The First Sunday of the Exaltation of the Cross
O Lord, do not destroy me in your wrath
Heal me, O Lord, for my bones tremble
And I cry out to you, O Lord, and say…
May there not be grief upon grief for me
Lord, to you do I cry, O true Doctor: heal the wounds of my sins, for they crush me! If your grace does not stand before me, I would be already destroyed in so many evils. Cleanse my faults through mournful tears, and forgive my defilements in the mercies of your grace. O Christ, O Pitier of all, pity me and have mercy on me, and turn me to you in your compassion. O Lord who loves his servants, have mercy on me!
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
In the hour that the wood of your cross was fastened, you shook the foundations of death, O Lord. And those whom Sheol had swallowed in their sins, [Sheol] released while trembling – your command quickened them, O Lord. Because of this, we also glorify you, O Christ the King: have mercy on us!
Because human life is so precious, sickness is a serious thing. But unfortunately both of these facts are easy to forget when one becomes comfortable in his life. In good health, it is easy to neglect the sick; in the enjoyment of pleasure, it is easy to forget those around us. But at once take a step into a hospital, and the stark serenity of the place will remind one of both. The very air in the hospital is solemn and serious, demanding respect. Here we do not act as we do at a festival, though we rightly comfort the sick with levity. Here we do not feel as we do while at a party, though that may be our eventual goal in health. Someone is sick, perhaps dying, and everything else, every meager convenience or empty pleasure, is put aside and forgotten.
This is in the visible world; but what of the spiritual world? Is the sickness of the soul any less serious? Is it not much worse? Here it is not only the body which is hurt, but both the body and the soul. Sin is a darker, more harmful sickness than we can imagine, and the harm it does to our souls is beyond our guessing. The problem is not only that it is invisible; it is also somehow enjoyable. Sin is like a cancer that rips the soul apart while sedating it with pleasure, and so it can easily go unnoticed. The loftiest pride, which unravels our relationship with God, can be falsely justified. The most addictive lust, which rips our emotions to pieces, still has its attraction. The most blatant disobedience, satanic as it is, can be easily forgotten. Such diseases are covered up and protected by those who have them. Imagine someone with the flu hiding the fact so that no one cures him!
Indeed, sin is a harder sickness to heal because it requires our conversion; it requires that we admit our wrong, that we see ourselves as sick and turn to Christ who heals us:
Lord, to you do I cry, O true Doctor: heal the wounds of my sins, for they crush me!
Unfortunately, there is more. We can become so entangled in our sinfulness that even when we are healed, we forget our Doctor. Even after we admit our sins and turn to him for forgiveness, sometimes we return to our sins again, or, having received the healing we need, forget about the one who healed us. Such a healing is only partial, because the will is still wanders away and seeks a new sickness. No one leaving a hospital returns to life with full vigor; it takes time and patience to heal fully, and gradually health returns. In more serious cases, repeated visits to the doctor are necessary. Similarly, in the sickness of sin requires that we constantly return to our Doctor for his spiritual medicine. Without it, we forget him and lose ourselves:
If your grace does not stand before me, I would be already destroyed in so many evils.
Christ is the true Doctor of our souls, and much more. He is not only our healing, but our very Life; he visits us not only to heal, but to remain. It is not like the sick person leaving the hospital and going home, who need never remember the doctors and nurses who care for him. Our continued health, our life in the Spirit of God, requires that the Doctor make his home within us forever, that we never turn away from him:
Cleanse my faults through mournful tears, and forgive my defilements in the mercies of your grace. O Christ, O Pitier of all, pity me and have mercy on me, and turn me to you in your compassion. O Lord who loves his servants, have mercy on me!