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Greece Marks Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Feast Exaltation Holy Cross
The icon of the Feast of the Precious Cross tells the story of the finding of the Cross and of its Exaltation. Public Domain.

Greece and Christians throughout the world mark the Feast of the Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross celebrated each year on September 14th

The Feast commemorates the discovery of the True Cross. Legend holds that the relic was found by Saint Helen, mother of Constantine the Great, during her pilgrimage to the Holy Land around the year 326.

The Chapel of Saint Helen inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built by the Crusaders in her honor, and below it lies the Chapel of the Finding of the True Cross, in which the cross of Christ’s crucifixion was reportedly discovered.

In the twentieth year of his reign (326), Emperor Constantine sent his mother Saint Helen to Jerusalem to venerate the holy places and to find the site of the Holy Sepulchre and of the Cross.

Relying upon the oral tradition of the faithful, Saint Helen found the precious Cross together with the crosses of the two thieves crucified with our Lord. However, Helen had no way of determining which was the Cross of Christ.

With the healing of a dying woman who touched one of the crosses, Patriarch Macarius of Jerusalem identified the True Cross of Christ.

The Patriarch mounted the ambo (pulpit) and lifted the Cross with both hands so that all of the people gathered could see it. The crowd responded with “Lord have mercy.”

This became the occasion of the institution in all of the Churches of the Exaltation of the Precious Cross, not only in memory of the event of the finding of the Cross but also to celebrate how an instrument of shame was used to overcome death and bring salvation and eternal life.

The Icon of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

As the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America explains, the icon of the Feast of the Precious Cross tells the story of the finding of the Cross and of its Exaltation.

Patriarch Macarius is standing in the pulpit elevating the Cross for all to see and venerate. On each side of the Patriarch are deacons holding candles. The elevated Cross is surrounded and venerated by many clergy and lay people, including Saint Helen, the mother of Emperor Constantine.

In the background of the icon is a domed structure that represents the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem. This church was one of the churches constructed and dedicated by Emperor Constantine on the holy sites of Jerusalem.

The last line in the beginning of the video should be “wounder of demons” instead of “wonder of demons.”


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