This weekend, at our regular Divine Liturgy on Saturday 23 March, we celebrate the Veneration of the Holy Cross.
The Cross is the proof of the love of God. The Cross is the unshaken wall, the unconquered weapon, the Kingdom of virtue.The Cross has torn asunder our mortgage and rendered useless the prison of death. The Cross has opened Paradise; it has admitted the thief and has guided the human race from impending disaster to the Kingdom of God.
—St. John Chrysostom
The Third Sunday of Great Lent and the week that follows are devoted to welcoming the Precious Cross of Christ. This adoration of the Cross does not have a penitential character, but rather the opposite: ‘through the Cross, joy has come to the whole world.’ Having reached the midpoint of Lent, we take refreshment as though at a spiritual oasis, in the shade of the Cross, which is the banner and emblem of Christ’s victory. The Cross is a sign of our joy in Christ’s triumph. The liturgical texts express this joy; all the hymns in praise of the Cross have a victorious note to them.
For us Christians, the Cross of Christ is our boast! Saint Paul said, ‘God forbid that I should boast, except in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ.’ To show our pride in the Cross we bring out the Cross into the church for veneration and we adorn the precious Cross with flowers. Thus we express our faith that what might have seemed to be the ‘dead wood’ of the cross became the bearer of Life. Dry wood is highly inflammable, yet in the kondak we sing:
‘... no longer does the flaming sword guard the gates of Eden, for in a strange and glorious way, the Wood of the Cross has put out its flames, and My Saviour, You have stood on the Cross and called out to those in hell: ‘enter again into Paradise.’
The precious Cross remains in the nave of the church for veneration throughout the week, until Friday. Most of us are not able to come to church each day, but of course we can all pray at home. So during this week, as we pray at home be sure to kiss the cross and pray at least ‘To Your Cross, O Master, we bow in veneration, and we glorify Your holy Resurrection!’ Thus we keep the joy of the Cross throughout the week, and we strengthen the link between the family and the church.
[Adapted from content from the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton.]