The Elevation of the Precious and Life-Creating Cross of the Lord

 

 

 

For a long time the Cross served as the instrument of a shameful punishment, exciting fear and disgust among people, but from the time that Christ sanctified it by His Blood, it became an object of pious respect and veneration for all Christians. However, this did not become universal at once. The very life-bearing Tree on which the Lord was crucified laid in the ground for many years until it was revealed to the world in a miraculous manner.

 

Whenever the waves of persecutions directed against Christians died down and they emerged, tormented and bloodied, from the catacombs and caves into Godís light, signing themselves with an extensive sign of the cross, then it was that Constantine the Great, who more than once had felt the power of the Cross, decided to find the same Tree to which the Body of Christ had been nailed. His eighty-year old holy mother Helen took upon herself this sacred task. Arriving in Jerusalem she spent much time and means to discover exactly where the Cross of the Lord was hidden. She managed to establish the fact that soon after the Resurrection of Christ the Jews had deeply filled up the crag of the Lordís tomb, since it was a living monument of their rejection of the Lord. There, covered by rocks and all sorts of refuse, was discovered the life-giving Tree of Christ with the crosses of the thieves. In order to weaken the respect of the early Christians towards the holy places, in later times the heathen had placed idols upon Golgotha, had built a temple in honor of the shameless goddess Venus. Later it was found that a certain old Jew, Judas by name, on the basis of written family traditions, knew exactly where the Cross of Christ was hidden. For a long time he did not agree to reveal his secret and only forced by hunger and poverty did he lead the Empress Helen and Patriarch Macarius to Golgotha? Pointing to the exact spot, he said: "Here you will find the Cross of your Christ.íí

 

With piety, burning with impatience, the people started to work, animated by the sweet odor emerging from the earth at that spot. Sure enough, soon there were found three well-preserved crosses which were exactly alike by their exterior shape. It was therefore impossible to ascertain which of them was the Cross of Christ? Since the board with the inscription J.N.K.J. was laying separately. The perplexity was dispersed by Patriarch Macarius who said: "If Providence did not favor the leaving of the Lordís Cross in the ground, will it allow it to remain unknown now? Will it allow us to give honor to a robberís cross in place of the Lordís Cross? God Himself will show us the Cross of Our Saviour." With these words he commanded that the crosses he taken to the home of a grievously-ill woman. Here, after fervent prayer, he placed on her the crosses, one after another. The first two did not show any effect on the sick woman, but as soon as he placed on her the third crossóthe ill woman immediately felt herself healed and arose from her bed. Giving praise to God, everyone unanimously recognized this wonder-working cross as the Lordís. It was pleasing to the Providence of God to reveal new glory for the life-bearing Tree. Just at that time a dead man was being carried to burial past the house of the woman who had been healed. Filled with faith, the Patriarch, in the presence of the Empress and a great multitude of people, stopped the sorrowful procession and began to lay the crosses upon the dead man. And the same one of them which gave health to the sick woman resurrected the dead man to the indescribable joy of the surrounding populace. All those present could not be controlled in their desire to venerate the precious Cross and kiss it. Since this was impossible because of the tremendous gathering of people, Patriarch Macarius stood upon an elevated place, and with help raised the Cross high in the air several times so that it could, at least, be seen by all. Bowing down to the ground with piety, the people cried out: Lord, have mercy!íí It is from this festive act of the rising or elevation of the life-giving Cross of the Lord that todayís feast received its name. In this glorification of Christís Cross, His very enemies were forced to give it veneration. Judas, with whose help the Lordís Cross was found, received Holy Baptism with the name Cyriacus and, little by little, being elevated in the degrees of the Priesthood, later occupied the place of Patriarch of Jerusalem, and later still was made worthy of a martyrís crown.

 

What is the later history of the Cross of Christ and where is it now found?

