Patriarch Kirill says salvation is in sacrificial love

POLOTSK (Belarus), September 27 (RIA Novosti) - The head of the Russian Orthodox Church on Sunday called on believers in Belarus, where he is on a visit, to venerate the Cross as a symbol of true love.

"We worship the cross not as an instrument of execution, but as the altar on which the Divine Sacrifice was made for the whole mankind for divine love," Patriarch Kirill said on the day when the Russian Orthodox Church commemorates the Elevation of the Holy Cross.

"God is love, and salvation is in love," Kirill said, adding that he meant sacrificial love that "firmly unites people, through which one person gives himself to another, with joy, as he who loves is always ready to sacrifice himself to the one he loves."

The Elevation of the Cross, also referred to as the Exaltation of the Cross, is one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church and a day for strict fasting by believers. It marks the finding of the Cross by Empress Helen in the year 326.

Helen was sent by her son, Roman Emperor Constantine I who reversed his predecessor Diocletian's persecutions of Christians, to Jerusalem to seek for the cross on which Jesus died on Golgotha. She found three crosses, the other two being those on which the two thieves on either side of Jesus were crucified.

Helen was unable to identify the cross she needed, and the body of a dead man was placed on all three. When it touched the cross of Christ, the dead man came alive.

The discovered True Cross was lifted high, or elevated, so that all people who gathered to look at the shrine could see it, hence the name of the feast.

In those times, death upon a cross was considered disgraceful, so the Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross is also a celebration of how an instrument of disgrace came to symbolize the victory over death when Jesus was resurrected bringing salvation to the world.

The canonical Orthodox Churches in ex-Soviet Belarus and Ukraine are subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate. Patriarch Kirill toured Ukraine in summer.



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