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Pope at Divine Liturgy in Slovakia: Let us turn our hearts to the Cross

Pope Francis presides at the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in the Byzantine Rite in Prešov, calling on the faithful of Slovakia to “turn the eyes” of their hearts “to the crucified Jesus.”

By Christopher Wells

On Tuesday in Prešov, Pope Francis presided at the Divine Liturgy for the Feast of the Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross.

The liturgy, in the Byzantine Rite, was celebrated by the Metropolitan Archbishop of Prešov, Ján Babjak, and concelebrated by numerous Greek and Latin Catholic prelates.

In his homily, Pope Francis repeated the words of St Paul: “We proclaim Christ crucified… the power of God and the wisdom of God.” The Cross, which on the surface can seem to be a “scandal” and “foolishness,” reveals to us “the beauty of God’s love”: “The Cross was an instrument of death, yet it became the source of life.”

The Pope noted that in Tuesday’s Liturgy, the account of the crucifixion is taken from the Gospel of St John, who was personally present at the foot of the Cross. Saint John, he said, “sees and testifies.”

Seeing

At the foot of the Cross, John sees Jesus, an innocent man, put to death. “In the eyes of the world, the Cross represents failure.” We too, the Pope said, can look on the Cross superficially, failing to see its message. Instead, we long for a triumphalist Christianity, losing sight of the humble love of Jesus. “Christianity without the Cross,” said Pope Francis, “is a worldly” and sterile Christianity.

Instead, St John saw precisely in the Cross the presence and work of God, who chose to enter into the misery of human history in this way. The Cross, said Pope Francis, shows us that no one is in so desperate a situation that they cannot find Christ there, in their suffering.

Pope Francis said that we must learn to see the glory of the Cross by living it, looking on the crucified Jesus, and opening our hearts to Him.

Bearing witness

Contemplating Jesus on the Cross leads to bearing witness, the Pope said. By doing so, the face of Jesus comes to be reflected on our own: “His features become ours, the love of Christ wins us over and transforms us.”

Pope Francis reflected on the martyrs of our own recent history, especially the martyrs of Slovakia. Their witness was “borne out of love of Him Whom they had long contemplated, to the point that they resembled Him even in their death.”

The Pope insisted that our witness must not be worldly or indifferent. “A witness who bears the Cross in his or her heart… views no one as an enemy, but everyone as a sister or brother for whom Jesus gave His life.” The only strategy for witnesses of the Cross is “that of the Master: humble love.”

Pope Francis called on the faithful to “cherish the memory” of the witnesses they themselves have seen. He reminded them, too, that “today, the Lord, from the eloquent silence of the Cross, is also asking each of you: Do you want to be my witness?”

Prešov-Byzantine Divine Liturgy
14 September 2021, 10:30