Festival of the Holy Cross
"The Cross is a positive sign
The Cross is a banner of victory
In the Cross we greatly glory
For by it we attained our salvation"
we sing during the sacrament of Holy Matrimony.
For the Orthodox believer every object that was touched by our Lord is holy and venerable. The Holy Cross on which His body was crucified and His life giving precious blood flowed down is the most adorable of all. By its physical appearance and its power of enlightenment, for a believer, it stands for everything positive: Light over darkness
Life over death
Endurance over affliction
Salvation over slavery
Truth over falsehood
Verity over vanity
Jesus said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me."
As we celebrate the Festival of the Holy Cross on September 14th to commemorate the recovery of the Holy Cross by Empress St. Helen, Mother of St. Constantine in the 4th century AD, here is a collection of what the Bible and Holy Fathers say about the 'Living and Life Giving Holy Cross'.
- The Tree of Life that was in the garden of Eden foreshadowed the Holy Cross
- The Tree that provided the ram to be sacrificed in place of Isaac foretold the salvation of mankind by the Holy Cross.
- The rod in Moses' hand that parted the Red Sea and brought about the redemption of Israelites from bondage symbolically represented the redemptive power of the Holy Cross. The same rod when struck the rock of flint, waters gushed out. On the Cross the 'Rock of Ages' was cleft and Living Waters came forth.
- The serpent of brass that Moses erected to heal the Israelites bitten by the fiery serpent illustrated the forgiveness of sins through the Holy Cross. Those bitten by the fiery serpent of lust are healed when they look to the Holy Cross.
- "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God." 1 Corinthians 1:18
- "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." Galatians 6:14
- "And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:" Ephesians 2:16
- "And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Philippians 2:8
- "And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven." Colossians 1:20
- "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;" Colossians 2:14
- "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2
- Emperor Constantine had a vision in the sky in which he saw the words 'en touto Nika' (In this Sign Conquer) etched on a brilliant cross of Jesus Christ. He ordered that all the shields of his army bear the sign of the Cross. Constantine went on to subdue the enemies of the state and to establish the Christian faith. After his victory over his enemies he sent his mother Queen Helen, to recover the cross of Christ. By then nearly three hundred years had elapsed since the Crucifixion. After months of diligent search, painstakingly following every historic clue as to its whereabouts, Helen and her dedicated group of searchers discovered the Cross on 14 September 325 AD in the vicinity of Golgotha, where it had been buried under the earth for three centuries.
- On Good Friday during the Veneration of the Holy Cross we pray, "We kneel down before the Holy Cross by which our souls attained salvation, We beseech Thee Messiah, our Lord like the thief at Thy right side to remember us during Thy glorious second coming."
- Our homes, churches and other buildings are blessed by the sign of the Holy Cross. During the blessing of a house the priest draws the sign of the Cross on all door posts and prays, "By the sign of the living and life giving Holy Cross this house is being sealed and sanctified, in the name of the Father, the Son and the living Holy Spirit."
- On September 14th, 1924 late H. G. Pathrose Mar Osthathios (Mookencheril Thirumeni) Metropolitan of the Malabar Diocese founded the "Sleeba Dasa Samooham" (Order of the Servants of the Holy Cross) in our church for carrying out missionary activities.
Andrew, the blessed Apostle
- "This it is which I desired time to learn, which also I shall teach and make manifest, that though the souls of men are destroyed, they shall be renewed through the mystery of the cross. For the first man through the tree of transgression brought in death; and it was necessary for the human race, that through the suffering of the tree, death, which had come into the world, should be driven out. And since the first man, who brought death into the world through the transgression of the tree, had been produced from the spotless earth, it was necessary that the Son of God should be begotten a perfect man from the spotless virgin, that He should restore eternal life, which men had lost through Adam, and should cut off the tree of carnal appetite through the tree of the cross. Hanging upon the cross, He stretched out His blameless hands for the hands which had been incontinently stretched out; for the most sweet food of the forbidden tree He received gall for food; and taking our mortality upon Himself, He made a gift of His immortality to us." (Witnessing before his martyrdom)
St. Ephrem the Syrian, The Harp of the Holy Spirit
- Isaac bearing
the wood went up
the mountain to be sacrificed
like an innocent lamb.
The Saviour too bearing
the Cross went out
to be sacrificed on Calvary
like a lamb for us.
