Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
List of Major Feast Days
September 14 (Gregorian Calendar)
September 27 (Julian Calendar)
This great feast at the very outset of the Christian year, following the Nativity of the Mother of God on September 8, proclaims that the Cross stands firm while the earth revolves, as the hermits of old said. The Cross has significance for all the world. Jesus said, “If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all peoples to Me.”
On this day, the Cross is lifted up to the four corners of the earth, and descends even into hell, that the world may be saved. It is raised five times, facing East, South, West, North and East again. The whole world is encompassed. We find in the Expostilarion, this idea:
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.
The date September 14th, recalls the finding of the Cross in Jerusalem by Saint Helen, and the dedication of the Church of the Resurrection, built by her son St. Constantine, and dedicated in 335.
St. John Chrysostom, writing in 395, in the homilies on St. John (the Evangelist), speaks of the three crosses discovered by the Empress Helen beneath the mound of Golgotha.
Early in the 5th Century, Rufinus and Paulinus of Nola record miracles by which the true Cross of Christ was recognized by St. Helen and St. Macarius, Bishop of Jerusalem.
From Constantinople, the festival spread to other Christian centers. It was celebrated in Rome at the end of the seventh century.
The importance of the feast is shown by preparation on the Sunday before, when the epistle from Galatians 6: 1 – 18 reminds us of the teaching of St. Paul:
“But far be it from me to glory except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
In the Gospel, John 3: 13 – 17, we read:
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.”
On the Sunday after the feast, there are also additional epistle and Gospel readings. In Galatians 2: 16-21, we find the well-known words:
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me, and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
In Mark 8: 34- 9: 1, we read the teaching of Jesus:
“If anyone would come after Me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me. For whoever would save one’s life will lose it, and whoever loses one’s life for My sake and the Gospel’s, will save it.”
Before and after this feast, we, members of the Church, meditate on the mystery of Christ’s life-giving death, by which death itself has been overcome.
DID YOU KNOW?
- This feast day is commemorated on the Sunday before the feast and the Sunday after the Feast.
- The post-festive period for this feast is until September 21.
- St. Constantine, Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire had a vision of a Cross and heard a voice that told him: In this sign you will conquer.
- After this vision, Constantine had crosses painted on the shields of his warriors.
- St. Constantine was St. Helen’s son.
- From Constantinople, the festival spread to other Christian centers. It was celebrated in Rome at the end of the Seventh Century.
- We also venerate the Holy Cross on the Third Sunday of the Great Fast.
- We never commemorate the cross without remembering the Resurrection.
The Epistle is from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1: 18 – 24).
“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”.
“We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the gentiles, but to those who are called, Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God”.
The Gospel reading is from John 19: 6 – 11, 13 – 20, 25 – 28, 30 – 35. It tells, with direct simplicity, the events of the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ: only through belief and Christian experience can we come to know the greatness of the love of God for us; that he bore all this for our salvation.
TROPAR (Tone 1)
Save Your people, O Lord, and bless Your inheritance. * Grant victory to Your faithful people against enemies,* and protect Your community by Your Cross.
KONDAK (Tone 4)
By your own choice, O Christ our God, * You were lifted on the cross.*
Grant Your mercies to Your new community * that bears Your name.*
By Your power gladden the faithful people * and grant them victory against enemies.* May they have the help of Your instrument of peace, * the invincible sign of victory.
WHAT CAN I DO IN MY HOME OR CLASSROOM?
- Decorate a crucifix and place it in the Icon Corner. Begin your class or your prayer by singing and bowing profoundly before the Cross:To Your Cross, O Master we bow in veneration, and we glorify Your holy Resurrection.
- Make pictures of the Cross and write underneath:In this sign we conquer.
- Make the sign of the Cross reverently on the forehead of the children or your family members and ask for the Protection of the Holy Cross for each of them.
- Teach the Tropar according to the proper Tone.
- Learn a new Hymn to the Holy Cross.
- Go to Church and Venerate the Holy Cross on the Tetrapod.
THE SIGN OF THE CROSS
The symbol of Christian faith has ever been and always will be the Cross, for it is the sign of our redemption by our Lord Jesus Christ, who came to earth to suffer for us and was crucified upon the Cross. When we wish to show that something is dedicated to Christ, we mark it with a Cross. When we join the three fingers of our right hand together, it is as if we wanted to say: “I believe in God, One in the Trinity; in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit; not in one person, but Three Persons; not in three gods, but One God.” When we bend the other two fingers of our right hand down to the palm it is as if we were saying: “I believe that our Saviour Jesus Christ, who is at the same time Real God and Real man – the God-man – came down to earth for our salvation.
As we make the sign of the Cross, we say the following prayer:
“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen”. Doing so, we clearly indicate that we belong to God and serve Him alone. God is always near us, because He is everywhere. He always sees us, just as He sees everything. But during prayer, we are especially close to God: we stand before Him, speak to Him and He listens to us. Because of this, while praying, we sign ourselves with the Cross more often, especially before and after each prayer. We also make the Cross upon ourselves when we enter church, approach a sacred object or kiss an icon, and many times during church services. We should make the sign of the Cross in the morning to obtain God’s blessing on the day; in the evening to ask for His protection during the night; at all the important moments of our life: when in danger, in sorrow, in joy; before all important undertakings that they may turn out well; at mealtime to invoke God’s blessing and to give Him thanks.
We must never make the sign of the Cross hurriedly and carelessly. To those who cross themselves in a hurry, without due deliberation, or who simply wave their hand fanning their breast, St John Chrysostom says: “the demons rejoice in this frantic waving.” On the other hand, the Cross traced correctly, with faith and reverence, dispels demons, calms sinful passions, attracts Divine Grace and gives us the strength to do good. We must never be ashamed of the sign of the Cross lest Christ be ashamed of us. We are assured by Christians of all ages, but especially by those of the first centuries, that we have at our command a very powerful weapon: the sign of the Cross. Therefore, it is much to be regretted that we do not make better use of it in our times. Never did the world array before the children of God enemies so numerous or so insidious as at the present time. They assail us on every side, not only with sword and fire, but with false philosophies, with pride of intellect, with religious indifference, with materialism, with commodity. It is more difficult for us to combat these enemies for a lifetime, than it was for early Christians to gain a martyr’s glory in a momentary struggle in the amphitheater. If, for the first Christians, trained in the school of apostles and their immediate successors, the frequent use of the sign of the Cross was so necessary, is it not also indispensable to us? Let us then follow the pious custom of our fathers in the Faith and make the sign of the Cross more frequently
Taken from St Luke’s Mission website