Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Vigil

Let all the trees of the wood, planted from the beginning of time, rejoice; for their nature hath been sanctified by the stretching of Christ on the Tree. Wherefore, now, we worship Him, lifted up, and magnify Him. --Orthros of the Feast, Tone 8

By the mere planting of thy Cross, O Christ, the foundation of death did shake; for him whom Hades did swallow eagerly, it delivered up with trembling; for verily, thou didst reveal to us thy salvation, O holy One. Wherefore, do we glorify thee, O Son of God. Have mercy upon us. --Orthros of the Feast, Tone 6

Anselm Samuel and I went to St. Nicholas Church in Saratoga for the Vigil of the Feast tonight. (We aren't going to be able to go to Liturgy in the Morning for the main event.) It was a beutiful service. All the clergy but one reader were out of town so he had to sing the whole service by himself. Actually, the whole congregation consisted of me, Anselm, one other man, and every saint and angel in heaven. It was a beautiful service.

The Universal Exaltation of the Life-Creating Cross (September 14)

An Exceprt of a paper written for Professor of the Faculrty of Orthodox Theology at the University of Joensuu, Finland.

The placement of this feast in the church calendar(18) has been a cause of no small amount of discussion. Why in early September? Wouldn’t it make more sense for this feast to occur closer to Pascha, when the Church celebrates the destruction of death? The best answer I have read comes from the pen of a monk of St. Tikhon’s monastery…“Truly, the Nativity of the Theotokos was seen as the beginning of our salvation, and the Cross is seen as the culmination of our salvation.” (19) Therefore, the two feasts are placed close to each other.
We find the origin of this feast sometime after A.D. 335 but before A.D. 347. (20) The historical accidents of the Feast, as reflected in the Icon are the raising of the Cross before a crowd of people by the Bishop of Jerusalem. It is thought that the Cross was presented to the people at the time of the dedication of the Basilica of the Resurrection, which temple is represented in the background of the Icon. (21)
But the date, location, and occasion of the elevation of the Cross are not the point of the Feast or the Icon of the Feast. The elevation of the Cross is a universal phenomenon. The Church in all places and at all times looks to the Cross as “the weapon of peace” (22) which grants victory over the adversary. This universality is seen in an interesting version of this Icon that is in the nave of Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco. At first glance it looks like any copy of the Icon of the Exaltation of the Cross. But upon closer inspection we see that the bishop lifting the Life Creating Cross is not the Patriarch of Jerusalem. Instead, he is the Patriarch of Moscow. And the crowd of people before whom he is raising the Cross is not the population of Jerusalem. It is the sacred throng of the Holy Martyrs of the communist persecution; St. Benjamin, the Royal Martyrs, St. Elizabeth, and tens of thousands of other bishops, children, priests, nuns, monks, lay men and women, all are looking to the Cross exalted by the Patriarch. And each of them is holding a small cross in his right hand. They saw the Cross that was lifted up before them and they embraced it. They exalted it not just at a Feast once a year, but in their hearts. They followed Jesus to Calvary and they received the “invincible trophy”. (23)

(18) There are other commemorations of the Cross during the year (e.g. every Wednesday and Friday, the Adoration of the Cross on the Third Sunday of Lent, and the Procession of the Cross on August 1) but they are not counted among the 12 Great Feasts.
(19) A Monk Of St. Tikhon’s Monastery, These Truths We Hold (South Cannan, Pennsylvania: St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 1986), page 156
(20) Ouspensky and Lossky, Op. Cit., 148
(21) Ibid
(22) Kontakion of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (tone 4)
(23) Ibid


Mimi said...

I've always heard it was because it is 40 days after the Transfiguration.

Happy Feast!

DebD said...

that service actually sounds very sweet. Sometimes a small group is nice. Thanks for the article.. that was very informative.ov