Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
HYMNS OF THE FEAST
Troparion (Tone 1)
O Lord, save Thy people, And bless Thine inheritance. Grant victories to the Orthodox Christians over their adversaries; and by the virtue of Thy Cross, preserve Thy habitation.
As Thou was voluntarily crucified for our sake, grant mercy to those who are called by Thy Name, O Christ God; make all Orthodox Christians glad by Thy power, granting them victories over their adversaries, by bestowing on them the Invincible trophy, Thy weapon of peace.
Instead of the Trisagion
Before Thy Cross we bow down in worship, O Master, and Thy Holy Resurrection we glorify. (Thrice) Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen. And thy Holy Resurrection we glorify. Before Thy Cross we bow down in worship, O Master, and Thy Holy Resurrection we glorify.
Troparion (Tone 4)
We offer in supplication The Life-Creating Cross of Your Goodness, O Lord, Which You have granted to us who are unworthy: Save the Orthodox Christians, O Only Lover of Man, Through the Theotokos.
THE UNIVERSAL EXALTATION OF THE PRECIOUS AND LIFE-GIVING CROSS
The Holy Feast is called in Greek "Υψωσις τού Τιμίου Σταυρού" (literally, "Raising Aloft of the Precious Cross").
The pagan Roman emperors tried to completely eradicate from human memory the holy places where our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and was Resurrected for mankind. The pagan Roman emperor Hadrian (117-138 A.D.) gave orders to cover over the ground of Golgotha and the Sepulcher of the Lord, and to build a temple of the pagan goddess Venus and a stature of Jupiter.
Pagans gathered at this place and offered sacrifice to idols there. Eventually after 300 years, by Divine Providence, the great Christian sacred remains, the Sepulcher of the Lord and the Life-Giving Cross were again discovered and opened for veneration. This took place under the emperor Constantine the Great (306-337 A.D.) after his victory in the year 312 A.D. over Maxentius, ruler of the Western part of the Roman Empire, and over Licinius, ruler of its Eastern part. In the year 323 A.D. Constantine became the sole ruler of the vast Roman Empire.
In 313 A.D. he had issued the Edict of Milan, by which the Christian Faith was legalized and the persecutions against Christians in the Western half of the Empire were stopped. The ruler Licinius, although he had signed the Edict of Milan to oblige Constantine, still fanatically continued the persecutions of Christians. Only after his conclusive defeat did the 313 A.D. Edict of toleration extend also to the Eastern part of the Empire. The Holy and Equal of the Apostles Emperor Constantine the Great, having gained victory over his enemies in three wars with God's assistance, had seen in the heavens the Sign of the Cross, and written beneath: "En Touto Nika" ("by this you shall conquer".)
Ardently desiring to find the Holy Cross on which our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, Saint Constantine sent his mother, the pious Empress Helen (+ May 21st), to the city of Jerusalem, providing her with a letter to Saint Macarios, Patriarch of Jerusalem.
Although the holy empress Helen was already in her declining years, she set about completing the noble task with enthusiasm. The empress gave orders to destroy the pagan temple and the statues. Searching for the Life-Giving Cross, she made inquiry of Christians and Jews, but for a long time her search remained unsuccessful.
Finally, they directed her to a certain elderly Hebrew by the name of Jude who stated that the Cross was buried where the temple of Venus stood. They demolished the pagan temple and, after praying, they began to excavate the ground. Soon the Tomb of the Lord was uncovered. Not far from it were three crosses, a board with the inscription ordered by Pilate, and four nails which had pierced the Sacred and Divine Body of the Lord (+ March 6th).
In order to discern on which of the three crosses the Savior was crucified, Patriarch Macarios alternately touched the crosses to a corpse. When the Cross of the Lord touched the dead one, he came to life. Having beheld the raising of the dead man, everyone was convinced that the Life-Giving Cross was found.
Christians came in a huge throng to venerate the Holy and Life-Giving Cross, beseeching Saint Macarios to elevate the Cross, so that even those far off might reverently contemplate it. Then the Patriarch and other spiritual leaders raised up the Holy Cross, and the people, saying "Kyrie eleison" ("Lord have mercy"), reverently prostrated before the Venerable Wood. This solemn event occurred in the year 326 A.D.
