Homily on the Exaltation of the Holy Cross We preach Christ crucified What is the way of the cross? 1 Corinthians 1:18-24. Text Homily.

Homily on the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
We preach Christ crucified

What is the way of the cross?
1 Corinthians 1:18-24

Sep 14/27 2009

(Many more homilies about the Exaltation of the Holy Cross here )

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

“For the preaching of the Cross is, to them that perish, foolishness. But unto us which are saved, it is the power of God.” [1]


So says the Apostle. We also preach that the Lord Jesus Christ crucified just as he did.

What is the preaching of the Cross? The preaching of the Cross is preaching about the way of the Cross.


Our Lord spoke about the way of the Cross. It’s rather mysterious, really. And the reason it’s mysterious is because of our sins, because the way of the Cross is the way of life; and yet, in order to gain it, we must die. The way of the Cross is the way of joy — or to joy. But in order to gain it, we must undergo tribulation and be sad.

The world does not understand this. It is foolishness to them. To the world, when someone takes something from you, take it back. To the world, when something is good for you, it is good, no matter whether it’s bad for someone else. To the world it is: I take what is mine. To the world it is: No one should treat me in this kind of way, whatever way we don’t enjoy or don’t like or think is beneath our station. To the world: When you have an enemy, you fight him. The way Christians live with their enemies, the way Christians do not strive after or shouldn’t strive – a true Christian, that is — after only things that they desire: The world doesn’t understand this; it’s foolishness.

And the reason I say, “The way of the Cross is a mystery” is because, to a large extent, we don’t understand either. We know what is right, but our sins obscure from us the real truth of the matter.

How can this be otherwise? Just look at your life. You know that, as a Christian, you should forgive everyone; and yet when someone slights you, what is your first response? Just like the world: To be angry, to judge. Perhaps, with reaching some maturity in the way of the Cross, you wouldn’t reach out against this person, but still the thought is there.

The way of the Cross is the way that Jesus Christ lived.


When we preach the Cross, we preach the One Who is on the Cross. We preach the way of life of the One Who is on the Cross. He taught us the way to live. The way to live is to turn your other cheek when your enemy slaps you on your cheek. The way to live is to love your enemies and to not fight against them. The way of life is to humble yourself, to not seek after the things that the world thinks are so pleasant and so alluring, and yet are so ephemeral and will go away. This is the preaching of the Cross. This is the way of the Cross.

The Lord said in another place: “He who wills, let him take up his Cross and follow Me” [2]. And in another place He says, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Take My yoke upon you for I am meek and lowly, and you shall find rest for your souls.” [3]

The way of the Cross is also taking on the yoke of our Lord Jesus Christ. But He said, it’s easy and light. The way of the Cross is not easy and light. This is where the mystery comes in. This is where the Christian begins to understand, in living his life, what the Lord means by “the way of the Cross” and by His promises that in the world we will have tribulation and then also promising that His yoke is easy and his burden is light.

Truly, to be holy is to have an easy way and a light way and a restful way. That is absolutely true. The problem is that we who are trying to be holy make many missteps. And we must have tribulation in order to learn to become holy.

So this way of the Cross is difficult. Our Lord’s way, the yoke of Christ, is easy and is light. When oxen follow their master’s command, it is quite easy for them. When they chafe against the yoke, when they’re disobedient, when they’re recalcitrant, then the yoke chafes them, bruises them, hurts them. So it is with us.

Our Lord’s yoke is easy and light. And the way of the Cross is difficult, because of us, and because of the world. This is a mystery that is difficult to penetrate. It is difficult to understand: Why should I delay my personal gratification when there is no immediate reward? The world doesn’t understand this.


Many times, let’s be honest with ourselves, we don’t either, which is why we sin. But the more we learn of our Lord’s yoke, the more we follow Him in every way, unfortunately, for us, there is going to be pain and difficulty, because every Christian must have a Cross.

I tell you right now, if you do not feel pain in your heart about the world, about the person you are and the person you should be and the difficulties that you have (I’m not talking about whether or not you don’t have enough money to pay the electric bill. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about deep in your heart, feeling the kind of person you are) —  If you don’t feel pain over that, then be afraid. Be very afraid, because you cannot be saved unless you know that there is a better way and you know that you’re lacking completeness and wholeness.

The way of the Cross is to feel pain. Not self-inflicted pain; we’re not masochists, but pain because things are not the way they should be, neither in your heart, nor the hearts of your loved ones, nor the hearts of those in the world. It’s not the way it should be. So the way of the Cross is to always be aware of this.

