Russian version here.
Beloved brothers and sisters,
For the last two Sundays we have heard about the path of faith, and today the Lord Himself speaks about this path. For if we truly believe in Him, then we must necessarily follow Him, and He says to the people: “Whoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mk 8:34).
And thus, beloved, the path of faith is the path of the Cross. As we heard on the day of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, the righteous, trusting completely in God, voluntarily accepted every kind of want in order to follow His words.
This is a hard saying, brothers and sisters! Is this possible for us? Yes, it is possible, in Christ. For the Apostle Paul tells us that in Christ “we have not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but who was in all points tempted as [we are], [yet] without sin” (Heb 4:15).
Our Savior's entire life was a Cross. When he was born, Herod tried to kill Him. When he taught and healed thousands of people, the authorities insulted and persecuted Him. Throughout the 3 years of His ministry, he lived as a wanderer, teaching and preaching first in one place, then in another. He hungered, he thirsted, and he slept little. And all this not because of some sort of hatred of the body, but because as He himself said, “I have meat to eat that ye know not of… My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (Jn 4:32, 34) – that is, He didn't want to waste any time when He could be laboring for our salvation.
And at the end of His earthly life, He died a terrible death for us and for our salvation. We see His Cross in our midst. Let us therefore work together with Him. Let us deny ourselves, and take up our crosses, and follow Him. He Himself explains why this is necessary, saying, “For whoever will save his life, shall lose it; but whoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it” (Mk 8:35).
What do these paradoxical words mean? God our Creator gave us a great and priceless gift: His Image. Mankind is unique in God's creation. We can reason, pray, and love. We can become like our Creator Himself. And we have the gift of free will. We can use these great gifts to grow closer to God and become like Him. But we can also misuse them, for the satisfaction of our passions and lusts. That is what we must lose for the sake of Christ and the Gospel, so that we might save our souls.
“Seeing then,” as the Apostle says, “that we have a great High Priest, that hath passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast [our] profession” (Heb 4:14), and let us follow Him on the path of the Cross, sending up to Him all glory, honor and worship, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, unto the ages of ages. Amen.