13 March 2008

The Sign of the Cross in the Holy Place

For the Sixth Friday in Lent (St. Matthew 24:15-31)

Everything hinges on the Cross. Life, the universe and everything. All of time and space center in the Cross and find their heart and meaning there. Heaven and earth and all that is in them, all of creation, and your life, too, depend upon the Cross.

None of these things can properly be understood apart from the Cross. Nor will any of it survive apart from the Cross. Every bit of it is either put to death by the Cross, in order to live, or judged forever outside of the Cross, unto eternal death. You either die to live, or you're living to die.

The sign of the Cross is a mark of the Church on earth and of the Christian life. Not simply as artwork or jewelry, nor only as a pious personal ceremony, but tribulation and suffering within and without. It is the daily death of the old Adam by contrition and repentance, and relentless persecution by the devil and the world.

You have been taught to love and adore the Cross of Christ, and rightly so. But it remains an abomination of desolation in the Temple of God; for it is the full realization of the curse of sin and death, and of God's righteous wrath and judgment. It is the Cross that descrates the old, in order to make all things new.

That is the paradox of Christianity — the paradox of God Himself — which is entirely foolish and utterly counter-intuitive to the wisdom of sinful man. It makes no sense at all to you apart from the preaching of the Gospel, which is the forgiveness of sins by the Word and Spirit of Christ Jesus.

That is why Christ sends His messengers to you now — as He will send out His angels then — to gather His elect from the four winds, to call disciples from all the nations — by the ways and means of the Cross. By the Word of the Cross, which is the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

But there are also a host of false christs and false prophets, who go out into all the world preaching a false "gospel," one that is not defined and shaped by the painful Cross, but by impressive signs and wonders.

Do not listen to them. Do not be misled.

What is more, do not horde or grasp or cling to any of the wealth and wisdom of this world. Even the Lord's good gifts and blessings of your home and family must finally give way and be let go. Indeed, all of nature, the heavens and the earth, the sun, moon and stars, all of it will pass away.

Therefore, repent of your misplaced fear, love and trust in whatever is not God. Repent of whatever is not Christ. For only Christ and His Word of the Cross remain forever and ever.

It is His Cross, remember that. Your life and salvation do not depend upon your suffering and death, but His; not what you bear and carry, but Him. It is His Cross and Passion, His suffering and death, which have fulfilled and established all of creation, and your salvation.

His Cross is laid upon you, then, not to crush you and destroy you, but to save you, to give you life. So does He here feed you with the fruits of His Cross. Here your sins are forgiven, so that, by His tribulation, you abide in His House forever.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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