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Major Orthodox Feasts: The Elevation of the Holy Cross

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The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross is one of the Great Feasts of the Orthodox Christian Church, and is celebrated on September 27 (September 14 - Old Style). Another name for this holiday is called The Elevation (Vozdvizenie) of the Cross.

This event commemorates two important events.

The First event it commemorates is the finding of the Cross by the Empress Helen, who is the mother of St. Constantine the Great, on Golgotha in 326 AD, the place where Christ was Crucified. St. Helen had found on the spot where the Cross was discovered an unknown flower that was beautiful and smelled of a rich fragrance, which has since been named Vasiliko (of the King), or Basil, meaning the flower of royalty. The plant Vasiliko, Basil, is bound to the Precious Cross of the King of Glory, our Lord Jesus Christ.
When St. Helen picked up the Basil, the Cross of Christ was found with two other crosses, those used to crucify the two thieves on each side of Christ. There was a sign that was inscribed with "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews" that lay there as well. A sick woman was brought to the scene to determine which one was the true cross, and she was healed of her sickness when she kissed the true cross. Coincidentally, there was a funeral procession in place on that day, and a dead man was placed on each of the crosses, and when it was placed on the True Cross, the dead man came to life. The cross became known as the "Life-Giving" Cross, which gives life to anyone who believes in the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and his resurrection. When people found out about the power of the life giving cross, they sang Kyrie eleison, a practice which is still practiced in current celebrations of this feast.

The second event that this event commemorates is the recovery of the Cross on which Christ was crucified from the Persians. They had captured the True Cross as a prize of war when they invaded Jerusalem in 614 AD. The Emperor Heraclius of the Byzantine Empire recovered the Cross in 627 AD, when he defeated the Sassanid Persians at the Battle of Nineveh. The Elevation took place on March 21, 630 AD, when Emperor Heraclius entered Jerusalem amidst cheer, and transferred the Cross of Christ into the temple of the Resurrection with Patriarch Zacharios.

This feast, along with the commemoration of the Beheading of St. John the Forerunner on August 29 is held as a strict fast. On this day, Christians make a dedication to Christ and pledge their faithfulness by making prostrations at the Lords feet on the life creating Cross. For the feast, the Cross is placed on a tray surrounded by flowers or branches of basil, and placed in the center of the Church for veneration.

The Elevation of the Holy Cross is observed on September 27/14 (old style).

Troparion (Tone 1)

O Lord, save your people, and bless your inheritance. Grant victories to the Faithful over their adversaries; and by the virtue of your Cross, preserve your inheritance.

Konlakion (Tone 4)

As you were voluntarily crucified for our sake, grant mercy to those who are called by your name; make all Faithful glad by your power, by bestowing on them the invincible trophy, your weapon of peace.

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