Sunday, 13 September 2009


...προ της Υψώσεως του Τιμίου Σταυρού

The day today bears the name “Sunday before the Exaltation of the Holy Cross”. The actual feast (which is tomorrow, 14th September) in the Orthodox Church it is regarded as equal to a Despotic Feast. This is why there is a preparation period before the feast, as well as a week of celebration and remembrance of the greatest symbol for all Christians, after the feast. In our Eastern Orthodox understanding the Holy Cross has been almost personified.

The biblical readings at the Divine Liturgy, both the Epistle and the Gospel, have direct and indirect references to the Precious and Lifegiving Cross. The importance of the Honorable Wood for our spiritual life has been particularly emphasised since the beginning of the Christian era. This is why our Holy Orthodox Church has dedicated various days during the ecclesiastical year to it.

The feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is historically and traditionally based on the events that had happened in Jerusalem in the 4th century AD, when St. Helen had discovered there the True Cross, and St. Macarius the Bishop of the “Mother of the Church” had elevated it, for all people to see and venerate it. And then everyone sung loudly and joyfully “Lord, have mercy”. Soon afterwards the Church has started commemorating this great event, firstly in Constantinople, and from there the festival spread to other Christian centers.

It is important to remember that when we commemorate the Holy Cross we should always refer to and commemorate also Him who has been crucified on the Cross for our salvation, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. And let us not forget that the Cross was not the end in our Lord’s life. It was merely an event in His earthly life. The next event though, was even more important and glorious. It was on this actual event and theological truth, namely the Resurrection, which our faith is based upon. But it is true that the Resurrection comes always after the Crucifixion. The dawn follows the dark. The real joy in the spiritual life of human beings comes after the experience of suffering.
A powerful hymn especially appointed for tomorrow and frequently remembered by Orthodox Christians, which shows the importance of the Holy Cross and its support to our spiritual struggles, is as follows:

The Cross is the guardian of the whole earth.
The Cross is the beauty of the Church.
The Cross is the strength of Kings.
The Cross is the support of the faithful.
The Cross is the glory of angels and wonder of demons.

A pious custom among Christians is the making of the sign of the cross. This is an act sanctified by its continuous use over the Christian centuries. This should be done properly, with reverence and fear of God, without harry and carelessness.

Tomorrow we shall also sing with faith and piety the following glorious hymn:

Save Your people, O Lord, and bless Your inheritance. Grant victory to Your faithful people against enemies, and protect Your community by Your Cross.


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