The Mystery of the Cross

Uncovering of the Precious Cross and the Precious Nails by the Empress St Helen in Jerusalem

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

(Saint Isaac the Syrian)

Lord Jesus Christ, You Who wept over the death of Your friend Lazarus and shed tears of sorrow and sympathy for him, accept my tears with which I indicate the sorrow I feel for my sins. Through Your sufferings, Lord, heal the passions of my soul. Through Your wounds, cleanse the wounds of my soul, which sin has brought upon me. Through Your Precious Blood, sanctify my blood and make my whole body fragrant with the spiritual aroma of Your Life-Giving Body. May the bitter gall, given to You, Lord, upon the Cross by Your enemies, sweeten the bitterness and grief brought upon my soul by the evil enemy. May Your Sacred Body, stretched upon the wood of the Cross for my sake, motivate me to stretch toward You my whole attention and mind, which has been drawn by the evil spirits toward the material, earthly and corruptible things. May Your head, which inclined upon the Cross, cause my head to be raised up toward the heavenly and the spiritual things. May Your All-Holy hands, which were pierced with nails by lawless unbelievers, draw me and raise me from the precipice of destruction, and bring me to You, as Your own Holy lips have promised. May Your face, stricken and reviled by those who crucified You, purify and brighten my face which is sullied with my sins and transgressions. May Your soul, delivered to Your Heavenly Father, guide me to be in Your presence and under the protections of Your grace. Amen.


On March 6th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers, and every righteous spirit made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: The Uncovering of the Precious Cross and Precious Nails by Empress Saint Helen; 42 holy Martyrs of Ammoria in Phrygia; Saint Hesychius of Galatia; Saint Conor and his son Conon of Iconium; Saint Fridolin, enlightener of the Upper Rhine; Saint Arcadius, monk of Cyprus, and his disciples Julian and Vulius; Saint Abraham of Bulgaria; Saint Joshua of Solovki; holy Martyr Maximus; holy Martyr Efrosynus (Euphrosynus); holy Martyr Julian and Evoulos.

UNCOVERING OF THE PRECIOUS CROSS AND THE PRECIOUS NAILS BY EMPRESS SAINT HELEN. When Empress Helen, mother of Constantine the Great, decided to search for the Holy Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, she located an old Jew named Judah, the only person to know of its whereabouts. Under duress, he said that the Holy Cross was buried under a pagan temple dedicated to Venus. Saint Helen ordered the pagan temple torn down, and digging deep found all three crosses and the nails. Uncertain to which was the Holy Cross, Patriarch Macarius of Jerusalem directed that each be placed over a dead person en route to burial. The third Cross restored the dead man to life. Then it was placed on a sick woman who also recovered. Saint Helen commissioned a silver casing made and placed the Holy Cross therein.

THE FORTY-TWO HOLY MARTYRS OF AMMORIA. These were all generals under the Byzantine Emperor Theophilos. When the Emperor lost the struggle against the Saracens around the town of Ammoria, the Saracens took the town and enslaved many Christians, with these generals among them. The remaining Christians they were either killed or sold into slavery, but threw these generals into prison, where they remained for seven years. Muslim leaders came many times, urging them to accept the Mohammedan (Muslim) faith, but the generals refused to do so. After seven years they were beheaded, in 845 A.D. Their bodies were cast into the Euphrates, but they floated to the other bank where Christians collected them and gave them burial.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Martyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

Holy Epistle Lesson: 1 John 3:21-24, 4:1-11
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 14:43-72, 15:1


"Do not let your conscience prick you for long, but quickly give it whatever it wants, lest it take you to the Judge and the prison (St. Matt. 5:25). Does your conscience want you to attend to your prayer rule and regain prayer? Give it these things and behold, you are delivered from going to the Judge. Do not weaken the saving voice of your conscience by disregarding it, because later you will regret it to no avail." (Geronda [Elder] Ephraim of the Holy Mountain)

by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos

The Mystery of the Cross as a mystery of the Eternal Love of God for mankind, was expressed on Golgotha by Christ's death. But we must not remain only in this outer and historical aspect of the subject. We must also go on to partake of the mystery of the Cross through the Sacramental and ascetic life. Through Baptism, as the Apostle Paul says, we are baptized into Christ's death, so that we also come out of the Font to be raised, to participate in the Resurrection of Christ. This is why the early Christian fonts were constructed in the shape of a Cross. In all the Sacraments grace is given by blessing in the form of a Cross, but the Sacraments presuppose and take place in the atmosphere of the ascetic life.

