Feast of the Holy Cross 2013

Feast of the Holy Cross 2013

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Apolytikion of the Holy Cross

Lord, save Your people and bless Your inheritance, granting our rulers to prevail over adversaries, and protecting Your commonwealth by Your Cross.

Kontakion of the Holy Cross

Lifted up on the Cross by Your free will, Christ God, grant mercies to the new commonwealth that bears Your name. Gladden our faithful rulers by Your power, giving them victories over their adversaries. May Your alliance be for them a weapon for peace, an invincible standard.

Isaac Watts hymn on the Cross (Refrain only)

At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!

Beginning tonight at Great Vespers, we began to celebrate the The Elevation of the Venerable and Life-Giving Cross. Roman Catholics and Anglicans call this The Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Lutherans call it Holy Cross Day. Anabaptists and the descendants of the non-conformists have no such day, but they most certainly have an uncountable number of hymns about the Holy Cross.

What is clear is that all of Christianity looks at the Cross and knows that what happened at the Cross, and even the Cross itself, are necessary parts of Christianity. Some sign themselves with the Cross. Some only wear the Cross. But, interestingly enough, in both cases there is an understanding that the Cross itself is powerful.

Christ’s dying on the Cross sanctified the Cross in such a way that it is a powerful symbol, powerful in a way that few other Christian symbols are (such as Holy Water). The power of the Cross has even crossed over into secular culture, sadly into Hollywood horror movies, particularly vampire ones. It is only as this culture has become more secular that the idea that the Cross is powerful has been removed from the movies.

The Cross is, in some ways, our doorway to heaven. We must be crucified to it in order to die and be reborn into a new and heavenly life. Our imitation of Christ, our becoming like Christ, must include the Cross and all that it means, in order for us to be transformed into the likeness of Christ.

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Fr. Ernesto Obregon

I am a Cuban. My sister and I arrived in the United States of America in 1961. I was nine years old at the time and my sister was five. Yes, alone. Our mother, a widow, put us on the plane in La Habana, and we were taken to an orphanage upon our arrival in Miami. No, I never lived in Miami for longer than about six months. Yes, we and our mother were re-united. She escaped from Cuba by boat about four or five months after we arrived in the USA. We were re-united and were sent by the Catholic Welfare folk to Ohio, where they had found my mother a job and us a foster home while she learned English and got situated. So, I grew up in Ohio, had a paper route, learned to build snowmen, and moved from place to place as out mother got better jobs. Eventually she met a good man and re-married and we settled into his house in Mansfield, Ohio. I was a 15-year-old teenager.

Needless to say, none of this was necessarily guaranteed to keep me strong in the faith, although my mother tried. I rebelled during my teenage years and left Roman Catholicism for some vague hippie philosophies and a lot of rebellion. By 1970 I had been expelled from college after my first year, a year in which I was very confused and quite directionless. When I returned to Mansfield in defeat, I was approached by a friend who had become a “Jesus Person.” He took me to this “farm” that was filled with about four middle-aged adults and lots of early 20′s Jesus People. One of those adults was a Southern Baptist pastor, a former Campus Crusade staffer, and uncomfortable supervisor of hippy Jesus People, and is now the Very Rev. Gordon Walker, an Archpriest of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese. His story, along with others whom I know, is chronicled in the book, “Becoming Orthodox” by the Very Rev. Peter Gillquist.

My journey was different. I eventually ended up as an Anglican priest, and a missionary. My wife and I served in both Bolivia and Perú, and our three intelligent and very perspicacious daughters spent a decade of their formative years in South America. I ended up as The Archdeacon of Arequipa of the Anglican Church of Perú, which is part of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, which is part of the Anglican Communion.

We returned to the USA when our children began to attend college, and I took a parish in one of the dioceses of The Episcopal Church. Within less than four years, we realized that this was not a Church in which I could doctrinally live.

It was at this point that Fr. Gordon Walker came actively back into my life and told me that it was time that I came into Orthodoxy. He was right, and I have been Orthodox ever since. I was ordained in the Antiochian Orthodox jurisdiction, but am currently serving as an attached priest at a Greek Orthodox Church. God has blessed us. We have wonderful grandchildren. And we are truly blessed.