For every Cross
for every Resurrection
The fact of linking resurrection to cross and cross to resurrection, cross-resurrection and resurrection preceded by cross, is not simply a ritual gesture and not an ingenious liturgical genre, but rather the highest expression of life’s reality and the longings of mankind.
We say to each and every human being, find in every cross the seeds of the beginning of the resurrection, as you find in every shadow of a very dark night, the first glimmerings of dawn. In the depths of your suffering, trust that the resurrection is for you, your suffering and cross.
So it becomes evident again that liturgical prayers and services are not marginal to the lives of the faithful, but go to the very depths of their lives. The liturgy and liturgical prayers, through their meanings, teachings, spirituality and symbols, express our reality and illuminate our way. The saying is still true, “Whosoever prays is saved:” (cf. Romans 10:13) so, whosoever does not pray is not saved.
That deep relationship between cross and resurrection in the Liturgy is the expression of their relationship, or spiritual correlation, in our life and evidence that one cannot subsist without the other. No cross without resurrection to follow the cross and save us from the cross: no resurrection without cross in the reality of our life. Resurrection takes us down from the cross.
Just as cross and resurrection are intimately linked in Jesus and in the life of Paul and the other saints, so it is too with our reality, as Saint Paul testifies, saying, “…If Christ be not raised (after his passion and cross) your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” (I Corinthians 15:17)
Besides, refusing to link cross to resurrection and resurrection to cross is the cause of many dangers, including despair, suicide, atheism, darkness, sin and crimes.
Linking cross to resurrection and resurrection to cross goes to the heart of our Christian faith and doctrine and is essential in the lives of the faithful and in Christian philosophy. Both of them sum up the meaning of the incarnation and redemption, as they do the relationship between man and God. “For he created us, yet did not cease to do everything to raise us up to heaven..” (that is, to bring us to resurrection life.) (Prayer of the anaphora from the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom)
Besides, this relationship sums up the economy of salvation. It is the best response to our human condition and the longings of our soul for immortality, for, on the one hand, we live the reality of the cross, but we hope to have done with it and, on the other hand, we aspire to immortality and resurrection. That is the meaning of being taken down from the cross and resurrection; that is the experience of Paul on the road to Damascus; that is the journey of the saints and martyrs. It is Jesus’ mission to save us from the cross and grant us the gift of resurrection.
Jesus has abased himself for us, to death, death on the cross. He came down to our human reality and rose again to fulfil our longings for resurrection. As we read in the Kneeling Prayers on the Monday of Pentecost, Jesus gives life “with the hope of resurrection to those who were smitten with the sting of death,” and announces to us the great “hopes of resurrection and of life immortal.” He is the “Chieftain of our resurrection,” who has “become a partaker, on equal terms, of our flesh and blood, because of (his) exceeding great condescension.” Of his own will, he “took upon (himself) our passions,” and “led us to apatheia,” (or passionlessness: that is, to resurrection.) (Kneeling Prayers)
That is also what appears very clearly and splendidly in the prayer of consecration of light on the morning of Great and Holy Saturday (the Saturday of Light) where we find a very beautiful description of the whole economy of salvation and the linkage between sin, incarnation, cross, death, resurrection and return to paradise. Here is an extract from this prayer, to be found in the Triodion: “Thou, Saviour, didst set the law before the first man, while he was in the state of light, to guide him towards the new world and give him the desire to grow towards eternal life, but by transgressing thy commandment, he fell from that great glory which was his. And he disgraced himself by his fall and became exiled from thee, thou glorious Light. But thou, O Lord, Lover of mankind, by thy death and the abundance of thy goodness and limitless compassion, hast condescended to the lowliness of us abandoned sinners, so as to restore us to that glory and first light whence we fell. And thou didst will to dwell in the tomb for the sake of us, who transgressed thy divine commandments. Thou didst descend to Hades and to the bowels of the earth and hast destroyed the everlasting doors and saved those who were in the darkness of death and raised them. Thou hast illumined the human race by thy resurrection on the third day and hast granted the world new life, illumining the whole world more brightly than the sun and hast restored our nature, by thy compassion, to its first rank and to the glorious light, whence we were exiled. As thou hast raised us up and restored us to life from the abyss of sin and hast delivered us from the shadows of our crimes, make us worthy, by thy rich compassion, to light our own lamps from the light of this day, symbol of thy glorious, radiant resurrection and grant to thy holy catholic and apostolic Church that perfect light.”
The meaning of that prayer is that Jesus condescended to our condition (reality of the cross). He was crucified so as to participate in our condition and he rose up to the level of our aspirations and hopes for immortality. In other words, man wished to become God and was disappointed: so “God became man that man might become god.”
~His Beatitude Gregorios III, Melkite Patriarch of Antioch and of All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem