The 15th Sunday after 


The Sunday after the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Readings on the Sunday after 

the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Gal 2:16-20

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the
faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we
might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the
law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. {17} But
if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found
sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. {18} For
if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a
transgressor. {19} For I through the law am dead to the law, that I
might live unto God. {20} I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I
live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live
in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and
gave himself for me.

Mark 8:34-38

And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he
said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and
take up his cross, and follow me. {35} For whosoever will save his life
shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the
gospel's, the same shall save it. {36} For what shall it profit a man,
if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? {37} Or what
shall a man give in exchange for his soul? {38} Whosoever therefore
shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful
generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh
in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. {9:1} And he said unto
them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here,
which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God
come with power.

In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Today
is the 15th Sunday after Pentecost, and also the Sunday after the
Exaltation of the Holy Cross. We hear in the reading for the Holy Cross
some things that are very important to impress upon our souls. First I
ask you (the scripture will answer the questions): what is your goal
every time you get up in the morning? What is your goal during the day?
What is your purpose? What is that takes up your time? What is it that
is important to you? What is your attitude? What purpose do you have,
from the time you get up in the morning till the time you lay your head
on the pillow at night? 

The scripture we have listened to talks about a goal and a purpose, and
an attitude. We must understand what our purpose in life is, and how to
fulfill that purpose. Now, we could all give lip service to the "purpose
of life" and say, "Yes it is to save our souls", but this will do us
little good unless we follow these words with actions and the ordering
of our priorities, but it is a good start to at least know this much.
Unfortunately, when I ask this question of people I am surprised how few
answer it correctly. Most do not say the purpose of their life is to
save their soul. They may say it is to live a "good" life, or enjoy
life, or glorify God - things like that - depending on how religious or
irreligious they are (and by the way, I have received all these answers
from more that one Orthodox Christian!). The purpose of your life is to
save your soul. 

So now that you know the purpose, you must know something of the
"mechanism", and then you must, set you face, as it were, "towards
Jerusalem", or "put your hand on the plow" and not look back. And no
matter what happens in the course of your plowing, or your journey to
Jerusalem, you must not turn back, and this will be because, first of
all, you have the firm knowledge of what your purpose in life is, and
secondly, you know what to expect already, and therefore will not lose
heart when trials occur.. 

Our Lord makes no secret of what our life will be like. He made no
secret of it when He ascended and stretched out His hands upon the
cross. His passion was a way of teaching us that our life will be filled
with difficulties. If you have the right purpose and attitude, and know
WHY you have been given breath, then anything that come to you, any
difficulty, you will see in the proper context, and you will not
grumble, or fall into sin, and do all the things the world does when
they encounter difficulties. 

You must understand the mechanism to really live the Christina life. It
is very important to understand how you should live, not just what you
should do, but how you can accomplish what you should do. The church is
constantly telling us about these two things. In fact, we are told more
about how to accomplish, than what we are to accomplish! This is I say
emphatically, for the ears of those who are afflicted with the near
heretical, Westernized and minimilist notion that the church is just
full of rules and regulations. Even among the Orthodox, this poisonous
attitude about the royal path, which is the Christian way of life and
living according to God's commandments, is present. We are told the
commandments over and over again, we are reminded of them and we are
told the things that are dogmatically correct that we must believe. But
we are also told, many times over, through the examples of the Saints,
and our hymnology, and the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and the
guidance of our guardian angel, and diverse other ways, how we can live
based upon this knowledge. 

If you know what you should do, but you do not know how to do it, you
will not accomplish your goal. Here is how to do it. Here is how to be
successful in every day. Here is how to approach each day. St Paul says:
"For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a
transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might
live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not
I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I
live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for
me." There is heavy theology in these words. It describes HOW to live.
You must understand that you are crucified with Christ, and a part of
you, the sinful part, that part which made you incapable of becoming
pure, has died. When you came out of the water, you were made a new
creature. You still have the infirmities of a man, and the predilections
toward sin that you previously had, but you have been made a new
creatures, able to conquer all these infirmities, if you live according
to what God has done for you. 

You were empowered, but you must know how to use this power! You must
depend on God for all things and realize what it is the God wants you to
accomplish, because indeed, you have something God wants you to
accomplish in this life. Your purpose is the salvation of your soul, and
this is indeed a great accomplishment achieved by so very few in the
church. Because in saving your soul, you must change, and in us are so
many things that do not want to change! We want to stay the way we are.
But if we understand how it that we live in order to reach our
potential, if we have an experiential and intimate understanding of what
God has done for man, then we will accomplish what it is that He wants
us to do. It will not be through our own strength or our own power or
willpower, the strength of our abilities or the sweat on our brow, but
it will be by knowing that God lives within us. 

We say this, that we are temples of the Holy Spirit, and this is a clear
dogma in our theology. Pause for a moment - what does this mean? We see
that we are weak creatures. When we are cut, we bleed! When someone says
something evil to us, we react with anger in our hearts, and even our
lips and actions. We fall into lust, despondency, we fall into all
manner of sin over and over again -- yes, we know that we are weak. We
know that we cannot accomplish virtue without God. So why do we try to
accomplish anything without God? Why, when we have a circumstance that
assails us, do we enter into that circumstance without prayer? Why do we
not depend on God for everything, even for every breath we take, and not
take it for granted? We are so forgetful, but the way to live is placed
right in front of us. Don-t live for yourself, live for God.

