Metropolitan Anthony (Pakanic) tries to explain who really carries his cross and who does not.
With the Cross
Carrying our own crosses is the only way to salvation. Unfortunately, not all people who claim that their crosses are extremely heavy carry them for real. Most of us are cross-bearers without the cross, and each one of us can become part of that unholy tribe.
It’s impossible to carry the cross of the faith in Christ and commit crimes. No matter how eloquently and persuasively we preach our deep faith at the people around us, no matter how much we complain of our difficult paths and our crosses, we are not carrying our crosses if our actions say the opposite. For instance, you can’t pretend to be carrying your cross and disregard your neighbor at the same time. The person who really carries his cross knows with every single cell of his body how heavy it is, so he won’t crucify another person, for he knows the value of each step, each breath, each sweat-drop, and the teeth gnashing from exhaustion.
The person whose back aches because of the weight of his own cross won’t laugh at the weaknesses and failures of his neighbors. He remembers how painful it was to fall because every such failure left lifelong scars and wounds on his own body and soul. You can’t carry your cross and not support the person walking by your side. There have been so many arms that hugged and supported you when you were about to fall. There have been so many shoulders that you could lean on to avoid falling down and to have a rest before continuing your journey. A person who carries his cross must hate the evil that destroys our human self and sympathize with the person who is stuck in that filthy pit of evil and unable to move.
Without the Cross
Living without the cross means living in evil. The cross is always the plus; it’s the quintessence of goodness, love, and positive attitude. It is the best protection against evil. According to Saint Augustine, evil is perverted goodness. Nikolai Berdyaev, an Orthodox philosopher, gave the following detailed definition of evil, “Evil is separation from the Absolute Being, committed as a voluntary act… Evil is creation that deified itself.”
The human desire to become a god instead of revealing the image and the likeness of the true God is the greatest trick invented by the devil. It leads an individual away from God, and therefore away from the path of goodness and salvation. Evil provokes the worst and the most treacherous traits of a human personality. Evil does not let people carry their crosses; it prevents them even from coming closer and touching it. In all its incarnations, evil invites an individual to reject the cross and throw it away.
The choice of good or evil, of bearing one’s cross or rejecting it is a source of constant struggle in a person’s life. We only need our free will to make this choice, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mark 8:34). The Lord is simply suggesting, “If you want to come after me”. He does not break our will and doesn’t rush us. He invites us to follow in his own footsteps.
Evil and good are incompatible. A plus and a minus make a minus, as we all know. You just can’t truly and genuinely believe in God and at the same time steal, murder, commit fornication, and lead an immoral life.
Essence of the Cross
The essence of our carrying of our cross is submission to God’s Providence and his holy will. We should try to accept everything that occurs in our lives as our own and as something necessary for our salvation. We should accept it without grumbling or judging.
The more one trusts the Creator, the easier and more exciting his path will be. If one pays attention to God’s hints and accepts everything as it goes, his heart will acquire peace and he will not waste his energy on unnecessary battles but instead will obediently follow the prescribed directions.
If we trust God, we will avoid self-pity, which can make our path and our burden heavier. Self-pity and egoism are the core of pride that inevitably leads to the destruction of our personalities and to falsehood. There have been many sad examples of false goodness, false nobleness, false Christianity, and false Orthodoxy both in the course of history and in our contemporary society. We all should avoid covering our bad intentions up with respectable pretexts in our daily lives so as not to happen to be false cross-bearers who don’t actually bear their crosses.
With the Lord’s Cross in front of our eyes, let us reinforce our prayers so that we could bear all burdens of our earthly lives without complaints. Let us cleanse our hearts with truth and hurry in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, carrying our crosses and not rejecting them no matter how heavy they might be.
Translated by The Catalog of Good Deeds