My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
ON SEPTEMBER 14TH OUR HOLY ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH COMMEMORATES THE FEAST OF THE EXALTATION OF THE PRECIOUS CROSS OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST
(A Fast is observed today, whatever day of the week it may be.)
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. First Tone
Save, O Lord, Thy people and bless Thine inheritance; grant Thou unto the faithful victory over adversaries. And by the power of Thy Cross do Thou preserve Thy commonwealth.
Kontakion Hymn. Fourth Tone
Thou Who wast raised up on the Cross of Thine own will, O Christ Our God, do Thou bestow Thy compassions upon this, Thy new commonwealth named after Thee. Gladden with Thy sovereign might our most Orthodox hierarchs, and vouchsafe them victory over every false teaching; as Thy help in war they possess the weapon of peace, the trophy invincible.
The holy day of the Elevation and Exaltation of the Cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is, as it were, the national holiday of the Eastern Roman Empire similar to the Fourth of July in our country. The Holy and Precious Cross, the official emblem of the Empire which was placed on all public buildings and uniforms, was officially on this day by the bishops and priests. They blessed the Four Directions (Corners) of the Universe with the Cross (as you the celebrant priest do on this Holy Feast-Day), while the faithful Orthodox Christians chant "Kyrie eleison!" ("Lord have Mercy!"). As you all know there is a solemn procession of the Holy Cross on this day and at the end, the priest offers blessed basil to all.
The Feast has enormous significance and it a day of fasting and prayer. It is on this day especially that we, Orthodox Christians, renew our total allegiance to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and we are reminded that our salvation comes not by our efforts or of any earthly sacrifice but by the Only True lasting victory of the Crucifixion, the Supreme Sacrifice of our Savior. It is His Cross that saves and not our cross.
When we elevate the Cross and bow down before it in veneration and worship to God, we proclaim openly that we belong to the Heavenly Kingdom "not of this world," and that our only true and enduring citizenship with the righteous in the "city of God" (Ephesians 2:19; Hebrews 11:10; Rev. 21:22).
The first Old Testament Reading of the Great Vespers of the feast day speaks of the "tree" which changes the bitter water into sweetness--the symbol of the Tree of the Cross (Exodus 15:22-22; 16:1):
"So Moses brought up the children of Israel from the Red Sea, and brought them into the wilderness of Sur, and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water to drink. And they came to Merrha, and could not of Merrha, for it was bitter; therefore he named the name of that place, 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..." (Exodus 15: 22-25).
Again the reference is to the Cross of Christ which is, as the Epistle Lesson of the day proclaims, "to those who are called...the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 18:25).
"Before the Cross, we bow down in worship, O Master, and Thy Holy Resurrection, we glorify" (Hymn of the Exaltation and Veneration of before the Cross).
This central hymn of the Elevation of the Holy Cross which lasts for eight days in the Church is chanted many times. It replaces the Thrice-Holy of the Divine Liturgy. The normal Antiphons are also replaced by special verses from the Psalms which have a direct reference to Christ's Crucifixion on the Cross (Psalms 22; 74; 99). At the Orthros, in the Gospel Lesson from Saint John, , Christ says that when He is elevated on the Cross He will draw all men to Himself (St. John 12:28-36). This long Gospel Lesson at the Divine Liturgy is the passion account from this same Gospel. If we are to be saved we must first embrace the passion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
Therefore, at the Exaltation of the Holy Cross Orthodox Christians pledge their firm and sincere rededication to the crucified Son of God and offer their complete obedience to Him by and through the worship of the His Holy hands and feet nailed to the Life-Giving Cross. This is the meaning of this Holy Feast-Day of fasting, prayer, and repentance in the Church today.
For me of course, it is the celebration of my ordination into the Holy Priesthood which took place at the Saint John the Baptist church in Athens, Greece on September 14, 1969. Fifty years later I continue to serve with all my heart Our Savior at the parish of Saint Andrew at South Bend, Indiana. As the sinner and unworthy servant of God, I thank Him for His unconditional love, for His guidance, for His compassion and forgiveness, for His protection of me, Presbytera Elaine, our children Demetri, Mariam, Nicole, and Stefan. He blessed us with four priceless grandchildren, Kristof (Christophoros), George, John, and Michael. Also, our son-in-law Roland and our daughter-in-law Andrea.
THANKS, BE TO GOD!
Chronia Polla to all of you.
With sincere agape in Christ our Savior,