Yesterday was the feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross, which is often just shortened to “Holy Cross” in common use. The feast celebrates the Life Giving Cross of our Lord, and is one of the paradoxical feasts – a Great Feast (one of twelve in the year, not including the Feast of Feasts, Pascha/Easter) which is celebrated with solemnity and fasting out of reverence for the Passion of our Lord. Normally feasts call for a relaxing of any fasting restrictions which may exist – we can eat fish, even during fasts or on a Wednesday of Friday (when we normally eat a vegan diet), if a Great Feast falls then, but in this case the Feast does the opposite, and calls us to a strict fast, without even oil if we are able to do so. At the same time, it is a happy feast, celebrating Christ’s victory over sin and death.
Crosses are everywhere in Orthodoxy in our homes, around our necks, in our books, on all liturgical things, in feasts, and in the way we bless ourselves and priests bless us by making the sign of the Cross. We will often make the sign of the cross over our beds, over garden beds, over food, anything we want to dedicate to God or ask His blessing for. I know people who will cut a cross with a knife into each new jar they open. Making crosses this way and having them around is a constant reminder to turn our thoughts back to God and to remember Him in everything we do, and that all gifts come from above, “coming down from the Father of Lights” (James 1:17, echoed in the blessing prayer at the end of the Divine Liturgy).
The feast day itself commemorates a number of things. At its heart it commemorates Christ’s victory, as I’ve mentioned, and it also commemorates the finding of the three Crosses (and Christ’s in particular) 300 years after His Crucifixion, by the Empress Helen (mother of Constantine the Great) when she went on a quest to find it, and also its recapture after it was stolen a few hundred years later.
Usually we attend Church if possible, but I was unable to due to my health, so I decorated my house and our family icon corner instead. Here’s a few pictures for you 🙂
I hope you had a blessed feast.
“Save, O Lord, Your people, and bless Your inheritance, granting victory to the faithful over the enemy, and by Your Cross preserving Your commonwealth.”