 

In the year 614 the Persian King (Shah) Khosroes captured Jerusalem and along with other treasures abducted the Tree of the Cross. After 15 years when the Persians were defeated, the Cross was returned. At the triumphant meeting of the returned Cross the Emperor Heracles, himself decided to bear this treasure from the Mount of Olives to the Church of the Resurrection. At the gates of Golgotha, however, some invisible force stopped him and the more he tried the stronger was the power that held him back. Then it was revealed to the Patriarch in a vision that it was not right for the Emperor to go in such majesty and brilliance where the Saviour Himself, carrying His own Cross, went in such poverty and humiliation. The next day, having divested himself of his footwear and extravagant raiment, dressed in simple clothing, the Emperor took the Cross upon his own back and without any hindrance carried it to the Church. This was 14 September of the year 629. Later this Cross was taken apart in particles by the Faithful and today there is not, it would seem, any country where particles of this most precious sacred object is not preserved in churches and even by individuals.

 

And Christians of the whole world piously honor this life-bearing Tree. ĎĎIt is worthy and right to venerate Christís Cross," says Saint Demetrius, the Metropolitan of Rostov. "For through this blessed Tree was death slain and life granted." "This sign." teaches another prelate, John Chrysostom, "both in former and present times opened closed doorís, removed the power of ill-bearing substances, made poison ineffective, and healed the mortal bites of beasts."

 

Come, faithful, let us bow to the Cross of the Lord lying before us and, following the example of the ancient Christians, let us say with compunction: Lord, have mercy! Through the might of the precious and life-creating Cross, save us sinners. Amen. *

 

On the Elevation of the Holy Cross

 

St. Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, in a letter written around 350 AD to Emperor Constantiaís, the son of Constantine the Great, states that the true Cross was found in Jerusalem during the reign of Constantine. From the beginning of the fifth century, church writers and historians attribute the finding of the true Cross to St. Helena, the mother of St. Constantine. In his Catecheses, theological discourses which Cyril delivered in Jerusalem beginning in 347 AD, he frequently mentions the sacred Cross. St. Cyril briefly describes a tradition that was followed in Jerusalem on the morning of Holy Friday. The bishop, the clergy and the faithful would gather in the Chapel of the Cross which had been constructed by Constantine near Golgotha, and there they would venerate a large relic of the true Cross which was kept in a beautiful silver and gold reliquary.

 

St. Cyril is the first writer to comment on the fact that relics of the true Cross had been distributed all over the world. By the beginning of the fifth century, fragments of the true Cross were found in churches, monasteries and even in homes. In fact, St. John Chrysostom (d. 407) observed that many individuals in his day wore small gold reliquaries containing particles of the Cross around their necks. The expression "knock on wood" comes from the time Christians touched their reliquary crosses in times of trouble.

 

During the first three centuries, Christians were almost continually suffering from persecutions-at first from the unbelieving Jews and then from the heathen. Many Christians became martyrs. Only in the fourth century did these persecutions come to an end when the Roman Emperor Constantine became a Christian,

 

On the eve of a battle against one of his adversaries, Emperor Constantine and all his army saw in heaven a sign of the Cross which was made up of stars with the Latin words "in hoc (signo) vinces" meaning "by this sign you will conquer." Then the Lord Jesus Christ Himself appeared in a dream to Constantine with a sign on which the form of a cross was made, and commanded him to make the same as a standard for his army, promising him victory. Having conquered his enemies, Emperor Constantine became the defender and patron of the Christian religion and the Church.

 

It was the prayers of his righteous mother Helen which had turned Constantine towards Christianity. At his request St. Helen went to the Holy Land and established many churches there. Her greatest desire was to find the Cross on which our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified. After long searches the place was discovered where the Lord's cross was hidden together with the two crosses on which the two thieves were crucified. The True, Life-giving Cross was recognized when a dead man was placed on it and was brought to life by a miracle of the Lord. Then the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Macarius stood on an elevated place and rose up the Cross so that the Christians could see it and venerate it. All the faithful fell to the ground before the Cross and with joy called out: "Lord, have mercy

 

St. Helen had a church built over the Holy Sepulcher to house the relic of the True Cross. This church was dedicated in the year 335. As the Cross was being carried into the church, it was again raised up... Since that time the Elevation of the Cross of the Lord has been celebrated as one of the twelve Great Feasts of the Church, thereby reminding Christians of the importance of the Cross as the means of our salvation and as a symbol of spiritual victory over sin and death.

 

In remembrance of the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross, we keep this day as a strict fast day, even when it falls on a Sunday.

 

(In Arabic)

 

Hymns

 

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

 

 

Source:http://www.orthodoxresearchinstitute.org