The Lord was walking the way of the Cross from the moment He was born. His face was always set to Jerusalem [4], and so should we, according to our meager abilities which increase with time. You must feel in your heart that you’re lacking something in order to desire what you need.


This is the way of the Cross: To know that you are missing something that is so critically important to your soul; to know that you’re missing wisdom and compassion and gentleness and humility and wholeness. And that the only way to gain this is to follow Christ and to cleave to Him, to hold onto Him, no matter what.

If you think your life is relatively easy right now, then be afraid. No one’s life should be easy, not in this world. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, sick or healthy; the Christian must feel deeply with his soul how things are out of order. Our Lord did. That’s all He thought about in the world. We call him “The Man of Sorrows.” [5] We have the tradition that He never laughed, because all He could think about was those who He loved and what they needed.

So all we should think about is what He thought about: Love for others without consideration for ourselves. That’s the way of the Cross.

It’s good to be before the Cross and to bow down before it and to have beautiful singing, decorate the church and all the other things that are beautiful in our faith. But if your heart doesn’t ache for what you should be and what others should be, then you’re not following the way of the Cross.


Cultivate this pain; don’t be afraid of it. The world doesn’t want to feel pain. Our Lord did, every day, every moment. So did the Apostles, so did the Saints. And eventually they found perfect peace.

You cannot find perfect peace without going the way of the Cross. And in the world the way of the Cross is not peaceful, because the world hates the Cross. Oh, it’s okay to wear it in an earring or as a tattoo, but they hate the way of the Cross.

And if we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit, there are many times when we do not want to go the way of the Cross either. Because the way of the Cross is difficult and painful. But let us ask God to help us to follow the way of the Cross, because this is the only way to life. What we see around us in the world: Most of it is death, most of it is meaningless and diseased. If we look even in ourselves, we see that there are meaningless and diseased things even in our own souls.
God came so that: Nothing would be meaningless; everything would have meaning; there would be no disease; everything would be made whole and perfect.

And so let us follow the way of the Cross. It is the only way to perfection. God help us. Amen.


Transcribed by the handmaiden Helen.


Priest Seraphim Holland 2008.    


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[1] 1 Corinthians 1:18

[2] “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

[3] “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  (30)  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)

[4] “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,  (52)  And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.  (53)  And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51-53). Jerusalem is also a symbol of righteousness.

[5] “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?  (2)  For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.  (3)  He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isa 53:1-3 KJV)


  1. Father, Bless,
    For me, the impact of the Lord's command to take up my cross is somewhat lost because, these days, the cross is not fully realized as an instrument of torture and death, but merely as a symbol of our faith.  To those who lived in the days our Lord walked the earth, who witnessed men hung up to die, slowly and painfully, nailed to trees and wooden poles, the impact of the words "I am crucified with Christ…." was much more real and visceral. 
    To make it more real to me, I have sometimes thought of it as the Lord commanding me to stick my hand in a meat grinder….or, as with many of the martyrs, to walk into the flames, to be boiled in oil, etc…..
    It is not a quick, easy and painless death to which He is calling us.  It is a slow death, a death by inches—and yet, we read of the martyrs embracing their sufferings with praise on their lips, singing hymns and giving thanks to God! 

    And here I am, facing my little daily pains, complaining……
    It is because I do not fully understand this mystery:  That by embracing suffering, by embracing my Cross, by accepting the Reality my all knowing, loving Lord has ordained for me, no matter how tedious, no matter how painful, by walking, with faith, into the fiery furnace of His Will, that I will be bedewed with Grace and the burning flames will turn into a soothing rain. 
    I understand this with my mind…..but too often when I look at my life, I still see only the meat grinder, a furnace….a cross.  It is only with the mind and eyes of Christ that I can see beyond the pain of the cross to the promise of resurrection and new Life.
    But I am not there yet.  I still too often resist my cross, chafe against His blessed yoke.  I have not yet "resisted unto blood", striving against my sins (Hebrews 12: 4) I haven't even yet broken a good sweat in this race:
    "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."   Hebrews 12:1-2
    Please Pray for,


  2. If the preaching of the cross is really preaching about the necessity of not indulging, seeking our own gratification, and cultivating pain in the ascetic sense, then why is the literal cross necessary?
    All the ancient cultures practiced asceticism, including the Jews (not to mention the Platonists, Stoics, ancient Hindus, etc). Living a life of denial for spiritual reasons would not have been a mystery to them. That was the norm (not to say everyone followed it). So, what's so special about the cross?
    If we can live the way of the cross without literally being on the cross, why did Jesus literally have to be on the cross? That's the mystery of the cross: Why did God become man and die on the cross? For what reason? What did that solve? How did that help? Why could it not have been done another way? The answer to those questions is, I think, the preaching of the cross.

