Sunday of the Adoration of the Holy and Life-giving Cross.
The Adoration of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross occurs on the Third Sunday in Lent has been deliberately placed at this point in the great fast, by our Holy Fathers, in order to remind us of our Christian duties and our commitment to Christ. The actions for us are of Adoration and Veneration and we approach the Holy Cross with joy because of the victory it defines and predicts. If, like Adam, we struggle with our emotions, our passions, our greed, our idleness and our selfishness our flesh becomes crucified (Galatians 5:24) and we can become so stale or mortified in ourselves that we need some major refreshment. The Church fathers equate the life-giving cross with the tree of life and plant it in the middle of the Lenten pilgrimage. It was the tree that was planted in Paradise; it is to remind the faithful of both Adam’s bliss and how he was deprived from it (Orthodox Wiki / Schmemann). What else could stir us from our warped senses but the image of the Life-giving Cross which is placed before us on this Sunday which is dedicated specifically for this purpose?
Of course the Cross will allow us to be with Him on His journey of humiliation, pain and suffering in order to rejoice on the third day. At the proskomedi when removing, from the first prosfora, the Lamb which is to be consecrated , the priest says “In His humiliation justice was denied Him, He was led as a Lamb to the slaughter, as a Lamb before His shearer is dumb so He opens not His mouth” and finally “who shall declare His generation?”
Christ bore the great weight of the cross. He was nailed to the cross. He fulfilled the prophecy by His crucifixion. He pronounced forgiveness from the Cross and He promised the Kingdom from the Cross. All of this – for us – is not just a goal; it is our guarantee. A guarantee that as we have been baptised in the Name of Christ we have put on Christ – we wear and accept Christ and that very responsibility which makes us, as Christians, different from the rest of humanity. Our duty of care and responsibility in loving God and our neighbour often falls short of where we know it should be. This tangible, precious and life-giving reminder is necessary for us to be put back on the correct path to Holy Pascha.
Historically the vision of the Cross by which all things would be conquered was seen in the skies by the Emperor Constantine. Constantine defeated the persecutors of Christianity and gradually there developed a relatively stable empire. Constantine was eager to access the True Cross and sent his elderly mother, Helena, to Jerusalem to find it. Having located Golgotha – which had miraculously remained undisturbed by the pagan Romans – she found evidence for three crosses. Patriarch Macarius was brought in to solve the problem of which was the true cross. He placed wood from each cross, in turn, onto a corpse and as the true cross touched the dead flesh, the person was given life.
In Orthodoxy then, the simple three barred cross is Adored and venerated. The inscription on the uppermost bar recalls that Christ is King of the Jews. It was placed there to mock Christ – but He is King of the Jews; and all else besides. The central bar holds the hands of the Saviour, nailed through and carrying the weight of the world in the simplest of analogies. From this raised position he looked out on His world, the very world He came to save and pronounced a forgiveness on the unknowing. In Psalm 22 we see the fulfilment of the prophecy:
“For dogs have surrounded me;
A band of evildoers has encompassed me;
They pierced my hands and my feet.
I can count all my bones.
They look, they stare at me;
They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots.…”
Let us not dare to cast lots. Let us not be led astray. Let us recall the joy and power of the Holy Cross.
The day after Holy Cross Day was our Patronal feast of Saint Finnan. Following the Cross, Finnan and his fellow isolated monks worshipped in this harsh landscape and spread the Gospel far and wide caring for their converted heathen and lepers. For our Moleben to Saint Finnan although we were physically on our own, as we read out the names of everyone in our community, near and far, living or departed, we shared along with the Saints the honour of being able to sing in veneration to our Saint Finnan. As Metropolitan Antony once said “today there were not many people in church…….but there were many Angels”.
At the end of the Moleben, Matushka and I rejoiced with the Angels and the Saints to sing to you “many years”.
Through the Might of the Precious Cross may our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ have mercy upon us.
Ever thankful for Angels.
March 15th 2015