The Gospel says exactly this thought - it is something that someone in
the world would read and say, either explicitly or by his actions and
priorities - "no that's not for me", but if you understand what it
means, then you would beg God: "Help me to fully incorporate this belief
into my life". Jesus said: "And when he had called the people unto him
with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after
me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For
whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his
life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it." It is the
same idea - to live for Christ, not living for yourself but living in
Christ - this is a reality that cannot just be listened to from the
pulpit and understood - it must be incorporated into your life. You must
know why you have breath and why you are living on this earth now, and
what your purpose is, and how to accomplish this purpose, and it is all
from knowing God. It is from being filled with God. 

Now we have so many Divinely inspired ways if living before us, which
guide us and help us, and I have spoken of them a million times - our
fasting, our coming to the services with zeal and prayer (and especially
the Saturday service where we can truly show to God and to ourselves
that our priorities are correct), our morning and evening prayer,
especially as a family together, for those who have families, our
almsgiving -- all these things are critically important, but they are
useful and possible only because Christ lives within us. You can only
have this knowledge by experiencing God. 

Doesn't it say, "Taste and see that the Lord is good?" You taste by the
living, I tell you. Christianity is meant to be lived; it is not meant
to be just believed in the head. It is lived, and it is only lived
through God. God gives the strength and the power to live. This reality
must become more and more firm in your soul, every day that you live, so
that when you wake up in the morning, you start with prayer, and your
purpose in life is the salvation of your soul that day. It is not to
close a business deal; it is not to buy a car; it is not to take care of
going to the teacher's meeting; it is not to get some new clothes, or
whatever it is that you plan to do in the course of your day. The
purpose of your day is the salvation of your soul. And the only way you
can effect this purpose is by God living in you, by you giving up what
it is that is useless, that is awful, that is garbage. 

Be a good trader, says St Andrew of Crete in his Great Canon. Be a good
trader. Trade that which is temporal for that which is eternal. Trade
that which is decrepit for that which is perfect. You must be making
this trade every day, every moment. Every decision is a trade. And you
can only make the right decision if you know Whose child you are, and
how you live. You live by the power of God with in you. And if you
understand this, you will make great accomplishments. Maybe
accomplishments the rest of the world cannot see, or maybe not. I don't
know. But you will accomplish the salvation of your soul. 

Many times the Scripture uses the example of an athlete. An athlete
denies himself. An athlete, such as a marathoner, runs until he feels
pain. He runs until his lungs are starved of oxygen, until he's
lightheaded, until his muscles ache, until he stumbles and almost falls.
He does this day after day, and he does not eat certain foods, and he
does other things to build himself up so he can run the race. Indeed, he
denies himself in many ways. It's the same principle as Christians. The
runner knows what his goal is, and so he attains it. 

But there is a difference in the metaphor I'm showing right now. The
runner runs for himself. The athlete struggles in the weight room for
himself. We struggle for God, and in God, and through God. God gives us
the power. That is the difference. May we be as zealous for our
salvation as those in the world are for the things that they try to
gain. We will be zealous, if we understand who God is, and if we
experience him in our life. 

Set your priorities, brothers and sisters. Every day your priority is to
save your soul. This is the purpose of your life; this is the purpose of
each day. No matter where you are, what you are doing, the purpose is
the salvation of your soul. If you are doing things that are not
contributing to the salvation of your soul, then throw them out. And if
you make even a small bit of progress that day in learning something of
God, in praying with a little bit more fervor, in conquering a sin,
maybe for the first time in many months, then you have made progress
towards the salvation of your soul. And even if you have fallen back
into the gutter, if with humility you recognize this and beg God for
help, then you have made great strides in the salvation of your soul,
and your day has been successful. 

You live, but not yourself, but you live through Christ. You must
understand this. You must understand this by the living. Not just by the
hearing of it, from me speaking it, or reading it from somewhere. You
must understand it by your effort. And if you understand this, I tell
you, you will be saved. 

This is the principle of Christian life. God lives through us; we live
in God. We live in Christ. And you must have the right purpose, and you
must understand how to accomplish it, through Christ. Give up the things
that are evil, that are useless, and take on those things. Take on the
garment of righteousness. And if you ask God for help in all these
things, truly and surely He will help you. Amen. 

This and other Orthodox materials are available in booklet and
electronic form from: 

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Dallas, Texas

Mailing Address	2102 Summit, McKinney TX 75070

Rectory Phone	972/529-2754



This particular text may be found at:

All rights reserved. Please use this material in any way that is
edifying to your soul, and copy it for personal use if you so desire. We
ask that you contact St. Nicholas if you wish to distribute it in any
way. We grant permission to post this text, if completely intact only,
including this paragraph and the contact information above, to any
electronic mailing list.

 (Luke 9:51) 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

 (Luke 9:62) And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the
plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

 Gal 2:18-20

 (Mark 8:34-35)

 (Psa 34:8) O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man
that trusteth in him.

The 15th Sunday after Pentecost 

The 12th Sunday after Pentecost

Page   PAGE  7  of   NUMPAGES  9