The Elevation of the Holy Cross, commemorating the discovery of Christ’s Cross by St. Helen, is celebrated on Sept. 14/27.
Legend says that St. Helen found three crosses near Jerusalem, underneath a beautiful and fragrant basil plant. Jesus’ Cross was identified when a deceased man, whose funeral procession passed by the cross, was resurrected. A portion of the Cross was placed in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the site.
To mark this Holy Day we fast (no meat, fish or dairy), even if it falls on a Sunday. The weekend before, special Epistle and Gospel passages are read during the Divine Liturgy.
Traditionally, there is an all-night Vigil on the Eve of the Feast. A cross, adorned with basil leaves and flowers, is placed on the Altar. During morning services, the priest raises the cross above his head and makes the sign of the cross as the congregants chant Kyrie eleison (Lord have mercy). Then, all sing: “Before Thy Cross, we bow in worship O Master, and Thy Holy Resurrection we glorify,”
For Christians, the Cross is both a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins and a powerful symbol of the victorious Resurrection over death. Therefore, as we begin the fall season and look ahead to the various duties or “crosses” that we might be called to bear – whether taking care of elderly parents or ensuring children’s catechism lessons are learned – let us accept them with Christian joy and enthusiasm.