Orthodox America

   The Elevation. of the Life-giving Cross

September 14

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During the first three centuries, Christians were almost continually suffering from persecutions-at first from the unbelieving Jews and then from the heathen. Many Christians became martyrs.  Only in the fourth century did these persecutions come to an end when the Roman Emperor Constantine became a Christian,

On the eve of a tattle against one of his adversaries. Emperor Constantine and all his army saw in heaven a sign of the Cross which was made up of stars with the Latin words "in hoc (signo) vinces" meaning "by this sign you will conquer." Then the Lord Jesus Christ Himself appeared in a dream to Constantine with a sign on which the form of a cross was made, and commanded him to make the same as a standard for his army, promising him victory. Having conquered his enemies, Emperor Constantine became the defender and patron of the Christian religion and the Church.

It was the prayers of his righteous mother Helen which had turned Constantine towards Christianity. At his request St. Helen went to the Holy Land and established many churches there. Her greatest desire was to find the Cross on which our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified. After long searches the place was discovered where the Lord's cross was hidden together with the two crosses on which the two thieves were crucified.  The True, Life-giving Cross was recognized when a dead man was placed on it and was brought to life by a miracle of the Lord. Then the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Macarius stood on an elevated place and raised up the Cross so that the Christians could see it and venerate it. All the faithful fell to the ground before the Cross and with joy called out: "Lord, have mercy

St. Helen had a church built over the Holy Sepulchre to house the relic of the True Cross. This church was dedicated in the year 335. As the Cross was being carried into the church, it was again raised up.. Since that time the Elevation of the Cross of the Lord has been celebrated as one of the twelve Great Feasts of the Church, thereby reminding Christians of the importance of the Cross as the means of our salvation and as a symbol of spiritual victory over sin and death.

In remembrance of the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross, we keep this day as a strict fast day, even when it falls on a Sunday

(For more on this feast see the St. John the Baptist Web Site)