By Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky)   

At today’s Divine Litur­gy we heard that the Lord Jesus Christ said that a Chris­t­ian must car­ry his cross: whoso­ev­er will come after Me, let him deny him­self, and take up his cross, and fol­low Me (Mark 8:33).  He Him­self car­ried His cross His whole life.  Not only did He car­ry to Gol­go­tha a heavy wood­en cross upon which He was about to be cru­ci­fied; He bore His cross His entire earth­ly life! 

Con­sid­er that the eter­nal God joined Him­self to mankind, and thus as the God-man, He lived among men, shar­ing their lives with them.  He brought to this earth His love and mer­cy.  Judg­ing no one, He for­gave every­one, worked innu­mer­able mirac­u­lous works of mer­cy, love, for­give­ness, and heal­ing.  And as even more and more He shone that life of love among men, so tighter and tighter did the noose of satan­ic hatred encir­cle Him.  His embit­tered ene­mies closed ranks against Him, com­ing at Him from every side, ulti­mate­ly nail­ing Him to the cross.

As you have heard it com­mand­ed, the true Chris­t­ian may fol­low Him in like man­ner only if he will take up his cross and fol­low Him.  That holy cross is com­posed of three parts, as explained by St Theo­phan the Recluse. 

The first aspect of this cross is all those tri­als born by a per­son desir­ing to live in a pious and Chris­t­ian man­ner, and who sees that it is very bad to fal­ter due to sin­ful habits, for sin­ful habits can take full pos­ses­sion of him and hold him back.  How very often this hap­pens: ini­tial­ly, the soul of a 

The true Christian may only follow Him in like manner only if he will take up his cross and follow Him.

per­son burns with desire to live a good Chris­t­ian life, but his habit­u­al sins, which he has become accus­tomed to com­mit­ting, irre­sistibly draw him back to them again and again. And where he would not have gone, he finds him­self being pulled in every direc­tion at the same time.

That is why Bish­op Theo­phan says that a man in a sin­ful state is like a per­son walk­ing around with a rot­ting and decay­ing corpse tied to his back.  He has become bound to that corpse, refus­ing to cast it off and run away.  So it is with a fall­en and sin­ful nature.  As the say­ing goes, “you can­not run away from yourself.”

The sec­ond aspect of the cross is to strug­gle to endure all the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of our earth­ly exis­tence.  This is most com­mon­ly known as one’s cross, which includes all sor­rows, ill­ness­es, per­son­al loss­es, and so on. 

All these trials bring only peace with the firm Christian conviction that all is as it should be.

Here we need to state that if a per­son humbly and obe­di­ent­ly accepts all those sor­rows as hav­ing been sent to him by the prov­i­dence of God for his spir­i­tu­al ben­e­fit, he will receive some­thing com­plete­ly different.

If he should grum­ble, be rebel­lious, and become indig­nant, he will become dis­heart­ened.  On the oth­er hand, when he ceas­es to grum­ble, but humbly and sub­mis­sive­ly accepts these tri­als as com­ing from the right hand of the Lord, he will see every­thing around him in a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent man­ner; all  these tri­als bring only peace with the firm Chris­t­ian con­vic­tion that all is as it should be.  The Lord, the Heav­en­ly Father, does not send a stone instead of bread, but when He does send sor­rows, they must be borne in a Chris­t­ian manner.

The third aspect of the cross, and of which Theo­phan the Recluse speaks from expe­ri­ence — for it is well-known that he him­self was a great ascetic — is  the temp­ta­tion which attacks a per­son who has over­come the seduc­tion of habit­u­al sins, which occurs with spir­i­tu­al strug­glers. Such per­sons have already strug­gled, not giv­ing in to habit­u­al sins.  Then a spir­it descends upon them, the abyss of the most dan­ger­ous temp­ta­tion, the temp­ta­tion of pride.  At times the strug­glers were exhaust­ed in the fight with these temp­ta­tions, with pride­ful thoughts.  This type of cross is known only to those who bear it, such as Theo­phan him­self.  Nonethe­less it is our duty to car­ry our own cross, and to be a cross-bear­er, for our Lord does not acknowl­edge any oth­er fol­low­ers. Amen.

Trans­lat­ed from Проповеди Митрополита Филарета, том II, pp.9–10. Russ­ian Ortho­dox Youth Com­mit­tee (Flush­ing, NY), 1989. Pre­vi­ous­ly Pub­lished in Ortho­dox Life  Vol­ume 50 Num­ber 4, July-August, 2000.

About the author

Met­ro­pol­i­tan Phi­laret (Voz­ne­sen­sky) of New York and East­ern Amer­i­ca was the third First Hier­ar­ch of the Russ­ian Church Abroad. He is wide­ly ven­er­at­ed through­out the Church as a staunch defend­er of Ortho­doxy and a lov­ing, ener­getic pas­tor. He reposed on the Feast of the Archangels (Nov. 8/21), 1984. An updat­ed edi­tion of his clas­sic work, On the Law of God, is avail­able to pre-order now as Liv­ing Accord­ing to God’s Will: Prin­ci­ples for the Chris­t­ian Journey

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