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The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

An icon of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

THE ICON

Saint Makarios the Bishop of Jerusalem - the central figure robed in bishop's vestments, depicted elevating the Cross above the crowd for veneration (7th century).

Saint Helen - crowned woman in the lower left (4th century).

Readers/Chanters: men with the pointed hats on the lower right

The Crowd - the citizens of Jerusalem along with the saintly bishops, deacons, and monastics (7th century).

Jerusalem - the city of Jerusalem is shown in the background; above the Cross is the domed Church of the Resurrection which Saints Constantine and Helen had erected over the site (7th century). (Taken from The Icon Book by Boojamra, Essay, McLuckie and Matusiak)

THE FEAST

The Elevation of the Cross commemorates the finding of Christ's Cross by St. Helen, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, in the fourth century; and after it was taken by the Persians, of its recovery by the Emperor Heraclius in the seventh century at which time it was "elevated" in the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem. From this latter event the "universal elevation" of the Cross was celebrated annually in all of the churches of the Christian Empire.

The day of the feast became, as it were, the national holiday of the Eastern Christian Empire. The Cross, the official emblem of the Empire which was placed on all public buildings and uniforms, was officially elevated on this day by the bishops and priests.

The Troparion (main hymn) of the feast which was, one might say, the "national anthem" sung on all public occasions, originally petitioned God to save the people, to grant victory in war and to preserve the Empire "by virtue of the Cross." Today the Troparion, and all the hymns of the day, are "spiritualized" as the "adversaries" become the spiritually wicked and sinful, including the devil and his armies, and the "Orthodox Christian" replace the names of ruling officials of the Empire.

The holy day, although it has an obvious "political" origin, remains with us as a day of fasting and prayer, a day when we recall that the Cross is the only sign worthy of our total allegiance. We proclaim that we belong to the Kingdom "not of this world." Our salvation comes not by "victories" of any earthly sort, but by the only victory of the crucifixion of Christ and our co-crucifixion with Him. (Taken from Worship, The Orthodox Faith, Vol. II, by Fr. Thomas Hopko)

HYMNS OF THE FEAST

TROPARION

O LORD, SAVE YOUR PEOPLE AND BLESS YOUR INHERITANCE,
GRANT VICTORIES TO THE ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS OVER THEIR ADVERSARIES,
AND BY VIRTUE OF YOUR CROSS, PRESERVE YOUR HABITATION!

KONTAKION

AS YOU WERE VOLUNTARILY CRUCIFIED FOR OUR SAKE,
GRANT MERCY TO THOSE WHO ARE CALLED BY YOUR NAME,
MAKE ALL ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS GLAD BY YOUR POWER,
GRANTING THEM VICTORIES OVER THEIR ADVERSARIES,
BY BESTOWING ON THEM THE INVINCIBLE TROPHY, YOUR WEAPON OF PEACE!