As you look on the sword
think of the lance.
As you consider the altar,
As you contemplate the faggots
reflect on the cross.
As you look on the fire,
meditate on the love.
Look too on the sheep
hanged by its two horns
on the plant
that is called ‘Sabek’.
Look too on Christ,
the Lamb of God,
hanged by his two hands
upon a Cross.
The plant called Sabek
for it saved from slaughter
the old man’s child,
It foreshadows the cross
that forgives the world
and grants it life.
The ram hanging
on the Sabek plant
While the Lamb of God (On Abraham and Isaac. The complete poem is available at http://web.ukonline.co.uk/ephrem/AbrIsaac.htm)
hanged on the cross
delivered the world
from Death and Hell.
- The Cross has dissolved hatred towards Man, has brought reconciliation, has made the earth heaven, has mingled men with the angels, has conquered the bastion of death, has neutralised the strength of the devil, has dismissed the power of sin, has rid the earth of error, has restored the truth, has driven away the demons, has torn down pagan temples, has upset sacrificial altars, has dispelled the smell of burnt offerings, has planted virtue, has fiunded churches.
The Cross is the Will of the Father, the Glory of the Son, the Joy of the Spirit, the Pride of Paul.
The Cross is brighter than the Sun and more joyous than its rays.
The Cross has torn up our debts, has rendered useless the prison of death.
The Cross is proof of the Love of God, the unshaken wall, the unconquered weapon, the security of the rich, the richness of the poor, the weapon of the threatened, the rebuke of the passions, the kingdom of virtue, the wonderful and strange sign.
The Cross has opened Paradise, has admitted the thief and has guided the human race from impending disaster to the Kingdom of God. (Encomium on the Holy Cross)
St. Gregory the Theologian
- "Many indeed are the wondrous happenings of that time: God hanging from a Cross, the sun made dark, and again flaming out; for it was fitting that creation should mourn with its Creator. The Temple veil rent, blood and water flowing from His side: the one as from a man, the other as from What was above man; the earth was shaken, the rocks shattered because of the Rock; the dead risen to bear witness of the final and universal resurrection of the dead. The happenings at the Sepulchre, and after the Sepulchre, who can fittingly recount them? Yet not one of them can be compared to the miracle of my salvation. A few drops of Blood renew the whole world, and do for all men what the rennet does for milk: joining us and binding us together."
- "He gave not up His life by compulsion, nor was He put to death by murderous violence, but of His own accord. Hear what He says: I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it again: I yield it of My own choice to My enemies; for unless I chose, this could not be. He came therefore of His own set purpose to His passion, rejoicing in His noble deed, smiling at the crown, cheered by the salvation of mankind; not ashamed of the Cross, for it was to save the world." (Catechetical Lecture XIII)
- "Let us not then be ashamed to confess the Crucified. Be the Cross our seal made with boldness by our fingers on our brow, and on everything; over the bread we eat, and the cups we drink; in our comings in, and goings out; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we rise up; when we are in the way, and when we are still . Great is that preservative; it is without price, for the sake of the poor; without toil, for the sick; since also its grace is from God. It is the Sign of the faithful, and the dread of devils: for He triumphed over them in it, having made a shew of them openly; for when they see the Cross they are reminded of the Crucified; they are afraid of Him, who bruised the heads of the dragon. Despise not the Seal, because of the freeness of the gift; out for this the rather honour thy Benefactor." (Catechetical Lecture XIII)
- "And while in times past demons, occupying springs or rivers or trees or stones, cheated men by deceptive appearances and imposed upon the credulous by their juggleries, now, after the divine coming of the Word, an end is put to their deceptions. For by the sign of the cross, a man but using it, their wiles are put to flight." (Treatise on the Incarnation of the Word [Ca. 318 A.D.])
- "At every forward step and movement, when coming in and going out, when putting on our clothes, when putting on our shoes, when bathing, when at table, when lighting the lamps, when reclining, when sitting, in all the ordinary occupations of our daily lives, we furrow our forehead with the sign." (The Crown [211 A.D.])
- "Indeed, were we to try to reject unwritten customs as having no great authority, we would unwittingly injure the Gospel in its vitals; or rather, we would reduce Kerygma to a mere term. For instance, to take the first and most general example, who taught us in writing to sign with the sign of the cross those who have trusted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ?" (The Holy Spirit [375 A.D.])