29 March 2008

Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh: the Way of the Cross

Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh: the Way of the Cross

Extracts from a talk at Essex University (14 March 1996)

I have taken the subject of the Way of the Cross partly because it is
an essential part of our Christian faith and partly because it is a
very appropriate time for us to think of Christ and His ascent to the
Cross, His gift of Himself and of His life for our salvation as we are
moving gradually step by step towards the Resurrection and the final
victory of God. I would like to take up a certain number of points
because I am not going to do either a total survey of the problem or
indeed even less a pious discourse.

In the Incarnation, when God becomes man in the Babe of Bethlehem, God
delivers Himself into the power of man totally vulnerable, totally
helpless, totally defenseless. He is given and He can not even resist
whatever may be done to Him. At that moment it is a one-sided act of
God, in a sense: in His humanity the Babe of Bethlehem cannot take
upon Himself this divine act by which God delivers Himself into the
power of man. What happens then? Then something very important
happens. We always think with the sense of slight bewilderment, at
least I do, you may be wiser but I do, about the event of the Jordan
and the Baptism of Christ.

We may say to ourselves, Why does Christ come to John? Why does He say
that all must be fulfilled in His baptism? What is the point of His
being baptised? We can understand very well what happened to the Jews
or others who came to be baptised of John: they proclaimed their
sinfulness, they confessed their sins, they renounced their sins, and
then as an act of symbolic cleansing they plunged themselves into the
water of Jordan that to them was an image of being washed clean, and
come out into newness of life. But what about Christ? We know of
Christ that He was sinless. Why did He need go into these waters of
Jordan? I got the answer many years ago from a Presbyterian pastor of
France. He was the minister of a small village which to me has got as
though a prophetic name - the place was Dieu-le-Fоt which in French
means "God has made it", and there was this man - a very simple
ordinary minister with whom we discussed that. And he said, "Don't you
realise what happened? All these people came to Jordan with all their
sins in their flesh, in their soul, in their mind, in their will, in
their hearts. They proclaimed their rejection of all they had been,
and John said to them, ▒Merge into these waters, wash yourself clean,
let all the filth of your sinfulness be washed into the waters, and
you will come out clean." And to use the imagery of so many Russian
and, I think, other folk stories, these waters became heavy with sin,
heavy with mortality, heavy with evil, which these people washed away
but which stayed in these waters. And when Christ came, said this
pastor to me, what happened is that He merged Himself into these
waters of death heavy with the mortality and the damnation of all
these people, heavy with the sins of all these people, in the way in
which we can plunge into dye a clean sheet of wool: we plunge it
white, it emerges out of it coloured with the dye. And Christ merging
into these waters of death comes out of them carrying the mortality
and all the consequences of the sin of mankind. He is ready to die,
because, to use the words of St. Maxim the Confessor, even in His
humanity before that He was immortal because a human body, a human
being can not be submitted to death when it is pervaded, filled with
divinity which is life itself. Here is the death of mankind that He
assumes upon Himself and this happens when He reaches full human
maturity, at thirty years of age He is ready to make this decision,
not as God but as man because in Christ the two natures coincide. His
humanity is true and real as much as His divinity is true and real.
And this is the moment when He starts as of His own choice the Way of
the Cross.

I will not mention the temptations in the desert when He rejects all
the attempts which the power of evil makes to conquer Him at that
moment on a threshold of the Way of the Cross. He rejects to prove His
divinity by working a miracle, to prove His divinity by casting
Himself down from the pinnacle, and He refused to renounce His
divinity for the sake of power by worshipping Satan. Later another
temptation will come upon Him. Here He is tempted, as it were, by
power. He has come out of Jordan and the Spirit of God has descended
upon Him, filled His humanity, now He feels, all things are possible
unto Me. But later will come a moment when on the way from Caesarea
Philippi another temptation will come. He speaks with His disciples of
His coming crucifixion, death, and Peter says, "Don't allow that to
happen to You. Have mercy on Yourself." And Christ answers him exactly
in the words He used for Satan, "Get away, Satan, thou thinks of
things which are human but of the things divine."

And so there He begins his Way of the Cross, His ministry. And where
does it culminate? It culminates in Jerusalem and on Golgotha. And
what happens there? What happens there is that Christ finds Himself
ultimately at one with fallen mankind that needs salvation. As St.
Athanasius the Great says, "What He has not taken upon Himself He has
not saved." So He takes all that is the predicament of mankind, not
only the ordinary things like hunger and thirst, and tiredness, and
rejection, and being misunderstood, and being betrayed by Judas, and
being renounced by Peter, and so on. No, the ultimate tragedy of
mankind is not even death, it is the loss of God, which is death,
because God is the only ultimate and eternal source of eternal life.
And so He takes upon Himself all that is man in total solidarity with
us, and He stands before God saying, "I am one of them." But at the
same time He stands before men and saying, "I stand for God, for all
that is God's, for God's truth, for God's ways, for all that God
stands for." And the result is that He is rejected by man. He dies, as
an Anglican hymn has it, on the little hill outside the walls. He can
not die in the midst of the city of man, He is an alien to the city of
men because the city of men does not wish to become the city of God at
the cost of the message, which Christ has brought - love unto death,
sacrificial, total gift of self.

