Feast of the Elevation of the Cross

Elevation of the Cross – a great gift and triumph

September 23, 2020

The commandment given to us by Christ himself is as clear as it is hard and demanding: each of us should take up our cross and follow Him to our own Mount Golgotha.

On the feast of the Elevation of the Cross – celebrated on 27 (14) September – we commemorate the miraculous finding of the true cross of Jesus Christ on which He was martyred for our salvation. The cross was found in the 4th century by Saint Helen, the mother of the Byzantine emperor Constantine. The cross was then lost to the Persians and finally returned to the Empire in the 7th century.

The recovery of the cross was above all a great gift to humanity and a great triumph, as underlined by the celebration of the event as one of the twelve great feasts of the Christian Church. 

The Cross is an integral part of our Christian lives

The cross’s veneration is integral to our lives as Christians and forms an essential part of our Christian identity. 

  • Crosses decorate our churches. 
  • We wear our baptismal crosses throughout our lives. 
  • We cross ourselves when we pray at church and at home. 
  • The crossing of the bread and wine is a part of the miracle of the Eucharist that repeats itself time and again at every liturgy.

The Cross is a symbol of triumph over evil

Still, more importantly, we venerate the Cross as the instrument of our salvation by Jesus Christ, Who voluntarily accepted martyrdom and death. As such, it became a symbol of the triumph of life over death and of goodness over darkness and evil. Through the cross, Christ cancelled the debt of human sin. Through it, Christ was lifted up and drew all people to himself, making us the co-creators of our own salvation.

How can we all partake in this triumph of the Holy Cross? 

The commandment given to us by Christ himself is as clear as it is hard and demanding: each of us should take up our cross and follow Him to our own Mount Golgotha. 

To the Apostles and many early Christian saints, this literally meant a martyr’s death at the hands of the persecutors of Christians. But such prosecution is uncommon in our times, so Christians will rarely be asked to sacrifice their lives in the literal sense of the word. Some might respond to Christ’s calling with diligent church attendance, and observation of all the fasts, feasts, and rites. This, too, will not be adequate unless it is a means to a larger end. In fact, the meaning of the Golgotha to us is to die to our sinfulness, and to reject the corruption of the world, and to crucify our passions, with all the pain and the struggle that this will involve.

Perhaps the most difficult part of this journey is to deny our own selves and rediscover our true selves in the image of God hidden within ourselves under thick layers of debris and rubble. We are often deluded to think that the debris and rubble are in fact the real us. We will build our identity and self-perception on it like one would build a house on a foundation of sand.

In this way, many would accept as their own idea of living one’s life for oneself. A child who lives for himself will not share his toys. A couple who lives for themselves will refuse to have children so they make money and careers. All too often, the end result is boredom, frustration, loneliness, and futility. As the Gospels say, by losing our lives through the Cross, we save our life, but by living for ourselves, we lose our lives.

To follow Christ, you lose your life and take up your daily cross

By taking up the Cross, we accept the invitation to work hard, to struggle, and to suffer for the sake of the Lord and His Church, to take part in His triumph, and to have no other glory in life, then the Cross of our Lord. As we are gathering for the Great Vespers on the eve of the feast, and the Divine Liturgy on the feast day here at the Convent, we are preparing to bow down in worship to the Holy Cross, glorify Him who was voluntarily raised to the Cross for our sake and rejoice in His resurrection.

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