The Third Sunday of the Cross
I will exalt you, O Lord my King
Who walked in darkness
Indeed, the God will make the time of error pass
Before your crucifixion, O Savior, the deceit of Satan had troubled the whole creation, and until then the race of men had been enslaved under the yoke of Death, the murderer of our race. But the wood of the cross killed Death and undid Sin, and raised our race from the dead. The exalted beings marveled at our race which had been raised and brought above all sufferings. Because of this, we cry out unceasingly and say: glory to you who raised up our race!
Glory to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
In the hour the wood of your cross was set up, you shook the foundations of death, O Lord. And those whom Sheol had swallowed up in their sins and left shaking in terror, your command, O Lord, restored to life. Because of this, we also glorify you: O Christ the King, have mercy on us!
The Old Days
It is a deep element in human nature to long for a near-forgotten past, when “things were better.” This is not simply the grumbling of the older generation of today, a lament against the young who “have no respect” and a world which is “not like it used to be.” This is truly a desire for Eden, a wish for things to return to that primordial past when there was neither sin nor suffering. This is not to say that every age is equal, or that “things” are not actually worse now than they were a generation ago. But whether this is true or not (and it would take a mighty intellect indeed to be able to percieve and gauge every element of an entire generation), the complaint would still exist. Even if things are better now than they were before, a part of us would still gaze at the past with wistful eyes. This is both because, in addition to the deep and almost subconscious awareness of the loss of Eden, for better or for worse, the past was experienced in the freshness of youth, and the present, for better or for worse, is being experienced in the bitterness of old age.
This is the case of a fallen and broken humanity. But the reality of grace dramatically changes this, even causing a complete reversal. In the light of the Fall, the past was a beautiful time without pain; but in the light of the cross of Christ and the abundant graces showered upon us through it, there is no better time than the present. Thus the Basilica Hymn of the First Sunday of the Cross looks back toward the past with critical eyes:
Before your crucifixion, O Savior, the deceit of Satan had troubled the whole creation, and until then the race of men had been enslaved under the yoke of Death, the murderer of our race.
Similarly, the ordinary way of thinking about the “status quo,” the way things currently are, is that authority is good and disobedience is bad. While this is obviously the case in the ultimate sense of things, there is a way in which even this basic ordering is reversed by the cross. When the authority, when the one being obeyed, is invalid, then obviously rebellion is the right path; when the one giving orders is Satan, then the best thing we can be is disobedient.
This is not merely imaginative thinking. Satan is named the “prince of this world,” (John 12:31) and Paul refers to the “reign of darkness” (Col 1:13). This prince, this reign, is false and misleading. They are governments which are invalid, and which deserve rebellion and disobedience, because they themselves are in fact nothing more than rebellions against the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Because of the nature of the world today, there are times when we must choose between obedience to a worldly authority and obedience to God. Christ chose obedience to God, and by his rebellion against the evil reign of Satan through his death on the cross, he single-handedly overturned the authority that had enslaved this world:
But the wood of the cross killed Death and undid Sin, and raised our race from the dead.
On Earth, as it is in Heaven
Finally, the dividing line between heaven and earth being precisely this difference in kingship, Christ made peace and unified the two parts of creation which had been sundered by the disobedience of Adam. In Christ, in his death on the cross, which was the ultimate act of obedience to the Father, making up for the disobedience of Adam, and the ultimate act of selfless love, making up for the selfishness of Adam, earth, meaning the souls of the faithful, the Church, becomes like heaven in obeying the will of the Father. In Christ, we become a new kingdom, one which has risen up by grace to defeat the reign of the evil one and established, in the holy Church and in our souls, the new kingship of the Messiah and the new obedience to the will of the Father.
Because of this, the joy known on earth is felt in heaven among the angels – for if Christ said that there will be joy in heaven over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:4), how much more will the angels rejoice over the whole Church, the segment of the human race which uprose against Satan in Christ and accepted the Kingdom of the Father:
The exalted beings marveled at our race which had been raised and brought above all sufferings. Because of this, we cry out unceasingly and say: glory to you who raised up our race!