Icon of the Exhaltation of the Life-Giving Cross

The Exaltation or Elevation of the Cross

Celebrated September 14th (September 27th)

Before Thy Cross, we bow down in worship, Sovereign Lord,
and Thy Holy Resurrection we glorify!

The Elevation of the Cross commemorates both St. Helen's discovery of Christ's Cross in the fourth century, and its recovery from the Persians by Emperor Heraclius in the seventh century (at which time it was "elevated" in the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem).

From this victory celebration on, the "universal elevation" of the Cross was celebrated annually in all of the Churches of the Christian Empire. The day of the feast became the national holiday of the Eastern Christian Empire, and on that day it was "elevated" by the priests and bishops. The Cross served as the official emblem of the Empire, and was displayed on all building and uniforms.

The Troparion of the feast was sung on all public occasions, as a "national anthem" of sorts, and originally petitioned God to save the people, grant victory in war, and preserve the Empire "by virtue of the Cross". Today that Troparion, and all the hymns of the feast, are spiritualized: the adversaries are the spiritually wicked and sinful, including Satan and his armies, and the "Orthodox Christians" replace the ruling officials of the Empire.

This holy day, although is obviously has a political origin, remains with us as a day of prayer and fasting: the Cross is held up as the only symbol worthy of our total allegiance.

Adapted from The Orthodox Faith, Vol. II, by Fr. Thomas Hopko.

About the Icon

The central figure in the icon is St. Makarios, Bishop of Jerusalem, who is holding the Cross high above the crowd for veneration. Pictured in the crowd are St. Helen (lower left) and her son, Constantine the Great (lower right), along with scores of saintly bishops, priests and deacons, and leading citizens of Jerusalem. The Church of the Resurrection is visible in the Jerusalem skyline, directly above the Cross.

Adapted from The Icon Book, by Boojamra, Essey, McLuckie & Matusiak.

Click [HERE] for a black & white icon of the Elevation of the Cross to color (GIF format, 72 KB).

Troparion

O Lord, save Thy people,
and bless Thine inheritance.
Grant victories to the Orthodox Christians
over their adversaries,
and by virtue of Thy Cross,
preserve Thy habitation.

Kontakion

As Thou were voluntarily crucified for our sake,
grant mercy to those who are called by Thy Name;
make all Orthodox Christians joyful in Thy Power,
granting them victory over their adversaries,
by bestowing to them the invincible Trophy,
Thy Weapon of Peace.

© 1996 by Orthodox Family Life and the original author(s).
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