April 21, 2006
Royal Hours of Holy Friday
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Prescribed for the First Hour is a pericope from St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians where he writes that the world has been crucified to him and he has been crucified to the world.(6:14) What comes to mind when we hear or read these words? The obvious answer, of course, is St. Paul’s participation in the crucifixion of the Lord. But how is this possible? How is St. Paul connected to Christ’s crucifixion? Again, the answer is not difficult to find. St. Paul, like all of us, is one with the Lord’s crucifixion through baptism.
I think all of you are aware that baptism is a word I often use in my homilies. Baptism binds us – it grafts us – to the cross of the Lord. Therefore, St. Paul is able to say, “The world is crucified to me and I to the world.” Consequently, because he (and we) is (are) one with the crucifixion of the Lord, he (and we) is (are) no longer bound to the old life. Indeed, the great Apostle boldly proclaims that if anyone is in Christ – if anyone is bound to his death and resurrection – that person is a “new creation. [T]he old has passed away, behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Through baptism we have become a new creation because we have entered the very death of the Lord. We are a new creation because our participation in the death and resurrection of the God-Man has taken us from the old life and has brought us into the kingdom which is to come.
We have recently erected a new sign outside of the Cathedral. Beneath the gold leafed cross is a line from Sunday Matins; “Through the cross joy has come into all the world.” Is this statement true or is it false advertising? If it is true, how so?
For the Christian, the cross of Christ is the vanquisher of sin and death. We were once a people bound to sin and death. Remember the reading from Romans this morning; “While we were weak, while we were sinners, while we were enemies of God” – St. Paul does not hold back – “Christ died for us.”(5:6-11) Because of the cross – because of the voluntary death of the Savior - we have been rescued from that horrible enslavement to sin and death. Through the cross we have been refashioned into a new creation.
Yesterday, at the Vesperal Liturgy, I spoke briefly about Christ being the one great high priest who is the one new sacrifice, the one new covenant, and the one new temple not made by hands. As the new people of God we, through baptism and therefore through the cross, have been incorporated into Christ our new and living temple. In gathering to celebrate the Eucharist we are the manifestation of the living, breathing crucified and risen temple which is Christ.
As we enter the Lord’s three day Pascha we already hear in our minds and hearts the proclamation of his resurrection which occurred two thousand years ago. Because we are the recipients and participants of this Good News we are responsible for proclaiming and revealing the One who voluntarily submits to the cross and the tomb, the One who is risen from the dead and the One who makes all things new.
Unless we are faithful to this apostolic work – unless we are able to be Christ whom we preach and bring his uncreated light into the cold, lonely and frightening darkness which still exists -- all which is done in this sacred space is a theatrical drama where we are wearing masks of piety as we vainly assume roles reserved for the authentic Christian.
Christ ascends the cross and we, like St. Paul, are to be dead to the world and the world is to be dead to us. Being one with Christ’s death the world will perceive and receive his uncreated light. Being one with Christ’s death the world will come to know that death has been swallowed by life. Being one with Christ’s death the world will hear the word of victory, “through the cross joy has come into all the world”. Amen.
Copyright © 2006 by Father Robert M. Arida