Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
I Corinthians 1:18-24
Good morning Prayer Team!
Today in the Orthodox Church we celebrate the Feastday of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This feast commemorates an historical event, the finding of the Precious Cross of Christ by St. Helen (mother of St. Constantine) in the year 325. Saint Helen had a desire to find the cross of Christ, and went to Jerusalem, the hill of Golgotha. A fragrant plant was growing in one place on the hillside and she ordered soldiers to dig there. Three crosses were found. A funeral procession was passing by, and the body of the dead man was placed on all three crosses. When he was placed on one of the crosses, he came back to life. Thus they knew which cross was the Cross of Christ.
The plant we now called “Basil,” or in Greek “Vasiliko,” which means “of the King,” referring to Christ. One neat thing about Basil is that you can cut a piece of it from its roots, which generally causes a slow death to a plant. But then when you put the branch in water, it will regrow roots and can be replanted. This is symbolic of the death and resurrection of Christ. He was crucified and died, and yet lived again.
Not only do we commemorate an historic event with the Feastday of the Holy Cross, we also honor the Cross as the most powerful symbol of Christianity. Once a symbol of shame reserved for punishing only the most heinous of crimes, the Cross is the sign of our Christianity, a sign of triumph. The sign of the cross has won battles for armies, it keeps evil at bay, it strengthens the believer, it reminds us of our faith. We make the sign of the cross over our person several times a day, to remind us that we are blessed through Christ. The sign of the cross is made over us in prayer and worship by our priest as a sign that we are also blessed through the Church. We wear the cross around our necks as a mark of our identity as Christians, and as a witness to our faith.
To the one outside the faith, the cross can appear as trinket. To many it is still a cause of ridicule. Many in our society are offended at the sight of it. I sometimes wonder if a day is coming in the near future when we will have to take crosses off of our churches because they will be deemed politically incorrect. To the uninitiated, the cross means little. To the one who believes, the Cross is a sign of strength, power and wisdom. I start and end each day with making the sign of the cross. Before my feet hit the floor each morning, I have already made my cross, asking God to bless me and the day I am about to begin. And the last time my feet come off the floor at night, I make the sign of the cross, thanking God for the day that has finished and asking Him to bless me in the night and to grant me a new day tomorrow.
Today’s prayer is said at the Orthros service every Sunday, but also will be offered in church today-Holy Cross Day has the solemnity of Good Friday, and at the same time, we will use the phrase “who rose from the dead,” and offer the following prayer, which is generally reserved for Resurrectional Days.
Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ, let us worship the Holy Lord Jesus, the only sinless one. We venerate Your cross of Christ and Your Holy Resurrection we praise and glorify. You are our God, we know no other than You and we call upon Your Holy Name. Come, all you faithful, let us worship Christ’s Holy Resurrection. For behold, through the Cross, joy has come to all the world. Ever blessing the Lord, let us praise His Resurrection. For in enduring the Cross for us, He has destroyed death by death.
Wear your cross with purpose today! Carry whatever cross you carry in life with strength. For in carrying His cross, Christ gained His greatest victory. In carrying yours, may you find the same.
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