Bishop Basil (Nesterenko)


Glory to Jesus Christ, dear brothers and sisters!

I congratulate you with the Holy Sunday, Holy Communion.

Today is the third week of the Great Lent and it is the Sunday of the Veneration of the cross. Today we venerate the cross. It does not mean that the main point of the Orthodox Church is to worship to cross and icons, as some Protestants say. We believe that we worship not that exact thing, that material is it made of. We venerate cross, as a symbol of the salvation.

In times of Jesus Christ the attitude to cross was absolutely different. They believed that the cross was an instrument of the shameful death. The worst bandits were executed on the cross. But after Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and His Ascension on Heavens, the cross got another meaning. For us Christians the cross became the symbol of salvation that is why we venerate not just a cross. We symbolically venerate Jesus Christ, who was crucified on the cross.

And today we have heard the Gospel (Mark VIII:34-IX:1) where the Lord told us: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

As we see God did not force people to follow Him. He said: “if anyone would come…” It is true. He takes into consideration a free choice of a man. He suggested that people who believe in Him to follow Him. We saw that Jesus offered His disciplines-Apostles to follow Him too. He did not force people to follow Him.

And God also told in this Gospel that you have to deny yourself. But nor every man understands what “deny yourself” means. It means that you have to deny your sinful nature. That sinful nature, which exists in every man . Because only people with pure spirit, who try to get read of human sinfulness, can follow Jesus Christ. And the Lord offers us to take cross and follow Him. Every man has its mission and carries his own cross in life.

In Jesus’ Christ times convicted people carried their cross to the place on the execution. That cross was very heavy. It was so heavy that not every man could carry it.

God tells us to take our cross. It is not light, it is heavy. But that ones, who will follow Jesus, will carry the cross - will get a sweet life. It is true, together with Our Lord Jesus Christ in faith we are getting a blissful life and it is possible to call it sweet.

And God also said: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. ”

How can we understand that? There are people who live for themselves only and save their souls for themselves. They do not live for Light, for God, but for themselves. They devote their lives for getting something real; they love their sinfulness and live with it. They are not clever, because they do not know that they are losing their soul in such way.

But whoever loses his life for Jesus’ sake and the gospel's will save it. It is important to understand that people can’t physically follow Jesus nowadays, but they can spiritually join with Him. We all are Orthodox people and we have to unite with Jesus Christ with our souls and follow Him – preach the Gospel.

At first you have to read the Gospel. It is also good to preach the Gospel, but it happens that not many people read it. And it is very sad, because we call ourselves the Christians.

Also God said: “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” We must understand that. We all are Christians, but sometimes we are ashamed of our faith, we are ashamed to cross ourselves somewhere in the society and to use God’s words. It is a pity we are not ashamed to use words “thanks God” every time, even if it is not good to use it in fuss, because it is a sin. I do not judge, but I pay your attention on this.

I also want to stop on one topic. There is a soul of a man and there is a soul of our Motherland Ukraine. We all form one big soul of Ukraine. What is the soul of our Ukraine? It is our Orthodox faith, our history, traditions, mode of life, which people have been keeping since Cucuteni-Trypillian civilization.

And we know from the history of Ukraine how many enemies tied to destroy it, kill Ukrainian people as a nation, exterminate Ukrainian language. So, look at our history. Ukrainian people are fighting with enemies all the time.

I want to emphasize the fact that even now the enemy wants to destroy Ukrainian soul. We understand now that our Ukraine was not independent, even if it was called so. And only now we start to win the independence of our Ukraine.

We still remember those times when the government tried to demean and destroy Ukrainian language. They told that Ukrainian language was a rural language. We started to be ashamed of our language and stopped using it. It such was it was destroying.

We see that difficult times came to us. And we must save Ukraine, because we are the parts of its huge soul. We have to save it even physically. We have loss on loss. But to build Ukraine, save its soul we have to sacrifice to my high regret. These sacrifices are human. They are our soldiers and simple people of East. That is why every man has to save the faith in God’s justice and His help. And thank you God that You give us Your wisdom, Your support and Your blessing for our native Ukraine.

Let the Lord save You!