Sunday After the Cross
Mark 8:34–38; 9:1
Dear brothers and sisters,
We heard today the Gospel narrative the Lord’s teaching on the salvation of the soul and how our salvation is deeply rooted in the Cross. Jesus said today in the Gospel, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Taking up one’s cross does not imply wearing a cross around your neck, neither does it suggest to lift up on your shoulders and giant and heavy cross. The experience of the cross is when we sacrifice our own will and subject it to the will of the other, repeating in ourselves what the Lord did in Gethsemane in relation to the will of his Father.
When we see the Lord crucified on the cross, we are witnessing the culmination of his kenosis, which literally means one’s self-emptying; losing oneself. Jesus says today, “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”. When we hold onto something, we lose it, but when we let go, strangely, we find it. This kenotic way is the only way that befits the Christian. Without it, we would deny the true value of the Cross, but we also deny the true value of the salvation of our souls. “or what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” In this passage, the Lord underlines the huge importance of the soul. There is nothing in this world — nor in the next, as a matter of fact — more precious and valuable than our soul.
If a person was to travel the universe, and visit all the planets and expanses of this, or even perhaps live a life full of victories and trophies, but in the end lose their soul, what would be gained? Absolutely nothing. For there is nothing a person can give in exchange for their soul. The Lord is referring here to the importance of the soul, and he also raises the question, “What is the soul?” Many have tried in the past to define the soul, but have failed. Just as many have failed to define the human body. However, there are some descriptions of the soul that resonate more than others. St Gregory of Nyssa describes the soul as being ‘in the image and likeness of God’, St Irenaeus calls it ‘the breath of life’, and St Athanasius goes on to say that, ‘The soul is in essence noetic, ethereal, bodiless, without change, and eternal’. All these statements confirm just how precious and important the soul is. So precious, indeed, that the Lord “sent his only begotten Son”, the Word and Logos of the Father, “that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Let us therefore reaffirm our faith in the Lord and, in the spirit of thanksgiving and love, give glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Archimandrite Chrysostomos Michaelides