During the discovery of the Life-Giving Cross another miracle took place: a grievously sick woman, beneath the shadow of the Holy Cross, was healed instantly. The elder Jude and other Jews there believed in Christ and accepted Holy Baptism. Jude received the name Cyriakos and afterwards was consecrated Bishop of Jerusalem.
In a sermon on the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Saint Andrew of Crete (+ July 4th) says: "The Cross is exalted, and everything true gathers together, the Cross is exalted, and the city makes solemn, and the people celebrate the feast".
ON THE EVE OF THE HOLY FEAST
GREAT VESPERS (MEGAS ESPERINOS)
The Reading is from the Book of Exodus (15:22-16:1)
Moses brought the sons of Israel out of the Red Sea, and led them into the wilderness of Sur, and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water to drink. And they came to Marah, and could not drink of the water of Marah, for it was bitter; therefore the name of that place was called, Bitterness. And the people murmured against Moses, saying: What shall we drink? And Moses cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree, and he cast it into the water, and the water was sweetened; there He established to him ordinances and judgments, and there He proved him, and said: If thou wilt indeed hear the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is pleasing in His sight, and wilt give ear to His commands, and keep all his statutes, no disease which I have brought upon the Egyptians will I bring upon thee, for I am the Lord that healeth thee. And they came to Aelim, and there were there twelve fountains of water, and three score and ten palm trees; and they encamped there by the waters. And they departed from Aelim, and all the congregation of the sons of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Aelim and Sinai.
Vespers Stichera, Plagal of Second Tone.
As the Cross is lifted up, it urgeth all of creation to praise the immaculate Passion of the One Who was lifted up thereon. For by means of the Cross, He slew him that slew us; and He made the dead to live again, making them beautiful, granting them the Heavens as the dwelling-place, because He is compassionate, in the unsurpassed and unspeakable excess of His Goodness. With joy, then, let us exalt His Name, while magnifying His Infinite condescension towards our race.
Vespers Aposticha, Plagal of First Tone.
Rejoice, Life-Giving Cross of the Lord, thou never-conquered battle-trophy of piety, support and staff of the faithful, the wall surrounding the Church, and the door that leadeth into Paradise. Through thee hasth corruption been made to vanish and be no more; death's mighty power hath been vanquished and swallowed up, and we have been raised from the earth to celestial things. O truceless foe of demons, and our weapon invincible, thou art the glory of Martyrs and true adornment of all the Saints, calm port of salvation, that which granteth the great mercy of God unto the world.
Matins (Orthros) Second Tone
Come, O ye faithful, let us worship the Life-Creating Wood, whereon Christ, the King of Glory, stretching out His hands of His own will, lifted up to the ancient blessedness us whom the enemy had aforetime despoiled through pleasure, making us exiles from God. Come, O ye faithful, let us worship that Wood whereby we have been deemed worthy to crush the heads of our invisible enemies. Come, all ye kindreds of the nations, with hymns let us honor the Cross of the Lord. Rejoice, O Cross, thou perfect redemption of fallen Adam. In thee do our most faithful sovereigns boast, since by thy power they have mightily subjected to themselves the Ishmaelite peoples. As we Christians now venerate thee with fear, we glorify God, Who was affixed to thee, and we say: O Lord, Who wast crucified thereon, have mercy on us, since Thou art good and the Friend of man.
Personal note: On September 14th 1969 (44 years ago) Presbytera Elaine and I celebrated the Exaltation of the Holy Cross at the church of Saint John the Baptist and Forerunner in Vouliagmeni, a suburb of Athens, Greece. I was ordained on this Holy and Great Feast at this beautiful and solemn church where many years before was the parish which was served by Saint Nicholas Planas. I was ordained by His Grace Bishop Germanos of Synadon. The parish priest was a sweet, loving and a true man of God Father Antonios which I will never forget. My ordination to the Diaconate took place a week before in an 11th century Chapel in the middle of Athens known as Kapnikarea.
This day was and is a very special day for me because I graduated from our Holy Cross Seminary in Brookline, Mass. which also celebrates on this day. I was also blessed to have our Dean of the Seminary at my ordination to the Priesthood by His Eminence Panteleimon Rodopoulos.
While we were in Greece I continued assisting Father Antonios at Saint John's. It is truly memorable! Of course my parents, sisters, nephew and niece and other relatives and friends were present at both ordinations.
Glory be to God in everything!
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God