And on the other hand, He dies as a man with all the consequences of
His solidarity with man. He is crucified as a criminal. And there is a
moment when in order to die and indeed in order through His death to
participate in everything, which is the tragedy of man, and assume it
and conquer it He must experience within His humanity what everyone of
us knows more or less - the loss of God. He could not die otherwise.
And His words, "My God, My God why hast Thou forsaken Me?" are
probably the most tragic words, which the world has heard, which
mankind has brought to God because it is the One who was at one with
God from whom God retires for Him to experience what it means to be
without and to die of this loss of God.

And this has got an immense importance for us not only in Christian
terms as we use them always but in another way. So often, going to
Russia, meeting there atheists that are of quite different stamp than
the vague atheism one meets in the West - people who have never met
God, who have no notion of God, for whom God doesn't exist, I have
felt an agony about them: what about them? And then the thought came
to me that when Christ died God-less on the cross, He plumbed the
depth of Godlessness as not one atheist has ever experienced or known
it, and even an atheist is not outside of the mystery of the saving
God in Christ. This is something which to me is the Way of the Cross.

* * *

* All texts are copyright: Estate of Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh Library

* * *

18 March 2008

The Order of Zuyoho - "Elevation" of the Cross

The Order of Zuyoho

It is difficult to provide an English equivalent to the Syriac word Zuyoho. It is derived from a verb which means "to put in motion", "to move something", "to lift up something". The Order of Zuyoho embodies all of these meanings. During the ceremony, the celebrant lifts and moves the object on which Zuyoho is performed, usually a cross (but water on Epiphany, Palms on Palm Sunday, etc.). Hence, we refer to the Zuyoho of the Cross, or the Zuyoho of the Palms, etc. In the following, the celebrant carries a cross.

The Celebrant enters the sanctuary in the company of the clergy and the deacons. He holds the cross high and waves it in the four directions.


Turning to the East, the celebrant chants:

Priest: He Whom the angels minister.
People: Holy are You, O God.
Priest: He Whom the cherubim bless.
People: Holy are You, O Almighty.
Priest: He Whom the seraphim sanctify.
People: Holy are You, O Immortal. The sinners entreat with repentance saying "You Who were crucified for us, have mercy upon us."

Note: When the people chant the word "crucified", shown in italics above, the celebrant moves the cross in the form of a cross blessing the people. This word is replaced by another phrase in some feast days (e.g., "baptized" in Epiphany).

The celebrant turns to the West:

Priest: He Whom the fiery hosts praise.
People: Holy are You, O God.
Priest: He Whom the spiritual beings magnify.
People: Holy are You, O Almighty.
Priest: He Whom the mortals worship.
People: Holy are You, O Immortal. The children of the faithful Church entreat saying "You Who were crucified for us, have mercy upon us."

The celebrant turns to the North:

Priest: He Whom the heavenly beings glorify.
People: Holy are You, O God.
Priest: He Whom those between [heaven and earth] exalt.
People: Holy are You, O Almighty.
Priest: He Whom the earthly beings below bow to.
People: Holy are You, O Immortal. The sinners entreat with repentance saying "You Who were crucified for us, have mercy upon us."

The celebrant turns to the South:

Priest: Our Lord, have mercy upon us.
People: Our Lord, have mercy and compassion upon us.
Priest: Our Lord, accept our services and our prayers, and have mercy upon us.
People: Glory to You, O God.
Priest: Glory to You, O Creator.
People: Glory to You, O Christ the King, Who has pity on His sinful servants. Amin.


Ma'de'dono: The Book of the Church Festivals (1984).

Adoration of the Cross during Lent

Third Sunday of Lent-Adoration of the Cross (Mark 8:34-38; 9:1).

by Rev. Fr. George Mastrantonis

This Sunday commemorates the venerable Cross and the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The Cross as such takes on meaning and adoration because of the Crucifixion of Christ upon it. Therefore, whether it be in hymns or prayers, it is understood that the Cross without Christ has no meaning or place in Christianity. The adoration of the Cross in the middle of Great Lent is to remind the faithful in advance of the Crucifixion of Christ. Therefore, the Dassages from the Bible and the hymnology refer to the Passions, the sufferings, of Jesus Christ: The passages read this day repeat the calling of the Christian by Christ to dedicate his life, for "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Christ)" (v. 34-35). This verse clearly indicates the kind of dedication which is needed by the Christian in three steps:

  1. To renounce his arrogance and disobedience to God's Plan,
  2. To lift up his personal cross (the difficulties of life) with patience, faith and the full acceptance of the Will of God without complaint that the burden is too heavy; having denied himself and lifted up his cross leads him to the,
  3. Decision to follow Christ.

These three voluntary steps are three links which cannot be separated from each other, because the main power to accomplish them is the Grace of God, which man always invokes. The Adoration of the Cross is expressed by the faithful through prayer, fasting, almsgiving and the forgiveness of the trespasses of others. On this Sunday the Adoration of the Cross is commemorated with a special service following the Divine Liturgy in which the significance of the Cross is that it leads to the Resurrection of Christ.

"A Russian woman places a coin on an ice cross outside Moscow." ©Alana Marcu | Lightstalkers