Descent from the Cross
RocorMP Descent from Witness
“A Descent from the Cross of Orthodox Witness” ~ Bishop Photii of Triaditza
The present document is a sermon by His Eminence, Bishop Photii of Triaditza, delivered during the Divine Liturgy on the Feast of the Ascension of our Savior, in the Cathedral of the Dormition of the Theotokos, in Sofia, Bulgaria (4/17 May 2007).
The God-Man The Savior came not only to show us the path toward the Truth; He came as one Who was Himself the Truth and the Way to it. Christ the Lord levelled down the walls between earthly humans and the celestial Truth.
Indeed, if we do not rise above the terrestrial dust, if we do not rally courage enough to transcend our own nothingness, and overcome our voluptuous desires for earthly things, we are unable to walk on the path towards the Truth; we are unable to be children of the Truth; and we are unable to live with the Truth and in the Truth.
And the path leading towards the Truth leads all the way upwards, and never downwards, just as Christ’s path led up to Golgotha. Our very first step in rising from the earth to Heaven, our very first rupture with earthly bounds is our ascent upon the cross, as Christ Himself was raised from the earth upon the Cross, in order that He might draw every man toward Himself: toward the Truth, toward the Way, and toward Life.
The path from the cross to Heaven, to immortal life, is indeed sometimes of extensive duration and of long distance—very long;
sometimes it may be traversed in but an instant, as was the case with many of the Holy New Martyrs of Batak, whose memory we celebrate today, together with Christ’s glorious Ascension.
However, there is nothing at all so grievous as one who, having once torn himself away from the earth and ascended his cross, afterwards becomes frightened by the way of the Cross and the Resurrection, or who has been misled by the earthly desire to feel again the earthy dust under his feet.
Lo, today the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad descends from the cross of its Orthodox witness.
Today, by serving the liturgy together, the stage is set for the Church Abroad to be absorbed into the organism of the Moscow Patriarchate.
Lo, today the Archpriests seal their descent from their cross by exchanging a liturgical kiss with those who beckoned them to descend from the cross, as they had themselves done in the past.
How painful is the lie, which in our days calls the descent an ascent, and the fall a rising!
When the Hierarchs of the Church Abroad were raised from the earth on the cross of witnessing for Orthodoxy, they were called schismatics; when they descended from the cross, when they delivered to Cæsar—be he even an ecclesiastical Cæsar— that which belongs to God, they immediately rose in his eyes and became his brethren.
Indeed, is there anything more disheartening than to see how falsehood bedecks itself with the garments of Truth?
Indeed, those who descended from the cross pronounce, and will continue to pronounce, just as many words of fidelity to the Church and Orthodoxy—words glorifying the exploits of the Martyrs and Confessors; but is it really decent to plait wreaths of verbal praise for spiritual heroes, having oneself fled in disgrace from the battlefield?
Is it not immoral, having yourself abandoned your witness to the Truth for the sake of earthly benefits and gains, to glorify persons who held the love of Truth to be higher than their own lives?
And yet, Cæsar will not celebrate his victory for long. He will not be jubilant for long, that what is God’s has been delivered to him by the hands of Bishops, with the sole purpose of acquiring his favor. For God is never mocked! For the God-Man, after His Ascension, abides with us, with all who, even though weak, aspire to tread the path leading upward, and only upward—to Golgotha and the Cross, and thence toward the Heavenly Homeland, from which there pour down on us the streams of the love of the New Martyrs of Batak, of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, and of all the citizens of Heaven, who walked their earthly path in the never-setting light of the Way, the Truth, and the Life! Amen.