Saint Maximos the Confessor says that all phenomena should be crucified, that is to say we should abstain from sin in practice and action, as the Hebrews fled from Egypt and crossed to the other side through the Red Sea. But the perception too should be buried, that is to say, we should pay attention also to the passionate movements of our thoughts and passions. This is accomplished through the neptic and hesychastic life. Only then is the Logos (Word) of God Resurrected in us.

Saint Maximos the Confessor, taking an example from Joseph of Arimatheia and Nicodemos, who buried the Body of Christ, says that the Lord's monument is either the world or the heart of each of the faithful. All who bury the Lord with honor must wrap Him with lines, which are the words and ways of the virtues, but they must also put in place the hand cloths, which are the simple and unvarying knowledge of theology. Only those who live by practice and vision of God, as shown by the virtues and the knowledge of theology, can see the Risen Christ, while Christ is invisible to all the others who do not live by practice and the vision (theoria) of God.

This is why we said before that the reconciliation which took place through the historical event of the Crucifixion is not the same thing as participation of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which takes place within the sacramental and ascetic life of the Church.

Christ's Passion and Cross are not offered only for anthropocentric sentimental thoughts, but for a journey of rebirth, renewal, glorification and deification (theosis). There is need for a personal existential approach to these great events of the Lord. Saint Maximos the Confessor says that we have two possibilities: one to crucify Christ again, sinning with our bodies, which by Holy Baptism are members of the Body of Christ, or being crucified with Christ. Essentially it is a question of the two possibilities which the two thieves had who were crucified with Christ on Golgotha. One turned out to be a great theologian, the other a blasphemer. Nobody succeeds in being a neighbor of the crucified Christ, but a person can be crucified with Him, put off "the old man with his deeds" and put on "the new man renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him Who created him" (Col. 3:9-10).

"Almost every Patristic hymn and writing celebrates the Cross as the Lord's 'trophy'; and approaches His sufferings through the lens of His Glory. It does not exegete the Resurrection through the lens of the Cross, but the Cross through the gateway of the Glory: the Glory that was his from Eternity as Only Begotten, and the Glory that he won bodily, as the Church's Hero and Liberator, in His Incarnate ministry as Beloved Servant. The theme of Victory does not underestimate the impact of the Lord's suffering (we do not wish to hurry over the Cross in order to arrive painlessly at the joy of the Resurrection) but equally the Church does not become lost in the sufferings, or overcast by the gloom of a religion of suffering and satisfaction of an angry God. The Lord's wounds are His Glory in the struggle not with His Father, but with the forces of evil. The Passion of Christ (and so it calls out to all His believers) is undertaken for us to be our encouragement: for the Lord was glorified; His suffering and rejection was the warrior's blow that reduced Him to His knees, but He stood up again and won the fight.

He won it decisively, on behalf of His people: and resurrectional joy shared in the Church is, not least, a light that floods into every aspect of believers' lives, that they will never, ever, have to walk in the darkness in which He walked, that darkness of complete lovelessness and triumphant evil, for He has broken the victory of loveless evil, and brought love even into the depths of hell. Even if the Lord sends a share of His sufferings to each of His friends during the course of their lives (large or small it may be according to the challenge he has set for each one), no disciple ever walks again in hopeless darkness, for His presence is always as the Giver of Light, the Warrior who won triumph; and the Cross is His sign of victory that casts away hate-filled gloom, and sends the forces of evil flying in panic...The Cross is our victory, and our hope, and often has been our consolation in the long dark night of suffering. The marking of the self with the sign of the Cross is one of the most distinctive things any observer will see if they ever look at the Orthodox Christian at prayer." (The Orthodox Church by Father John Anthony McGuckin).

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George