And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, Who shall stand as a banner to the people; For the Gentiles shall seek Him, And His resting place shall be glorious.” 11 It shall come to pass in that day That the Lord shall set His hand again the second time To recover the remnant of His people who are left, From Assyria and Egypt, From Pathros and Cush, From Elam and Shinar, From Hamath and the islands of the sea. 12 He will set up a banner for the nations, And will assemble the outcasts of Israel, And gather together the dispersed of Judah From the four corners of the earth. Isaiah 11:10-12(6th Hour)
The Lord will set up a banner for the nations, a banner pointing to the four corners of the Earth that will assemble together the nations. This is the venerable Cross. In the desert of Old, the Lord instructed Moses to raise the bronze serpent on the staff, that is the Cross, so that those afflicted with the bites of vipers could look upon it and be healed. Now, the faithful look to the power of the Cross to save them from the noetic bites and scourges of the demons.
The divine hymnody of the Church offers great praise to the Cross of Christ as the symbol of victory, the victory of good over evil, the victory of life over death. We hear in the hymns,
The power of Thy Cross o Christ is great in very truth, for it was fixed in one place yet doth avail throughout all the world…
From every mountain and valley, the Cross of Christ is visible as an ensign of the ultimate victory of Christ over the adversary.
How fitting it is that the celebration of the Cross is appointed in the midst of Lent. The Cross is the compass that fixes our direction for the path ahead. At this time, the struggle has begun to take a toll as our bodies have become more weary from the Lenten effort. Our minds are more focused and making ready for the feast. The light of the new dawn has begun to show on the horizon. The Cross of Christ has become our spiritual compass, showing us the way to Pascha.
We will hear in this Sunday’s Gospel the Lord’s command to pick up our Cross and follow Him. These words have taken a new meaning as metaphor to describe the struggles in our lives. Surely these words must have been terrifying to the Disciples, for the Cross at that time was everywhere present in the Roman Empire. This presence was not one of joy and peace but of fear and perplexity as it was the symbol of punishment, the reward for those who broke the law. The roads leading to the cities were lined with crosses bearing criminals. These crosses were set in very visible places to remind all who passed-by of the brutal and exacting punishment that awaited any who chose to resist the law of the state. Truly, truly, this must have crossed the minds of the Disciples when they heard these words. We know from the histories of the Apostles that each did indeed pick up their Cross and follow the Lord, for their days were filled with deprivations, labors, and struggles, ending ultimately in Martyrdom.
To the Church, the Martyrdom of the Apostles – the blood of the Saints has become the seeds of the Church. The Cross is no longer an instrument of barbaric torture and punishment, it is a symbol of inconceivable love and victory. The Cross leads us to everlasting life!
Thy Cross do we worship o Master; and Thy holy Resurrection do we glorify!