Historical Account of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Precious Cross


My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,



In a third war fought by Constantine the Great with the Scythians along the River Danube, the weapon of salvation appeared in the heavens (sky), bringing victory as it had before. Thus, he became convinced of the power of Christ, Who was crucified upon the Cross. Believing in Him as the Only True God, he was baptized together with his praiseworthy mother Helen, who was full of love for God. It was Helen whom he sent to Jerusalem with great riches to search for the Precious and Holy Cross.

When she arrived in Jerusalem, Helen visited the holy places and cleansed them from the defilement of idolatry, and she brought to light the holy relics of various Saints. At that time the Patriarch was Macarius. He received the Empress with fitting honor. The blessed Empress Helen, hoping to find the Life-Giving Cross of the Lord, which had been hidden by the Jews, summoned the Jews of the city and demanded that they show her the place where the Precious Cross of the Lord was hidden. When they began to protest that they knew nothing, Empress Helen threatened them with death. They then pointed out an old man named Judas and said, "This man is able to show you that for which you seek. He is the son of a respected Prophet."

Questioned for a long time, Judas refused to reveal the location of the Cross. However, when the Empress had him cast into a deep pit (in which he remained for some time), he promised to speak. He directed them to a place where there was a great mound covered over with dirt and stones, upon which the Roman Emperor Hadrian had built a pagan temple to the goddess Venus, setting up her image there. Judas affirmed that the Cross of the Lord was hidden in this place.

Empress Helen commanded that the temple of the idols be destroyed and that the dirt and stones be dug up and scattered. As her orders were being carried out, Patriarch Macarius went to pray at the spot, when to his amazement a fragrant odor filled the air. Just then, the Lord's Sepulchre and the Place of the Skull (Golgotha) were found toward the east, and near them, three crosses were uncovered, and later the precious nails were found as well. All were uncertain as to which of the crosses was the Cross of the Lord. At that moment a corpse was being carried by to be buried. Patriarch Macarius commanded those who bore the dead to holt, and he had the crosses placed one after the other on the corpse. When the Cross of Christ was placed on him, the dead man immediately arose, resurrected by the Divine power of the Cross of the Lord.

Empress Helen joyfully took the Precious Cross and bowed down before it and kissed (venerated) it as did all the members of the Imperial retinue accompanying her. Many of those present were unable to see and to kiss the Holy Cross at that time because of the throng of people, and they begged that they might at least see it from a distance. Then the Patriarch of Jerusalem Macarius, standing on an elevated place, lifted up the precious Cross, showing it to all the people, who cried out, "Kyrie Eleison!" ("Lord have mercy!") And this was the origin of the Feast of the Elevation and Exaltation of the Precious Cross.

Empress Helen kept a portion of the Precious Wood and the holy nails for herself. Placing the remaining portion of the Cross in a silver reliquary, she committed it to Patriarch Macarius to be preserved for future generations. Then Judas and a multitude of Jews believed and were baptized. Judas was named Kyriakos in Holy Baptism and subsequently became Patriarch of Jerusalem, suffering for Christ under the pagan Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate.

The holy Empress Helen commanded that churches be built at the holy places in Jerusalem. First, she ordered that the Church of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ be erected over the place where Christ's Holy Sepulchre is to be found and where the Precious Cross was discovered. She then directed that a church be built at Gethsemane where the grave of the Most Holy Theotokos is located and where her Honorable Dormition (Koimisis) took place. She built 18 other churches, and then, having embellished them with every adornment, she departed for Byzantium, taking with her a portion of the Holy Wood of the Life-Giving Cross and the Holy Nails with which Christ's body was affixed to the Tree. The blessed Emperor Constantine placed the Life-Giving Wood in a golden reliquary and fastened one of the holy nails upon his helmet (Gregory, Bishop of Tours, In Praise of the Martyrs, Ch. 6. Saint Gregory lived about the year 560 A.D.). Another, according to the testimony of Saint Ambrose, was cast into the Adriatic Sea to calm a storm, and the third and the fourth the Emperor had fashioned into a bit for the bridle of his horse, that the words of the Prophet Zacharias might be fulfilled: "In that day there shall be upon the bridle of the king's horse, Holiness to the Lord Almighty" (Zacharias, Ch. 14). [Source: The Great Collection of The Lives of the Saints)

(To be continued)



Orthros (Matins) at 9:00 a.m.
Divine Liturgy at 10:00 a.m.

Please note: The holy procession of the Cross will take place Sunday as well, the distribution of the blessed basil (vasilikos) to the faithful.


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" -- Saint John Chrysostomos


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

+Father George