Friday, May 16, 2008

Don't Leave Home Without It

With all the discussion of late over reprobate bishops, whose true reward awaits them beyond the grave, I suspect we are all in need of some powerful spiritual renewal. For many years I have participated in an Anglican discussion list, and as inevitably does every year or so, the question recently came up about when Anglicans should make the sign of the cross. And as he invariably does, an old friend on that list, Fr Ken Peck, has again posted the words of St John Chrysostom in response. I share them with you:

"[W]hen you are about to pass over the threshold of the gateway, say this word first: I leave your ranks, Satan, and your pomp, and your service, and I join the ranks of Christ. And never go forth without this word. This shall be a staff to you, this your armor, this an impregnable fortress, and accompany this word with the sign of the cross on your forehead. For thus not only a man who meets you, but even the devil himself, will be unable to hurt you at all, when he sees you everywhere appearing with these weapons; and discipline yourself by these means henceforth, in order that when thou receive the seal you may be a well-equipped soldier, and planting your trophy against the devil, may receive the crown of righteousness, which may it be the lot of us all to obtain, through the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom be glory to the Father and to the Holy Spirit for ever and ever - Amen. (Second instruction to Catechumens)

"Let no man therefore be ashamed of the honored symbols of our salvation, and of the chiefest of all good things, whereby we even live, and whereby we are; but as a crown, so let us bear about the cross of Christ. Yea, for by it all things are wrought, that are wrought among us. Whether one is to be new-born, the cross is there; or to be nourished with that mystical food, or to be ordained, or to do anything else, everywhere our symbol of victory is present. Therefore both on house, and walls, and windows, and upon our forehead, and upon our mind, we inscribe it with much care.

"For of the salvation wrought for us, and of our common freedom, and of the goodness of our Lord, this is the sign. "For as a sheep was He led to the slaughter." When therefore you sign yourself, think of the purpose of the cross, and quench anger, and all the other passions. When you sign yourself, fill your forehead with all courage, make your soul free. And know assuredly what are the things that give freedom. Wherefore also Paul leading us there, I mean unto the freedom that beseems us, did on this wise lead us unto it, having reminded us of the cross and blood of our Lord. "For you are bought," he said, "with a price; be not the servants of men." Consider, he said, the price that hath been paid for you, and you will be a slave to no man; by the price meaning the cross.

"Since not merely by the fingers ought one to engrave it, but before this by the purpose of the heart with much faith. And if in this way you have marked it on thy face, none of the unclean spirits will be able to stand near you, seeing the blade whereby he received his wound, seeing the sword which gave him his mortal stroke. For if we, on seeing the places in which the criminals are beheaded, shudder; think what the devil must endure, seeing the weapon, whereby Christ put an end to all his power, and cut off the head of the dragon.

"Be not ashamed then of so great a blessing, lest Christ be ashamed of you, when He comes with His glory, and the sign appears before Him, shining beyond the very sunbeam. For indeed the cross comes then, uttering a voice by its appearance, and pleading with the whole world for our Lord, and signifying that no part has failed of what pertained to Him. This sign, both in the days of our forefathers and now, hath opened doors that were shut up; this has quenched poisonous drugs; this has taken away the power of hemlock:, this has healed bites of venomous beasts. For if it opened the gates of hell, and threw wide the archways of Heaven, and made a new entrance into Paradise, and cut away the nerves of the devil; what marvel, if it prevailed over poisonous drugs, and venomous beasts, and all other such things.

"This therefore do thou engrave upon your mind, and embrace the salvation of our souls. For this cross saved and converted the world, drove away error, brought back truth, made earth Heaven, fashioned men into angels. Because of this, the devils are no longer terrible, but contemptible; neither is death, death, but a sleep; because of this, all that wars against us is cast to the ground, and trodden under foot.

"If any one therefore say to you, Dost thou worship the crucified? say, with your voice all joy, and your countenance gladdened, "I do both worship Him, and will never cease to worship." And if he laugh, weep for him, because he is mad. Thank the Lord, that He hath bestowed on us such benefits, as one cannot so much as learn without His revelation from above. Why, this is the very reason of his laughing, that "the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit." Since our children too feel this, when they see any of the great and marvelous things; and if thou bring a child into the mysteries, he will laugh. Now the heathen are like these children; or rather they are more imperfect even than these; wherefore also they are more wretched, in that not in an immature age, but when full grown, they have the feelings of babes; wherefore neither are they worthy of indulgence.

"But let us with a clear voice, shouting both loud and high, cry out and say (and should all the heathen be present, so much the more confidently), that the cross is our glory, and 'the sum of all our blessings, and our confidence, and all our crown. I would that also with Paul I were able to say, "By which the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world; " but I cannot, restrained as I am by various passions." (Homily 54 on Matthew 14:13)

1 comment:

Sandra McColl said...

Thank you, Albion. There's nothing like a chunk of St John Chrysostom to gladden a Christian heart and fortify a Christian soul. Keep 'em coming.