Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross

"Dearly beloved, when we look to Christ lifted up on the Cross, the eyes of faith see more than what the wicked saw, unto whom it was said through Moses: And thy Life shall hang in doubt before thee, and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy Life.  They saw in the Crucified nothing but the work of their own wickedness.  As it is written: They feared greatly.  But their faith was not unto faith, which giveth life by justification, but unto the torture of their own bad conscience.  But our understanding is enlightened by the Spirit of Truth.  And so with pure and open hearts we can see the glory of the Cross shining over heaven and earth, and discern by inward sight what the Lord meant when his passion was nigh at hand, and he said: Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out; and I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

O how wonderful is the power of the Cross!  O how unutterable is the glory of the Passion, wherein standeth the Lord's judgment-seat, and the judgment of this world, and the might of the Crucified!  Verily, O Lord, thou hast drawn all men and all things unto thee!  Albeit thou didst spread out thine hands all the day unto an unbelieving and gainsaying people, yet the world was made to feel and own thy Majesty!  Verily, O Lord, thou hast drawn all things unto thee!  For the senseless elements gave one wild cry of horror at the iniquity of Jewry; the lights of the firmament were darkened; day was turned into night; earth quaked with strange tremblings; and thus all God's works refused to serve the guilty.  Verily, O Lord, thou hast drawn all things unto thee!  For the veil of the Temple was rent in twain from top to bottom, and thus the Holy of Holies denied itself as a sanctuary for the ministration of unworthy priests, that the shadow might be changed for the substance, prophecy for realization, and the Law for the Gospel.

Verily, O Lord, thou hast drawn all things unto thee!  What was once veiled under types and shadows in the one Jewish Temple, is now hailed by the love of all peoples in full and open worship everywhere.  There is now a higher order of Levites, a more honourable rank of Elders, a priesthood with an holier anointing.  Thy Cross is for all men a well of blessings and a cause of thanksgiving.  Thereby for them that believe in thee, weakness is turned into strength, shame into glory, and death into life.  The changing ordinance of divers carnal sacrifices is gone; the one oblation of thy Body and Blood fulfilleth them all.  For thou art the true paschal Lamb that takest away the sins of the world.  Thou art thyself the accomplishment of all mysteries, so that as now there is one Sacrifice in place of many victims, so there shall be one kingdom composed of all peoples."

-- From a sermon by St Leo the Great

** Painting (fresco) by Piero della Francesca

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