Over seventeen hundred years ago, the True Cross was rediscovered and lifted up in the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem. When Patriarch Maracarius held it up, the only thing the great crowds could do was to kneel down, face on the ground, and murmur “Lord have mercy.”
The Cross. The True Cross. The Sacred Wood upon which Jesus, the God-Man, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, suffered and died. The One Sign of the Universe that joined forever the unseen world of eternity, and the familiar world of time and matter.
The Cross, if and only if joined to sure and certain faith, is utterly fearful to the real enemy of mankind. It is a sign of victory and joy, peace and strength to us. It is a wondrous mystery to the Angels. It is a the central Memorial and Lighthouse planted by the Holy Trinity at the very center of the universe, establishing for all time that God will not abandon His creation to the gangrene of sin and the shadow decay of neverending death.
The entire universe knows about the Cross. If you could ever get into a starship and go faster than the speed of light (which, scientists tell us, is impossible), and if you would travel to the other side of the Milky Way, and even go to another galaxy -- say, like Andromeda -- and if you would find another intelligent species (which you probably wouldn’t), even they would have known about the Cross.
When we say “Universal Exaltation,” we mean it. Literally.
Closer to home, you and I need to Exalt the Cross in our souls. We need to plant this “memorial lighthouse” of the Trinity right in the center of our heart.
The enemy and the demons certainly do exist. I suppose they might be able to do the poltergeist thing and make things bump in the night. They can frighten especially those who make themselves ready to be frightened. They can spook those who are looking, in fear, for spooks.
But the demons that I worry about having nothing to do with the horror movie depictions like The Exorcist, or, much more up to date, the current zombie fad.
Satan and his cohorts would rather that no one pay them any notice. Satan is embarrassed by Satanists. I find most witches/warlocks and devil-worshipers to be more pitiful than scary.
But the devil and his demonic crew are certainly at work, and we need to be on constant guard. The Apostles and the Fathers warn us about them, despite the fact that this modern age would rather ignore the eternal, bodiless world of demons and angels.
So instead of thinking that demons appear with a lot of scary excitement, you can notice their presence by a wave of doubting, pessimistic and hopeless thoughts … and by a tidal wave of despairing feelings, rage and uncontrollable lust, and aggressive pride at other people. Any time that fury and denunciation are present, you can bet your bottom dollar that the demoniac is there in spades.
Demons are there when the weak and the poor, the powerless and the unattractive are pushed away, ignored, when the profit-motive finds them to be, well, a liability. In one of the odder coincidences of the latinate heritage, the dispossessed are that way because of the possessed.
Lots of people are interested in what Hell looks like. I think that “what Hell looks like” rather misses the point. The real question is “What does Hell feel like?” And, unfortunately, that is something we already know all too well. Hell is the mental condition of a deliberate rejection of the Holy Trinity and its Divine Love. As a consequence of this rejection, the angelic or human soul breaks down into unnatural passions of anger, lust, addiction, despair, and -- worst of all -- hateful pride.
So when demons are around, they bring with them the fumes of Hell -- which is, you guessed it, “anger, lust, addiction, despair, and -- worst of all -- hateful pride.”
How can we fight such a battle? What hope do we have against this sort of enemy? “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the bodiless places” (Ephesians 6.12). No matter how bad a human enemy can be, a human enemy can never be the Real Enemy: the Real Enemy is spiritual (i.e., “spiritual hosts of wickedness in the bodiless places).
A physical gun will not help, nor will a sword. Grenades and missiles, tanks and destroyers will not accomplish a blessed thing.
No, these things will not help.
And things will only get worse if you try to ignore it, and play the worldly (and foolish) game of claiming the spiritual world just doesn’t exist. You know this game: “We are all scientific grownups now -- only uneducated simple people believe in supernatural stuff like God and angels and sin. We’re beyond all that.”
Sure. Meanwhile, there is now more depression and anxiety and psychological problems than ever. People generally are intelligent in knowing facts, but they cannot think straight and they cannot control their own feelings. It is taking much, much longer for young adults to mature and become disciplined adults who can lead a family and establish a home.
And need I mention that there has never been so many mass shootings -- whether by demonic groups like al Qaeda or al Shabab, or insane individuals at the Naval Yard, the basketball court in Chicago, Fort Hood, the Aurora movie theater, Virginia Tech, and most heart-reading, the elementary school at Sandy Hook.
No. Things are not the same.
We have only one response, and that is to exalt the Cross.
The Cross is the only key to the kingdom that was given by Jesus to Peter and all the Apostles. The Cross is the only keyhole through which the uncreated light, the glory of the Trinity, is broadcast into Time and the World. The Cross is the only True Sign of Blessing. The Cross is the only way that the minus sign of the fallen cosmos can be transfigured into the addition dynamic of healing and peace.
Jesus Himself said this about the only way to Exalt the Cross universally, and particularly, against the demons, and in the heart: “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8.34-35).
In other words, USE THE CROSS LIKE I DID, Jesus says.
Why is the Cross the Universal Sign of Divine Victory? Because the Second Person of the Trinity did the same thing for humans as each Person of the Trinity does for Each Other, everlastingly. The Father gives away His Life for the Son in begetting Him, and for the Spirit in processing Him. The Son gives away His Life for the Father in glorifying Him, and for the Spirit in sending Him. The Spirit gives away His Life for the Father in returning all the cosmos in praise to Him, and for the Son in glorying Him.
And as a result, there is Love everywhere. Infinitely. For all time. This means that the natural state of life for everywhere and everyone forever is Love, Joy and Peace, Beauty and Life.
So when humans and their world failed the test and threw their life away on the downward track to Hell, Jesus went as the Godman and poured out His Life at the deepest point of pain and death.
Thus utterly blowing the lid off of Hell: making it so that the only way to stay in Hell is to deliberate choose to stay there, because Hell is the only way to reject God and His Love.
USE THE CROSS LIKE I DID.
This means that in full belief and obedience to Jesus, we, too, pour out our lives for each other.
We think first of the needs of others, and put down our complaints of discomfort and how we are treated. We forgive when others have wronged us. We open our hearts to the wisdom of Jesus and the Peace of the Holy Trinity. We feel the hurt of others, and we rejoice with them in their gladnesses. We fight, fight, fight the demonic hell-smoke of “anger, lust, addiction, despair, and -- worst of all -- hateful pride.” We do not fear the Devil: we reject him and his crew with revulsion.
We put on our Cross-necklaces every day. We bless ourselves with the Orthodox sign of the Cross. We bow when the priest signs the Cross on us in Liturgy. We fall down on our knees and press our faces to the floor in front of the garlanded Cross in the middle of the Church.
And we say, and live, “Thy Cross we adore, O Master, and Thy holy Resurrection we glorify.”