What Do a Mask and the Holy Cross Have in Common?

Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross

Passages: Isaiah 49:13-23; Galatians 6:14-18; John 3:13-21

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!

What do a seat belt, a helmet or a mask have in common? They only work when you use them. I am certain all of us have seen on the television, heard on the radio or viewed on social media some version of this advertisement, emphasizing the importance of wearing our face coverings when we go out and about, during this time of the pandemic.

Regardless of our own personal thoughts, the science, the politics, the acceptance or rejection of the mask, having a mask at all times has become a new norm. We never leave the house or car without one, and we keep it on for both protection of others and us. There are also many types but all of them serve the same purpose, some form of protection for the wearer and for those around. Apart from the protection it provides, it also serves as a reminder of what is going on around us, and the difficulties especially of this year. Of course some who see us wearing our protection begin arguing that it doesn’t really work or it’s unnecessary. It’s all a lie made to manipulate people. Then there are those who full heartedly believe that without this protection, they would perish. So I ask you my dears, what does the mask and the Holy Cross have in common? They only work when you use them.

Like a mask, there are many types of crosses, and some people may not agree with us wearing them or keeping them. Crosses make some people uncomfortable, especially those who argue that they are unnecessary or used to manipulate people. As St. Paul says, the cross to many is foolishness and it is pointless. Today, the Armenian Church, along with all the Orthodox Churches in the coming days celebrates the Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross. A feast day full of historical stories of how the Holy Cross upon which Christ was crucified was rediscovered and exchanged from one hand to another. However, for us, Armenian Christian’s exulting the Holy Cross is a very natural reality void of politics, opinions and agendas because for us the Holy Cross, upon which Christ was crucified on is not one fueled by history, politics or agendas rather, for us the Holy Cross has always served as a symbol, as a reminder of Christ’s compassion towards the suffering of all humanity. We adorn not just our homes, Churches, offices and other places of habitation with crosses but we also bear a cross around our necks as a continual reminder to us of God’s blessings, and also as a shield and protection against all the difficulties of life we face. We take the words of St. Paul very personally who preaches to the Church of Galatia that “But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (v.14)

As Christian’s we use the Cross of Christ not because it has magical powers, not because it serves as some sort of a good luck charm. Let us not forget that prior to Christianity, the Roman Empire used it as a tool to punish and put to death those who broke the law. Therefore, the power of the Cross, what makes the Cross Holy is not within the material or some incantation but rather, the true power of the cross is in Christ Jesus who willingly died upon it for our sake. Our faith is not in the wood or metal but in Christ Jesus who transformed that tool of death into a life. That is what we are celebrating today; that is who we are Exulting, lifting up. Not a material protection but true protection from God; not temporary decoration, but the divine light, which we are adorned with through our baptism; not some piece of gold or silver, but a treasure that is given to us by God as a sword and shield to defend against the all the adversities of this life.

However, just like a mask only works when we use it properly, likewise, the Holy Cross becomes our protection and life when we learn to glorify God properly. This means, if we have no faith, if we do not accept Christ’s sacrifice, if we do not repent of our sinfulness and rather, we place our hope and trust in everything else from blue eyes, to horoscopes, to horseshoes or even in our own abilities, than the cross for us will remain a piece of decoration, foolishness or like this mask, symbolize fear, politics and remains useless sitting in the drawer. But when we lift up our eyes to God, just as the Israelite’s did in the desert, and if we repent, confess and coming to Church receive the Communion of Christ Jesus, accepting everything He has done for us, than for us the cross will become the Holy Cross, the Exulted Cross, the Tree of Life and like this Basil the blossoming of fruitfulness of life.

My dears, what do the mask, and the Holy Cross have in common? The mask is here today, gone tomorrow and serves only to protect what is on the surface. The Holy Cross for those who believe in the Word of God, is the shield and sword to protect our souls and is the crutch to rise up upon and is the Altar upon which our sins through Christ Jesus have been crucified. Let us therefore, remain always aware of what the Holy Cross is to us who believe in God. Let us remind ourselves of the power of the Holy Cross through prayer, whether the Holy Cross is in our homes, Churches and especially around our necks. Let us lift up our lives to God, just as we lift up the Holy Cross, so that He will through the Holy Spirit transform our weakness into strength and our pain into joy, just has He transformed death into life, Amen!

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