Feast of St Bessarion of Larissa
EVERY ACTION of Christ and all His working of miracles were truly very great and divine and wonderful, but of all things the most wonderful is His honorable cross. For by nothing else except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ has death been brought low, the sin of our first parent destroyed, hell plundered, resurrection bestowed, the power given us to despise the things of this world and even death itself, the road back to the former blessedness made smooth, the gates of paradise opened, our nature seated at the right hand of God, and we made children and heirs of God. By the cross all things have been set aright. “For all we who are baptized in Christ,” says the Apostle, “are baptized in His death” (Rom. 6.3) and “as many of us as have been baptized in Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3.27); moreover, “Christ is the power and wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1.24). See how the death of Christ, the cross, that is to say, has clothed us with the subsistent wisdom and power of God! And the word of the Cross is the power of God, whether because by it God’s might, His victory over death, that is, was manifested to us, or because, just as the four arms of the cross are made solid and bound together by their central part, so are the height and the depth, the length and the breadth, that is to say, all creation both visible and invisible, held together by the power of God.
This we have been given as a sign on our forehead, just as Israel was given the circumcision, for by it we faithful are set apart from the infidels and recognized. It is a shield and armor and a trophy against the Devil. It is a seal that the Destroyer may not strike us, as Scripture says (cf. Ex. 12.23). It is a raising up for those who lie fallen, a support for those who stand, a staff for the infirm, a crook for the shepherded, a guide for the wandering, a perfecting of the advanced, salvation for soul and body, an averter of all evils, a cause of all good things, a destruction of sin, a plant of resurrection, and a tree of eternal life.
So, then, that honorable and most truly venerable tree upon which Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice for us is itself to be adored, because it has been sanctified by contact with the sacred body and blood. So also are the nails, the lance, the garments, and such sacred resting places of His as the manger, the cave, saving Golgotha, the life-giving tomb, Sion the citadel of the churches, and others. Thus, David the forefather of God says: “We will go into his tabernacle: we will adore in the place where his feet stood,” and that he means the cross is evident from what follows: “Arise, O Lord, into thy resting place” (Ps. 131.7-8)—for the resurrection follows after the cross. Now, if the house, the bed, and the clothing of our loved ones are dear to us, then how much more the things of our God and Savior by which we also have been saved!
—St John of Damascus, The Orthodox Faith