Cross is indispensable in any act of worship performed in the Church and in the life of any believer. Its pre-sence in the celebration of the Holy Mysteries and hierurgies proves its importance for the liturgical and sacramental life of the Orthodox Church, opening a new hori-zon to Christians. The Cross has thus a significant role in man’s life in all his social, cultural, economic as well as spiritual activities. Seeing the world from the perspective of the Cross, man is able to resist the urge of having it for himself. Without Christ’s Cross, man is tempted to use his gifts selflishly, which may isolate him from his fellow people and from God. Man and things are sanctified in the light of the Cross; in the light of the Cross worldly things reveal their character as gifts that can be offered in order to enhance the loving communion between God and man. This perfect com-munion is made possible by Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross and His self-giving, which enables man to open himself to his fellow people and to God. To the one who fails to approach the gift of the world through the Cross, this gift becomes an opportunity for sin and wrongdoings. However, whoever approaches this gift bearing the Cross in the heart, knows how to approach anything without seeing the world as an occasion for sin or sinful attraction. The Cross is an incentive that operates upon the entire being of the faithful, protecting them from the forces of evil and making them open spiritu-ally to God.
Man must renounce physical pleasure, deny his individual nature, suppress his urges and individual will, which project the natural impulses of pleasure upon the world’s beauty. Renouncing natural urges voluntarily, through the Cross, gives man the only opportunity to discern the truth beyond the visible appearance of things and phenomena. The truth becomes known only through the Cross within one’s personal relationship with the fellow people, by which one breaks the closed circle of life which is natural individuality in order to humbly learn the reasons of things. The Cross is an exhortation to ascesis, to physical abstinence, to moderation, to love, as means by which man can know the true beauty of things. Perceived dispassionately, all things in the world and the entire Creation acquire a greater importance, as steps towards the fellow people and God, but this worldview is the result of ascetical exercise, aim-ing to restore man’s spiritual power. This is the lifestyle proposed by the Church to its faithful, through the Cross, whereby the Holy Mysteries always bring Christ in a sacrificial state, as a living, inexhaustible source of saintliness and salvation. Thus we may assert that all consequences of our Saviour’s sacrifice on the Cross and implicitly the Cross itself are beneficial to the man, the world, the cosmos, the entire creation in heaven and on earth.

Taguri:
Misiune şi pastoraţie
Pagini: 157-174