Title: The Exaltation of the Cross
Subject: The Precious and Life-Giving Cross
Age Group: 11+ years
Liturgical Time: September 14
With younger children you can speak about the importance of making the sign of the cross, its meaning (see St. Kosmas below), and how it helps make Christ present in our lives. Also, see the lesson, the Sign of the Cross, to assist with young children.
With older teens you can discuss the relationship between the cross and "Martyria" which means to witness. What is the relationship between the Cross, being a witness, and Martyrdom.
LEARN, MY BRETHREN WHAT is the meaning of the sign of the Cross. When we put our hand on [our] head, it reveals God who is in the sky. When we put it over [our] navel, it reveals that he descended to earth and became incarnate. When we put [our] hand on the right breast, it reveals that he is just and eternal and that he will place the just on his right hand. And when we put it on [our] left side, it reveals that he will judge all the nations and they will stand on his left side and he will put them into hell.
The holy Cross, my brethren, is the wellspring of the whole earth. The holy Cross blesses the entire world, all that is divine and holy in the churches. The Cross blesses the Divine Liturgy and every service. The Cross blesses the saints. The Cross blesses and strengthens baptism. The Cross blesses couples. The Cross chases away demons who flee like lightning. The Cross is a bright weapon, and whoever makes the sign of the Cross is illuminated and is blessed. It is like a double-edged sword to which the demons don't draw near to urge people to commit sin.
Wherever a person sets out to travel, he should first make the sign of the Cross and say the prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ." Whether you go to the fair or to the field, or to the vineyard, or when you eat bread or fruit, or drink wine or water, when you go to sleep, worship God. Make the sign of the Cross over your body and then lie down to sleep. You will then sleep and will rise in the morning strong and happy. So, my brethren, you have understood and now know.
-Saint Kosmas Aitolos
Saint Helen, the mother of Saint Constantine the Great, when she was already advanced in years, undertook, in her great piety, the hardships of a journey to Jerusalem in search of the cross, about
the year 325. A temple to Aphrodite had been raised up by the Emperor Hadrian upon Golgotha, to defile and cover with oblivion the place where the saving Passion had been suffered. The venerable Helen had the statue of Aphrodite destroyed, and the earth removed, revealing the Tomb of our Lord, and three crosses. Of these, it was believed that one must be that of our Lord, the other two of the thieves crucified with Him; but Saint Helen was at a loss which one might be the Wood of our salvation. At the inspiration of Saint Macarius, Archbishop of Jerusalem, a lady of Jerusalem, who was already at the point of death from a certain disease, was brought to touch the crosses, and as soon as she came near to the Cross of our Lord, she was made perfectly whole.
Consequently, the precious Cross was lifted on high by Archbishop Macarius of Jerusalem; as he stood on the ambo, and when the people beheld it, they cried out, "Lord have mercy." It should be noted that after its discovery, a portion of the venerable Cross was taken to Constantinople as a blessing. The rest was left in Jerusalem in the magnificent church built by Saint Helen, until the
year 614. At that time, the Persians plundered Palestine and took the Cross to their own country (see Jan. 22, Saint Anastasius the Persian). Late, in the year 628, Emperor Heraclius set out on a military campaign, retrieved the Cross, and after bringing it to Constantinople, himself escorted it back to Jerusalem, where he restored it to its place.
Apolytikion in the First Tone
Save, O Lord, Thy people and bless Thine inheritance; grant Thou
unto the faithful victory over adversaries. And by the power of Thy
Cross do Thou preserve Thy commonwealth.
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Lifted up on the Cross by Your free will, Christ God, grant mercies
to the new commonwealth that bears Your name. Gladden our
faithful rulers by Your power, giving them victories over their
adversaries. May Your alliance be for them a weapon for peace, an
Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery - Brookline, MA
Apolytikion © Holy Transfiguration Monastery - Brookline, MA
Kontakion © Narthex Press
By Micah Hirschy