The Elevation of the Precious Cross

The Elevation of the Precious Cross

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Georgios N. Manolis, Theologian

 

The Lord’s Precious Cross is the supreme symbol of sacrifice and sanctification for the Church of Christ, Who was crucified and then rose, because the Cross, together with the Resurrection, are the two pillars which support the life for the Church and its members.

The honour paid by the Orthodox Church to the Precious Cross on 14 September (though not only on that day) began in the very first, Apostolic years, through the Apostles themselves and the Fathers who followed them. Today, the Orthodox Church preserves intact the Biblical (Old Testament and New) and Patristic teaching and accords the Cross of Christ due honour as the outstanding instrument and symbol of the redemption of the human race.

In 326, after the 1st Ecumenical Synod, Helen, the mother of Constantine the Great, went to the Holy Land, where she began the construction of fine churches in those places at which, according to tradition, events linked to the presence of the Lord on earth and other Biblical occurrences had taken place. Central among them was the Lord’s Holy Sepulchre. During the second destruction of Jerusalem, in 135, the emperor Hadrian had built a temple to Aphrodite on this spot. He’d earthed over the sites of Golgotha and the tomb in order to prevent Christians visiting them. Saint Helen engaged in endeavours to discover the Precious Cross. After painstaking excavations, they finally found three crosses: the Lord’s and those of the robbers. Then according to Church tradition, Bishop Makarios of Jerusalem, having first said a prayer, touched the body of a dead woman with all three crosses. When the third cross, the Lord’s, was laid on her, she revived.

According to Church tradition, Saint Helen embraced the Cross immediately after its discovery and gave it over to Bishop Makarios. The news spread to all parts of Jerusalem. A whole host of believers crowded to touch the Precious Cross, but because of the sheer weight of numbers, the bishop raised the Cross on high and blessed those present with it. On the same day, we celebrate the second Elevation of the Cross, which occurred a few years later, in 335, the day after the inauguration of the church of the Resurrection.

Finally, on this same day, the Church records a third and final Elevation of the Precious Cross in the year 630. At that time, Emperor Heraclius was fighting the Persians who, 14 years previously, had conquered Palestine and made off with the Precious Cross. After Heraclius had defeated the Persians and regained the Cross, he set it up on the throne of Patriarch Zachariah, who’d been captured by the Persians. On September 14 he came to Jerusalem bearing the Cross upon his shoulders. When he reached the church of the Resurrection, he gave it over to the now restored Patriarch Zachariah, who raised it to show to the crowds and bless them. As he did so he sang ‘Lord save your people…’, the first time the troparion had been sung.

Ecclesiastical history sources mention that the feast of the Elevation was established long ago, perhaps even by Constantine the Great, at the exhortation of his mother, immediately after the discovery of the Precious Cross in Jerusalem in about 330, and in combination with the feast commemorating the inauguration of the church of the Resurrection on 13 May, in the year 335.

The Church honours the holy day of the Elevation of the Lord’s Cross in a particular way. During the Divine Liturgy, the Epistle reading concerns the importance of the Lord’s sacrifice on the Cross, while the Gospel describes scenes of the crucifixion. Moreover, the day has been declared a strict fast (without wine or oil), unless it falls on a Saturday or Sunday), because of Christ’s sacrifice, making it equal to Great Friday.

At this point, it’s worth noting the connection between the feast of the Transfiguration and that of the Elevation of the Precious Cross. The Transfiguration took place 40 days before the Lord’s passion, but we celebrate it on August 6, because it would have been difficult to celebrate a fest day of the Lord within the solemn period of Great Lent. Since, as we’ve just said, the feast of the Elevation of the Precious Cross is equal to Great Friday, the feast of the Transfiguration was fixed as being forty days before it.

On the occasion of the discovery and elevation of the Lord’s Precious Cross, the Church shows all of us the way of life we should be leading. So that we can be crucified together with Christ and then raised. We should draw strength and grace from this. Christ’s Cross is a symbol of obedience, humility, and love, it’s the sign of victory over hatred, self-centredness, sin, the passions and egotism.

Let us also struggle, insofar as we can, to imitate Him and obey Him. Imitate His humility His obedience and also His love, which was the same for everyone, for His disciples and for those who crucified Him and which remained with Him on the Cross. Let us pass the remaining time of our life in peace and repentance.

Source: pemptousia.com

 

 

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OCN has partnered with Pemptousia. A Contemporary post-modern man does not understand what man is.  Through its presence in the internet world, Pemptousia, with its spirit of respect for beauty that characterizes it, wishes to contribute to the presentation of a better meaning of life for man, to the search for the ontological dimension of man, and to the awareness of the unfathomable mystery of man who is always in Christ in the process of becoming, of man who is in the image of divine beauty. And the beauty of man springs from the beauty of the Triune God. In the end, “beauty will save the world”.

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Pemptousia Partnership

Pemptousia and OCN have entered a strategic partnership to bring Orthodoxy Worldwide. Greek philosophers from Ionia considered held that there were four elements or essences (ousies) in nature: earth, water, fire and air. Aristotle added ether to this foursome, which would make it the fifth (pempto) essence, pemptousia, or quintessence. The incarnation of God the Word found fertile ground in man’s proclivity to beauty, to goodness, to truth and to the eternal. Orthodoxy has not functioned as some religion or sect. It was not the movement of the human spirit towards God but the revelation of the true God, Jesus Christ, to man. A basic precept of Orthodoxy is that of the person ­– the personhood of God and of man. Orthodoxy is not a religious philosophy or way of thinking but revelation and life standing on the foundations of divine experience; it is the transcendence of the created and the intimacy of the Uncreated. Orthodox theology is drawn to genuine beauty; it is the theology of the One “fairer than the sons of men”. So in "Pemptousia", we just want to declare this "fifth essence", the divine beaut in our life. Please note, not all Pemptousia articles have bylines. If the author is known, he or she is listed in the article above.