Sermon of Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany on the Elevation of the Cross
In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit!
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
Today, the Cross is lifted up, a symbol of humiliation and abasement, and we now glorify this symbol of infamy. What does it mean for us Christians amidst all the misfortunes and sorrows which befall us on this earth? Wars in the Holy Land, wars in the lands of the Russian Empire, and our own wars, in which we humiliate each other, and surrender to the enemy of the Resurrection…
What does the One Crucified on this Cross tell us of all this? He prays: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:24).
Indeed, do they know what they do? Can we doubt the truth of the words of the Truth Incarnate? They know not what they do…
Who crucified Christ? The wickedness of mankind? No! Pilate washed his hands of the matter. Judas returned the thirty silver pieces, admitting that he betrayed innocent blood. The devil? He could not even harm Job the Much-Suffering, or moreover tempt the Savior of the world on the mountain after His baptism, and the Cross of Christ defeated him once and for all. So wherein lies the reason for this Cross? The Lord Himself said: “they know not what they do,” thereby answering the question.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). The Cross is a sign of love—the limitless, immeasurable love of God the Father to mankind. The Righteous Father, Who in His righteousness showed mercy, and has so much mercy for fallen mankind that hands over His only-begotten Son for crucifixion. But this love is also shared by the Son. He spreads it with his hands upon the Cross, in both directions. His love is directed to the Father, Whose Essence He shares, with Whom He is consubstantial. His love extends to mankind, to the person whose flesh He assumed, yet without sin. This love illuminates us with the grace of the Holy Spirit. We can understand and receive this love only by the grace of the Holy Spirit, Who also, like the Father and the Son, not only loves, but is Love Itself. Within this fact, that the Lord Triune God is Love, lies our challenge: not only so that we have love ourselves, but that we commune with the Thrice-Holy Love, partaking of this Love, crucifying upon the cross all of our passions, all the pleasures of this world, everything that holds us back from ascending to Him, all our selfhood, our self-love, which divides us from real love, that is from God and our neighbor. We are challenged to love God as He loved the world. The Cross of Christ is the Cross of love, the Cross of Divine love, intersected by love for mankind.
We behold only a weak reflection of this Cross in the Cross created by the weakness of the Jews and the violence of the pagans. It was not only two thousand years ago, but now and ever, and all this violence, all this weakness, all this madness. For they think that they crucify Christ, but know not what they do. In reality, they fulfill the will of God, the will of the love of God, ready to be crucified for our sake, for sinful man, and introduce Light into our dark world. The Cross illuminates the world. The light of Christ, the light which is the Lord, which He has within Himself, as one of the variations of His love, this light casts light upon our world.
As we worship Him, dear brothers and sisters, we depart from everything earthly that binds us, and ascend with Christ to the heavens. For He said that He will bring us to Himself, rising above the earth, willingly taking His Cross, the cross of suffering, the suffering of love.
Munich, September 14/27, 2002.