  3. I am a simple man. The cross is a striking symbol. Every time we look at it, we should have multiple images come to mind (in no particular order, or rather, all at once) – humility, sacrifice, forgiveness, emulating Christ, a supreme sacrifice (that we must also emulate), THE RESURRECTION, a way to perfection (without which, forgiveness would be incomplete, and even cruel).

    We must be on the cross. All of true Christianity is permeated with this idea. It is to live as Christ lived, and entails humility, sacrifice, love, and all the virtues. It is a heavenly way of living.

    God became man and dies on the cross, to (crudely speaking) to fix man, and show him the way to eternal life. All powerful ideas have symbols which are grounded in a real event – the cross is both an event, a symbol, a cleansing, and enabling, and a way of life. All aspects of the cross are necessary for salvation.

    I believe that our society mostly thinks of the cross as a source of forgiveness from sin, and that idea impoverishes the Christian mind, because there is so much more.

    Our Lord's death was prophesied. He HAD to die on the cross to fulfill the prophesies. As for why the prophesies were made, that is not possible to completely know, since God's ways are not our ways.

    In hindsight, we see that the cross is a striking symbol of EVERYTHING Christian. If our Lord had been stoned, I do not think a rock would have served as well. Could He have been killed in another way? No, because the scripture told us how He would be killed. That is all I know about his manner of death. Certainly a death on a tree had no magical qualities, and was not in and of itself required. The God-man could have chosen another way of death, but He did not, and this decision was made before any Scripture was written about the cross.

    It is true that all or most ancient cultures practiced asceticism. I thank you for brining up this idea, which I had not considered in detail. Asking what the difference is an important point. I think it is that (TRUE) Christian asceticism always emulates the God-man, and is practiced with humility and love. I think this point could be discussed to good benefit, by minds that are more erudite in expressing themselves than I am .

  4. Perhaps many cultures (including some remnants in modern culture) recognized the value of asceticism, and some practiced it, because all cultures preserve (to a greater extent in the past than now) remnants of the ancient truths known to Adam and his descendants? Because the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross was prophesied, sometime clearly and sometimes less so, in various ways and in various civilizations? I think of Lao Tzu's writings, which foreshadowed the Christian message in many ways and which understood many aspects of the character of Christ, but which were incomplete because Christ had not yet come, because Christ had not yet taken our infirm nature upon himself, because He had not yet made the Sacrifice on the Cross. Ascetics before Christ recognized its value intuitively and practiced either rightly or wrongly, with hope in a coming Savior or with pride and self-reliance. And the former were, I believe, saved when Christ descended and destroyed the power of hell. Likewise, ascetics today recognize its value and practice it either rightly or wrongly, in emulation of and with hope and trust in the God-man, or with pride and self-reliance. And the former are saved by the power of God, while for the latter there is still, while we remain among the living, time to repent. Am I getting this at all right?

  5.  The cross is not just a symbol of and call to suffering.  Ascetic practice and suffering have no value or meaning without the Cross.  Jesus had to literally be and die on the Cross in order to give us the power to bear our own 'crosses'—and to give meaning, purpose to our voluntary suffering and embracing of the Father's will.  The purpose being our salvation–our ability to receive the eternal Life of the Father. This meaning, purpose and salvation were imparted both to the faithful who came before and to those coming after the cross. Without the cross, without this divine purpose, suffering is simply hell.
    Why specifically a cross?  How exactly did Christ's death on a cross deliver us from sin and death?  These are interesting questions….but fortunately the knowing the answers to these questions is not necessary in order to experience the power of the Cross.  I am not suggesting that they should not be asked but I am suggesting that we be careful not to get hung up on them.  The mystery and power of the Cross is understood not in knowing these answers, but in knowing the Answer, Himself-–and that can only be accomplished through our obedience to the Cross, not through our complete understanding of it.

  6. "Why specifically a cross…" I think that St. Athanasius addresses this in "On the Incarnation."

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