Dumitru Stăniloae (1903-1993) was a remarkable Romanian Orthodox priest and theologian, who led a renaissance of Orthodoxy in his country with his multi-volume Dogmatic Theology, his translation into Romanian of the Philokalia, and his scholarly work on St. Maximus the Theologian. His Dogmatic Theology has been translated into several languages, including English, and his commentaries on St. Maximus have been translated into Greek. I had the immense spiritual benefit of sharing some time with him when he visited St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary in Dec. 1982, when I was a student there. Every year the Feast of the Universal Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Sept. 14th) reveals new dimensions of God’s love. Here are some short excerpts from the conclusion of a talk Fr. Stăniloae gave to a group of nuns in England in 1970. He speaks of the Cross in a unique way worthy of this great feast of the Church.
Persons reveal their love for one another by their gifts, and this is also true in God’s relationship with men. In this sense we cannot think of the cross without the world as God’s gift. But on the other side we cannot think of the world without the cross. The cross makes this world transparent for God….
Without the cross man would be in danger of considering this world as the ultimate reality. Without the cross he would no longer see the world as God’s gift. Without the cross the Son of God incarnate would have simply confirmed the image of the world as it is now as the final reality, and strictly speaking he could have been neither God nor God incarnate. The cross completes the fragmentary meaning of this world which has meaning when it is seen as a gift which has its value, but only a relative and not an absolute value. The cross reveals the destiny of the world as it is drawn towards its transfiguration in God by Christ. For this reason at the end of this stage of the world this sign, ‘the sign of the Son of Man’, will be revealed in the heavens above all the world, as a light, as a meaning, as a destiny which illumines the whole history of man (cf. Matthew 24:30).
Thus the cross is the sign and the means of the salvation of the world… One cannot conceive of a world which is not saved, a world which would always remain in suffering, enclosed in itself, a world in which the cross would not fully fulfil the destiny of the world. Suffering would have no meaning at all unless it was leading the world towards its salvation in God… In the kingdom of God the world has been transfigured by the cross through which God himself is finally revealed and glorified.