The Holy Cross

The Orthodox Church celebrates the day of the Raising of the Holy and Life Giving Cross on 14 September each year.We celebrate the finding of the Holy Cross on 6 March each year. In Orthodox Churches,the Cross is brought out every Easter Thursday during the Part of the Service that night that celebrates the Lord's Crucifixion, for the People to venerate.

With His Death on The Cross Our Lord destroyed the hold that the evil one had over death and , thus, over us.The Death of the Lord on the Cross, opened up the Gates of Paradise to us all and gave us all the chance of Eternal Life.

The Cross protects.It is the Beauty of the Church, it gives Strength to Kingdoms and to the Faithful.It is revered and worshipped by the Angels and it is hated and is the eternal wound of the evil one and his cohorts.It is the Symbol of Life and Salvation.It is a Symbol of Victory over the evil one.It is a Symbol of Victory over death.

Some believe that the Cross on which The Lord was crucified, was made by the Romans by cutting branches from a huge tree which had grown from a combination of three other trees-a pine tree,a cedar tree and a cypress tree. When the Lord God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19) only a good man called Lot and his wife and two daughters were spared. God rained down "fire and brimstone from the skies on Sodom and Gomorrah," (Genesis 19:24-25) and destroyed the two cities. Lot was warned never to look back as he fled the City.His wife turned back and she turned into a pillar of salt. Lot went and settled in the hills with his two daughters.He lived in a cave.His two daughters,fearing that they would find no husbands in the normal way, decided to get their father drunk and sleep with him, so that they could bear children, and keep the family alive through their father. They got Lot drunk and one night the elder slept with her father. The next night the younger did the same. Thus Lot sinned and his two daughters became pregnant via their father. The elder bore a son called Moab and the younger bore a son called Benammi. When Lot found out what had happened he confessed his sins to his uncle Abraham. Abraham gave Lot the three staffs which the three Angels had given him at Mamre.He told Lot to plant them and to water them with water from the river Jordan. If those staffs budded then it would be a sign that the Lord God had forgiven Lot for his sins. Lot watered these three staffs daily for many years. Slowly these staffs grew into a massive three pronged tree. It was from here that the Cross of the Lord was made.

Others say that the wood of the Cross came from a seed of the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. When Adam was dying he asked his son Seth to go to the Archangel Michael and beg for a seed from the Tree of Life. When Adam died ,the seed was placed in his mouth and he was buried. The seed grew into a tree and emerged from his mouth. Many centuries passed and the tree was cut and wood used to build a bridge over which the Queen of Sheba passed as she journeyed to meet King Soloman. The Queen of Sheba was so amazed by the story behind the building of the Bridge that she fell down on her knees and worshipped it. She told King Soloman,that wood from the Bridge would bring about the replacement of the Covenant between God and his people,and a new order would be installed. King Soloman feared the destruction of his people,so he had the wood buried. After fourteen generations, the wood from the Bridge became the wood used on the Cross of the Lord.

There were two Raisings of the Holy Cross.The first happened in about 312 AD when St Constantine , the first Christian Emperor of Rome marched against Maxentios and won a great battle after the Holy Cross appeared to him in the sky.
St Constantine, as a mark of his love for the Lord, decided in the twentieth year of his reign to issue a decree banning the use of the Cross as an instrument used in the execution of prisoners in the Roman Empire. This Custom has been observed ever since.

The Second Raising of the Holy Cross occured in the Church in Jerusalem on the day dedicated to the death of St John Chrysostom, 14th September 326. When the Cross was found by St Helena she took it to the Church in Jerusalem for the faithful to see and venerate it. Many people turned up, so much so, that the Patriarch Makarios raised it high up on the pulpit . The people then sang the "Lord Have Mercy"-KURIE ELEISON-chant continuously. It was from this day that the Feast day dedicated to the Holy Cross first began. St John Chrysostom's Day was then moved back to 13 November so as not to clash with this day which became a day of Celebration to the Holy and Life-Giving Cross.

St John Chrysostom wrote of the Cross:
"Kings removing their diadems take up the Cross,the Symbol of their Saviour's death;on the purple,the Cross;in their prayers,the Cross;on their armour,the Cross;on the Holy Table,the Cross;throughout the universe,the Cross;The Cross shines brighter than the sun."

References in the Old Testament to the Holy Cross

There are many references in the Old Testament to the Cross and the Crucifixion of the Lord. During their time in the wilderness, In Numbers 8-9 the “LORD told Moses to make a serpent of bronze and erect it as a standard, so that anyone who had been bitten could look at it and recover. So Moses made a bronze serpent and erected it as a standard ,so that when a snake had bitten a man, he could look at the bronze serpent and recover.”
Jesus also refers to this passage in John 3:14- “This Son of Man must be lifted up as the serpent was lifted up by Moses in the wilderness, so that everyone who has faith in him may in him possess eternal life.”

In Psalm 21:15 it says “my mouth is dry as a potsherd ,and my tongue sticks to my jaw.”This refers to the Lord asking for water when he was on the Cross.
In Verse 18 of the same Psalm it says “They share out my garments among them and cast lots for my clothes.” This is a reference to the soldiers who cast lots for the Lord's clothes when he had been crucified.

In Ezekiel Chapter 9,all are ordered to be destroyed who partake in acts which are abhorrent to the Lord God in the Holy City of Jerusalem. Ezekiel has the following vision and hears the Spirit of the Lord God speaking to him as he is transported to the entrance of the inner gate facing north, in Jerusalem.

“And he cried in my ears with a loud voice, saying: The visitations of the city are at hand, and every one hath a destroying weapon in his hand. And behold six men came from the way of the upper gate, which looketh to the north: and each one had his weapon of destruction in his hand: and there was one man in the midst of them clothed with linen, with a writer's inkhorn at his reins: and they went in, and stood by the brazen altar. And the Glory of the Lord of Israel went up from the cherub, upon which he was, to the threshold of the house: and he called to the man that was clothed with linen, and had a writer's inkhorn at his loins. And the Lord said to him: Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem: and mark Thau upon the foreheads of the men that sigh, and mourn for all the abominations that are committed in the midst thereof.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord say to the other men , “Follow him through the City and kill without pity;spare no one.Kill and destroy them all …but touch no one who bears the mark.”

Thau, or Tau, is the last letter in the ancient Hebrew alphabet, and signifies a sign, or a mark. It is also the letter T in the Greek alphabet . Some translators of the Bible do not say what the mark was, that this man placed on the foreheads of the faithful.However, St Jerome and other interpreters, conclude it was the letter T which was written in the form of a Cross

By dying on the cross, the Lord in effect, sanctified this object of shame . In the eyes of the faithful, the cross became a symbol of their faith and of the Passion of the Lord, a symbol of protection and faith. It was from early Christian worship that the custom of making the sign of the Cross on ones forehead first arose. About the year 200 this practice was very common. Christians would make the sign of the cross before undertaking any task. Gradually the Christians started to make the sign of the cross on other parts of the body. It was soon adopted into the one large sign that we do today-forehead, stomach, right shoulder,left shoulder. The western church makes the sign of the cross from the left shoulder to the right shoulder.

The significance that the Cross would have for all future generations would have been lost on the carpenter who made it or the judges who sentenced the Lord to death. It divided the world into two different eras-BC and AD-before and after Christ. As St John Chrysostom said:

"The Cross is wood which lifts us up and makes us great..The Cross uprooted us from the depths of evil and elevated us to the summit of virtue."

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Last Published:01/06/08
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