In the East, the term “worship” only applies to the Cross of Christ. A homily by Starets John Krestiankin, for many years hegumen of the only male monastery allowed by the Soviet atheist government, is offered for reflection. Russia’s latest protests come ahead of the Apocalypse.
Moscow (AsiaNews) – While Catholics celebrate the Sacred Easter Triduum, the Orthodox Church ends the second week of the Great Lent Fast with the Third Sunday called Крестопоклонная (Krestopoklonnaya), or “Worship of the Cross”.
In the East, since there is no Eucharistic worship, the term “worship” applies only to the Cross of Christ, while “veneration” is reserved for sacred icons.
On the website of the Orthodox Liturgical Calendar, the Moscow Patriarchate proposes a meditation on a homily by Elder (starets) John (Ioann Krestiankin, picture 2). Hegumen of the Pskov-Caves Monastery during the long years of Soviet atheist oppression, he was able to pass on true Orthodox spirituality in the only male monastery allowed by the Soviet regime. John died in 2006, living long enough to bless Russia’s religious revival.
In one of his homilies for Lent, he mentioned the words of the liturgy: “Come, ye faithful, we worship the Life-Giving Tree! Through the centuries, Golgotha has come close to us, invading our conscience with the memory of his way of salvation, since upon it the Cross was raised, which is the ladder to reach heaven, and on the Cross, we worship the One who said: “I am the way and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6).
“The life-giving wood of the cross, the Cross of Christ, is planted in the heart of the earth by God's love for humans, that it may transform itself from a cross of damnation – like the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which humans took for themselves disobeying the divine command – to become an instrument of salvation, with which to open the gates of Paradise.”
Remembering Christ’s sufferings along with those of humanity, Father John noted that “every person inherits from birth the cross of their forebears, unfailingly carrying it upon themselves until the end of their earthly days. Indeed, the earth is the place of exile and weeping, full of suffering and sorrow.”
Accepting the cross means becoming self-aware, for “every person in their life experience must carry their own cross. There are many crosses, but only mine can help me heal my wounds, carrying it with the help of God who imposed it on me.
“Let us not build artificial crosses, let us go down the laid-out road, let us not seek unnecessary suffering, not even with the best of intentions. Only this way can one join the Cross of Christ, and not believe the great deceiver.”
Russian priests are trying to pass Starets John’s great message by urging the faithful, especially the youngest, to follow the ascetic path, preserving Russia from the confusions of protests and claims, a reference to recent demonstrations against the authorities.
A young follower of Krestiankin, Fr Konstantin Bely of Pskov (picture 3), gave an interview to a local channel in preparation for the Sunday of the Cross. It made a great impression, since he announced “the pending Apocalypse”.
According to Father Konstantin, a “true Christian is a soldier, used to go into action spiritually. The war starts, shops close, fighting over food begins; then hunger sets in for everyone . . . but Christians are accustomed to fasting. It is normal for them to give up food and comfort.”
The priest compared modern upheavals, like the pandemic, to the 900-day siege of Leningrad (St Petersburg) by the Nazis during World War II. “At that time, the death rate among true believers was much lower because the food rations during the siege were greater than those during the Lenten fast.”
Metropolitan Panteleimon (Kutovoy, picture 4) of Krasnoyarsk also insisted on comparing fasting to wartime conditions. It is “better to seek death than to be dominated by the enemy and by fear . . . Let us not give in to the fascination of the protests, let us defend the homeland that our parents have bequeathed to us.”
The sufferings of the past, together with the contradictions of the present, force Russians to seek the True Cross that shows the face of Christ, but above all, as John Krestiankin noted repeatedly, the true face of humanity.