Skip to content

The Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross

September 14, 2010

September 14th marks the second major feast of the Liturgical Year. This Feast is The Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross. This is one of the celebrations commemorated by the ancient Churches of both East and West. But like most feasts of the Apostolic Churches, I never heard of this one as a Protestant. The only two holidays I ever knew of as an Evangelical, were Christmas and Easter. Okay, you may argue that Thanksgiving is a religious holiday, but it is really a civil one.  I came to celebrate a lot more things according to the Western Church calender as an attendee of the Presbyterian Church.  Reformation Sunday, All-Saints Day and a few others were added to the repertoire of religious holidays I knew. Even the teachings had a seasonal aspect to them that followed the church calender. As an Orthodox, I can’t think of a month that doesn’t have at least one major commemoration in it.

To give a very brief history for those unfamiliar with this Feast day, let me share a bit of what I have learned from a priest. From the earliest times Christians reverenced the places associated with the life of Christ, such as the place believed to be where He was born, Golgatha, etc. Unfortunately, because of the fact that Christianity was illegal in Rome, and the intense persecutions, many of the monuments placed in these spots were torn down, desecrated, or replaced by places of pagan worship. In the 4th century, having made Christianity legal, Constantine’s mother prompted the excavation of these holy sights, in order to restore them to their intended purpose. During the the excavation at Golgotha, the Cross of Christ was found along with the other two spoken of in the Gospel accounts. This cross was stolen by the Persians. I am not sure what the circumstances of that incident was. In the 8th century the Cross was recovered from the Persians by the Emperor Hiraclius and brought back to Constantinople. This is what is celebrated as the Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross.

I find it interesting that within the first two weeks of the Church year, you have the celebration of the instrument (so to speak. forgive the use of this word) who would make true communion with Christ possible through the Incarnation, followed by the celebration of the instrument that makes our salvation possible. By the Cross our Lord trampled down Death by His death. I have heard it said that some of the Church Fathers believed that the cross was not an instrument that just happened to be used to execute Christ. They believe that Christ’s death HAD to be on the cross. No other death would have done what the cross did. He was lifted up above the earth, for all to see Him. His arms were stretched out to embrace creation. And because He hung on a tree, He became that curse for us. These are reflections of the Church Fathers. I couldn’t have come up with such insight on my own.

I was able to attend liturgy for this feast at a Romanian Orthodox Church, whose name is Elevation of the Holy Cross. Their feast day, as well as the church’s 9th anniversary was today. They purchased an old church building in my city. The priest is Archimandrite Nikodim of the Romanian Patriarchate. He returned my call yesterday and let me knot that the service was going to be at 10:30, and would be in Romanian. Not to worry, the service book was in English and Romanian. I informed him that I am a catechumen in the Antiochian Archdiocese. He said I would be welcome to come. When I got to the Church, the akathist prayers were being offered, so I slipped into a pew and stood attentive as I could, being as it was in Romanian. The Church was in an old building with high, open ceilings and had several icons throughout. The veil that was hung where an iconostasis would be had three crosses along the top, two Icons of Mary, and two of Christ. The iconostasis is being made in Romania right now. Apparently they have only been in the buiding for 6 months, though the congregation has been together for 9 years. A humble place, but the work is in progress and has already made that log-neglected church building more beautiful and holy.

Just before the liturgy, Father Nikodim came to me with the service book, then asked me to follow him. To my great shock he lead me into the sanctuary and asked me to stand to the right of the alter, behind the certain. I felt very unworthy to be in that holy place, but took comfort in the fact that a priest had led me there. The priest took great care to make sure that I was able to follow in English, what was being said in Romanian, and guided me through the service book for the Liturgy. People kept tapping me from behind to hand the priest the prayer requests. A few spoke to me in Romanian. I was given the task by the priest of pouring the water over his hands three times, just before blessing the elements and praying the prayers that make them the Body and Blood of Christ. It was exciting yet terrifying at the same time. One thing that was different from the Antiochian Services I attend, the Romanians kneel during the Gospel Reading. They also prayed a few extra prayers to the Mother of God. A very beautiful service, and one I got to see from a very unique perspective. I am sure I will remember this experience for a very long time.

A little reflection, and a little personal experience for this feast. I did not get to participate in any vigil services because of my 72hour work schedule, but I am sure there will be plenty of opportunity in my life to experience such service (God willing, of course). Truly His Cross is Precious and Life-Giving!

One Comment leave one →


  1. World Spinner

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: