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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Exaltatio Sanctae Crucis

O Lord, save your people and bless your inheritance. Grant victory to our country over its enemies, and preserve your community by the power of your Cross.

Rather than today's feast being relegated to the abstractions of modern talk about some metaphorical cross, or sometimes just as weak to the mind, an abstraction of suffering in general, today's feast commemorates a real historic event pertaining to the actual Cross on which our Savior hung. Two events are commemorated today, both of discovering (errr... rediscovering) the cross, in years 326 and 628,

In 326, the Holy Empress Helen uncovered the Precious Cross and Nails of the Lord at Jerusalem.

At the beginning of the reign of St Constantine the Great (306-337), the first Roman emperor to recognize Christianity, he and his pious mother St Helen decided to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. They also planned to build a church on the site of the Lord's suffering and Resurrection, in order to reconsecrate and purify the places connected with the Savior's death and Resurrection from the foul taint of paganism.

The empress Helen journeyed to Jerusalem with a large quantity of gold. St Constantine wrote a letter to Patriarch Macarius I (313-323), requesting him to assist her in every possible way with her task of the restoring the Christian holy places.

After her arrival in Jerusalem, the holy empress Helen began to destroy all the pagan temples and reconsecrate the places which had been defiled by the pagans.

In her quest for the Life-Creating Cross, she questioned several Christians and Jews, but for a long time her search remained unsuccessful. Finally, an elderly Hebrew named Jude told her that the Cross was buried beneath the temple of Venus. St Helen ordered that the pagan temple be demolished, and for the site to be excavated. Soon they found Golgotha and the Lord's Sepulchre. Not far from the spot were three crosses, a board with the inscription written by Pilate (John 19:19), and four nails which had pierced the Lord's Body.

Now the task was to determine on which of the three crosses the Savior had been crucified. Patriarch Macarius saw a dead person being carried to his grave, then he ordered that the dead man be placed upon each cross in turn. When the corpse was placed on the Cross of Christ, he was immediately restored to life. After seeing the raising of the dead man, everyone was convinced that the Life-Creating Cross had been found. With great joy the empress Helen and Patriarch Macarius lifted the Life-Creating Cross and displayed it to all the people standing about.
(thanks to the OCA site for listing this succinctly)

Then in 628, the Cross was recovered from the Persians and its return to Jerusalem, where it was raised up (elevated or exalted) for all the people to see and worship. In 614, Jerusalem was conquered by the Persians. The Persians burned the Church of the Resurrection and stole the Holy Cross.

In 628, the Emperor Heraclius defeated the Persian king and brought the Holy Cross back to Jerusalem. As he tried to carry the Cross into the Church, he was stopped by an invisible hand. Archbishop Zachary warned him to remove all his splendid clothing and imperial jewels so that he could carry the Holy Cross in humility, like Holy God the Son within the Holy Trinity / Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Then, the Emperor, wearing only a simple tunic, walked barefoot with the Holy Cross to plant it on Golgotha. All the people prostrated themselves to the ground, singing, "We bow in worship before your Cross, O Christ, and we give glory to Your Holy Resurrection."

Speaking of the other lung, the quote above is a typical prayer found rolling off of eastern tongues. And the Knodakion of the day reveals more about today:

O Christ our God who chose by your free volition to be elevated upon the Holy Cross, grant your mercies to your new people who are called by your name. In your power gladden the hearts of our Public Authorities. Strengthen them in every good deed so that Your true alliance may be for them a weapon of peace and a standard of victory.

O dear Lord how we need that help today!