Duck and Cover?

Passages: Isaiah 49.13-23; Galatians 6.14-18; John 3.13-21
Ընթերցուածքներ՝ Եսայ. ԽԹ 13-23; Գաղ. Զ 15 14-18; Յով. Գ 13-21

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

In the early 1950s up until the late 90’s, schools across the United States and Canada trained students to dive under their desks and cover their heads any time they heard the sirens blare. The now-infamous duck-and-cover drills simulated what should be done in case of an atomic attack, which began from the days of the Cold War, as fear filled the lives of people across the world. All throughout the world up until the Iron Curtain fell, fear of a nuclear attack was imminent and very real.

Once the Soviet Union fell, fear remained as to what would happen as all these new countries declared independence and as the technology and arms war continued. Slowly fears of foreign nuclear attack dissipated, until 20 years ago on 9/1,1 2001 when a terrorist attack took the lives of thousands. No, it was not a nuclear attack, it was not a crazed gunman – but the attack was real, and devastating and there was nowhere to run or hide; there was no desk we could dive under; the siren’s blared and fear again filled our hearts.

I’m not sure where this practice was created but I’ve never understood how a desk and chair could protect against any attack especially a nuclear attack. It’s a piece of wood with some paint over it, how could this really protect me? As Christian’s, from the moment we are baptized, we are taught that true protection comes from the Holy Cross. Ye, I wonder, have we perhaps asked the same about the cross as I asked about the desk – how could this really protect me? It’s a piece of wood or maybe some sort of metal. Can the cross protect us from nuclear war? Can the cross protect us from sickness, loss of life, anxiety, depression, or other worldly pains? Can the cross protect us from a terrorist attack?

At the end of every service in the Armenian Church the priest blesses us by saying, “protector of the faithful Christ our God, protect and free your people by the sign of the Holy Cross keeping us safe from visible and invisible enemies…” Similarly, when a priest prays for healing over someone, we say “By the sign of your all powerful and conquering cross bring healing and aid to your servants…” My dears unlike our desks in school, which we falsely believed would protect us from any real danger, the power of the Holy Cross is not in the material it is made of but the symbol for which we as Christian’s, as St. Paul teaches, take glory in. For the ancient world, and even for many today, the cross is seen as a tool of death. It was used to crucify criminals and it was used to kill our Lord. However, the cross of Christ Jesus, which we glorify and look to for protection and healing is a witness to the great act of God. The wood, silver, gold or whatever material it is made of does not bring protection, rather the Holy Cross itself reveals to us that Christ Jesus is victorious over sin, the devil, demons and death.

That is why when we buy a cross or get one as a gift, we must bring it to Church to be blessed before we wear it because the material is useless rather, it is God through our prayers that makes the cross into lifegiving.

Christ Jesus through His death and resurrection made the Holy Cross a tool of faith and protection rather than fear and death. As the 8th century Church Father, St. John of Damascus teaches us, “We venerate the Cross of Christ, by which the power of the demons and the deceit of the devil were destroyed.” No, the cross is not a lucky rabbits’ foot, a 4-leaf clover or any other talisman we hang in our homes or around our necks; It is not a bullet proof vest, or a nuclear bunker, or a desk we jump under when we hear the sirens blare. The cross of Christ is the powerful symbol which reminds us that we are loved despite our flaws and sins. The Cross draws us closer to the mystery of Jesus and his power over death, for the Cross focuses our hearts and minds on Jesus Christ and His love for us. The power, protection and healing of the Cross comes not from the material but that through it we begin to know God. That is why Christ tells us to pick up and carry our cross – it means live and be a witness of God’s love and healing to the rest of the world.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, when in life we hear the sirens blare telling us to dive under our desks, when we face fear, depression, anxiety, sickness, hopelessness, darkness or even when we enjoy joy and good health, let us pray by crossing ourselves, looking to the Holy Cross for thanksgiving, protection and healing. For the Cross is a reminder and symbol of life after death, of freedom from sin, and of the ultimate love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) “Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his afflicted.” (Isaiah 49:13) “Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule… Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, Amen.” (Galatians 6:16-18)

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