On 14th September the Church celebrates the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. The feast commemorates the finding of the True Cross in 326 during a pilgrimage of Christians to Jerusalem. St. Helena, the mother of then Roman emperor Constantine, who made Christianity as the state religion of the empire after having converted to the faith himself, was the leader of this pilgrimage. The prime aim of this pilgrimage was to find out the victorious Cross of our Lord. Since the event is well described in our liturgical songs for the glorification of Holy Cross, there is no need of further historical narration. However, all Orthodox, Catholic and Anglican Churches observe this day in different names, Triumph of the Cross – by the Catholics and Holy Cross Day – by the Anglicans.
The Orthodox theology of the Cross is called, “Stavrology” from the Greek, “Stavros” for “Cross.” We exalt the Holy Cross of our Lord not only on this day, but also for all Feasts of our Lord because, by the Suffering of Him, who was crucified on it, we are exalted and saved. Having eaten the forbidden fruit of the Tree in Adam, we are saved through the Tree of the Cross and are enabled to eat of Its Fruit, which is Christ in Holy Communion. This is the liturgical importance of the Holy Cross in Orthodox worship.
There are amble evidences in the history of the Early Church and that through the New Testament for the veneration of Cross. St. Paul to Galatians thus acknowledges it: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world”. [Gal. 6:14] The Church adores the Cross because it is the most powerful Icon of Christ, pointing to Him directly. The early Church Fathers, Clement of Alexandria speaks of the Cross as tou Kuriakou semeiou tupon, i.e. “the symbol of the Lord.” And Tertullian could designate the body of Christian believers as crucis religiosi, i.e. “devotees of the Cross”.
This is why, we used to bless everything with the words: “This (food or house or whatever) is being blessed with the Sign of the Holy Cross + in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” We wear the Cross around our necks on a cord as the symbol of our Covenant with Christ. We should use it to bless ourselves as well. Our whole life is signed in the Cross because in it we are save, sanctified and divinized. It is our banner, our protection and the ensign of Christ the King, as well as our shield and the terror of the Evil One.
Let us unite in this Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross to thank God the Father who had given His only begotten Son for the remission of sins and saved us by His victorious Cross.