On September 14 in the Holy Orthodox Church, we commemorate the Elevation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross, the day the Holy Cross was discovered by Empress Helen (mother of Constantine the Great) in 326 AD on Golgotha. “When the true Cross was identified, it was lifted on high for all the people to see, who then continually sang Kyrie eleison, a practice which is still enacted at current celebrations of this feast.” -OrthodoxWiki
On this day we also commemorate the recovery of the Cross from the Persians. After being stolen from Jerusalem in 614 AD, it was recovered by the Byzantine Empire in 627. On March 21, 630 AD, Emperor Heraclius together with Patriarch Zacharios entered Jerusalem with the Cross where it was solemnly transferred to the Temple of the Resurrection, and held up for veneration by the the Christian faithful.
The Elevation of the Cross, also known as the Exaltation of the Cross, is one of the 12 Great Feasts of the Church, and one of two feasts on which is kept a strict fast (the other is the Beheading of John the Baptist).
Apolytikion of the Holy Cross, First Mode
O Lord, save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance
Granting to Thy people vict’ry over all their enemies
And by the pow’r of Thy Cross
Preserve Thy Kingdom.
Readings for the Feast
1 Corinthians 1:18-24
Brethren, the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”
Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
John 19:6-11, 13-20, 25-28, 30-35
At that time, when the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no crime in him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law he ought to die, because he has made himself the Son of God.”
When Pilate heard these words, he was the more afraid; he entered the praetorium again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore he who delivered me to you has the greater sin.” When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called the Pavement, and in Hebrew, Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King!” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek.
But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. Then when Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished”; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. †
Today is also the Name Day for those who bear the names Stavroula or Stavros (stavros meaning cross). Many years to all who are celebrating today, and blessed feast of the Elevation of the Precious Cross to all!