My fellow followers of Christ, I would like each of you to ask yourself: What is my cross?

As Orthodox Christians, we each receive a baptismal cross, and we also learn from a young age how to make the sign of the cross. However, these forms of the cross are only reminders of that which Christ speaks about in the Gospel. As we prepare to celebrate the Feast of the Precious and Life-giving Cross of our Lord, He asks each of us to deny ourselves, to take up our cross, and to follow Him. What is our cross?

In the 4th Century, Saint Helen found the True Cross of our Lord. This came at a time in the Empire when the Christians no longer struggled daily to keep their faith while facing death in the catacombs. Rather, the finding and Exaltation of the Cross came at a time when our fellow Christians were beginning to lose track of their own cross.

Persecution, prison, and punishment were now being replaced with protection and comfort. “Glory to God!” you might think. This protection of Christians allowed for the building of many Orthodox Churches—some of which still stand.

While many Christians rose from the slumber of the catacombs to worship our risen Lord, many also fell into the slumber of forgetting to heed His command to take up the cross. It was too easy to be distracted by this new life of protection in the Empire. This great blessing came at a great cost. It can only be God’s providence that allowed Saint Helen to raise the Cross as a reminder to all Christians of the path we are to take in following Christ.

Today, we find ourselves in a situation that in some ways resembles the house arrest of the catacomb Christians—we have forces beyond our control that have made it difficult to approach the Chalice and to commune with our beloved neighbors. And in this sense, it is a certain type of cross which we all have shared. However, even in today’s struggle, we also find ourselves with many comforts and distractions which can make us lose track of the cross which leads to everlasting life. God forbid, we grow accustomed to being away from our beloved Church.

Our cross isn’t something that simply inconveniences us, or that which makes our day a little more difficult in accomplishing the tasks of our choosing. In order for each of us to find our cross, we must tend to the struggles in life that prevent us from climbing the ladder of the True Cross to be with our Lord. What can we identify in our daily thoughts and interactions that create roadblocks to uniting with God? For some it is a struggle with anger, or like the early Christians, it might be a temptation toward worldly comforts. It will be different for each, but in searching for this, we will find our cross.

It is this cross that we must take up and offer back to Christ.

It is this cross that He tells us in the Holy Gospel, “Come to me, all of you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest! Take my yoke upon you and learn from me because I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Indeed, my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

And it is this cross that, through death of our own worldly desires, will lead each of us to glorious eternal life in Christ.

Christ will meet each of us in this struggle, and does all the heavy lifting through His own carrying of the Cross. If we begin to slip and stumble, He will surely send someone our way to regain our footing, just as Simon the Cyrene was sent to help in His own walk to Golgotha. While each of us has a unique set of struggles, let us join together as a family in the taking up of our cross, so that we may all find rest in the gentle and humble heart of our Lord. Amen.