In the name of the Father, Son and holy Spirit, Amen!
Who can tell me what cross is in Armenian? And who can tell me what this is? (Basil) Bonus points if you can tell me what it is in Armenian? (Ռեհան) Today we are celebrating the Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross. It is a very important feast and one that all Churches around the world celebrate together. But who can tell me what exulting means? Glorifying, raising up, celebrating. Right after the sermon today, you will see me lift up the cross and I ask God to bless the Basil, everyone here, each one of you, our families and friends, and even all the people in the four corners of the world.
There are many types of crosses right; some bigger, some smaller. How many of us have seen maybe a cross at home? Or in Church? There are a lot right? Maybe we have a cross that we wear around our necks? As a priest I get to carry a cross in my hand as a tool. I use it to bless people, to help people. Is this a cross? (show knife) And if it was bigger it would be a sword right? Knives, daggers and swords are used more for fighting, or hurting. They are weapons right? But what happens if I turn this knife upside down? It looks like a cross. When we think about a cross, just like the ones at home, the ones on the priest’s clothes or hand, we always look at it like this. Yet, the cross needs to be seen from every angle in order for all of us to understand what it is used for and why it is important for us Christians.
This looks like 2 sticks together right? But the cross that we are exulting, raising up, is a more than just two sticks put together. The cross that we use to bless and have in our homes and maybe even around our necks is a shield that we use to protect ourselves but it is also a sword that we use to protect others.
But that’s not what the cross was always. Who can tell me what the cross was? Where do we see the cross the first time, what is it used for? When Jesus was crucified, when Jesus was killed for our sins. That sounds horrible, right? But Christ Jesus did that because of his love for all of us. Me, you, your families and friends. God’s love iss so powerful, his compassion iss so deep that, in order to free us from our sinfulness, He came and died for us. And when Jesus did that, He picked up his very heavy cross and carried it with him. But he taught us something very important, He commanded each one of us to also lift up, to raise up our own crosses and to follow Him through our actions.
Is this cross heavy to carry? (give my hand cross to someone) No, its pretty light. What about this cross? (The processional cross) It’s a bit heavier. See being a Christian, as Christ says, is we have to carry our own crosses. And sometimes those crosses can be very heavy, sometimes they are lighter. Some are small, some are large. Sometimes they feel like shields that we use to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Sometimes they feel like swords and knives that we have to use to defend and fight evil. Because to be a Christian, to follow Jesus and carry our cross isn’t always easy. It takes a lot of work and sometimes we don’t want to do what it takes to be a Christian – we don’t want to carry our cross.
Who can tell me an example of something that is hard to do but Jesus teaches us that we have to? Being kind and loving to someone who doesn’t love us back. Forgiving someone who has hurt us, even when they don’t say they’re sorry. Listening to mom and dad when they tell us to do our homework or that we can’t go out with friends even when we really want to. Standing up against a bully and helping someone in need, even when it’s not the popular or cool thing to do.
These things can be very hard, but these are examples of how Jesus Christ is teaching us to lift up our crosses, to follow His example, and as St. Paul teaches us today, to take pride in our crosses. Jesus carried his cross to death because he loved us. And to show him we love him also, we must lift up our cross and ask him to be our strength when it becomes too heavy to carry.
So my dears, I want us to remember what the cross is every time we see it. Anytime we see the cross in Church, at home, every time we cross ourselves before we pray, we cross ourselves when we pray and ask for God’s protection and help. And when we cross ourselves what do we say Hanoon, Hor yev Vortvo, yev Hokvouyn Srpo Amen – every time we do this, we should remember that God loved us so much that His Son Jesus Christ came down and took up His cross and died on it. And we love God so much that we as Christian’s also are called to take up our crosses and to love everyone the same way he loved us. No matter who it is. Because being a Christian, being a follower of Jesus is not always easy but it is always filled with blessings and love.
Now as we get ready to bless everyone with the cross for this feast, I have a small gift for you each. These are small crosses that were made and blessed in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, where Jesus was born and lived and died. And every time I lift up the cross to bless the world, I want you all to also lift your cross up and help me bless the world too. And then when we finish today, take these crosses home with you, keep them in your pockets, backpacks, purses or wallets, and every time you see it, or every time life demands from you something difficult, I want you to remember that as Christian’s we are called to be different, to be a light in this dark world – to protect and defend. To be love in the face of hate and hope to those who don’t have hope. And every time each of us do that, we begin by lifting up our crosses and following Jesus, whom we glorify and exult with the Father and Holy Spirit, Amen!