On Sunday, October 1, our St. George parish family had a beautiful celebration. On that day we observed great feast of the Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross. Our service was headed by the parish Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov.
Before the reading of the Hours the Rector and the altar server performed a procession with the Holy Cross. They proceeded from the sanctuary to the middle of the church placing the Cross on the stand and then venerated it.
During the Divine Liturgy, after the Gospel lesson, Fr. Igor preached the following sermon:
“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we observe one of the great holy days, Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross. It is a feast of the Lord but it is not dedicated to Him but to the Holy Cross on which the Son of God was crucified. That is why today we heard the Gospel lesson about the Passions of Christ, about the crucifixion of our Lord. And apart from that, this feast is not a commemoration of the crucifixion, but a memory of another historical event”.
“In the year 70 A.D., the city of Jerusalem was destroyed. And the sacred places of Christ Passion and Resurrection became desecrated by the pagan Romans. They built pagan temples on those spots and they also contaminated them with different debris and rubbish which covered those sites. Three centuries later, when Christian faith became dominant in the Roman Empire, Holy Empress Helen, the mother of Emperor Constantine, ordered to clean up the rubbish and to destroy pagan temples in Jerusalem, then to start excavations. She wished to uncover the holy places where Jesus was crucified, buried and where He rose from the dead. After the uncovering the grounds on Golgotha, the three crosses were found. You should remember that the two thieves were crucified along with Jesus. In order to find out which cross was the Cross of Christ, St. Helen did the following. There was a funeral procession going nearby. The Empress ordered the body of the deceased to be attached to those three crosses. After touching the Cross of Christ a miracle took place – the dead man came to life. Then the Cross was cleaned and washed. A multitude of people gathered there desiring to see the Cross of Christ. Then the Patriarch of Jerusalem, St. Macarius began to elevate, exalt the Cross before the people and the multitudes fell on their knees and exclaimed, “Lord, have mercy!” many times».
“Dear brothers and sisters! That is the history of this holy day. Now, let us think how it may relate to our life. That story is an image of what we should do with our own soul”.
“We are the Christians. We were baptized in Christ and vested in Christ. And the Cross of Christ should always be in our soul. But what is happening with our lives? We contaminate them with different debris and rubbish. We erect pagan temples, temples of idolatry on the sacred places of our souls. How are we doing that? We follow our sinful desires, our earthly passions. We spend time in vain worrying about futile cares of this life. We cover the image of the Cross in our souls by all that rubbish, so it becomes invisible. Moreover, we constantly commit sins. And by doing that, we actually engage in idolatry. If we serve our passions, we serve the idols. So, when the Cross of Christ is being buried in our lives, it becomes replaced by different rubbish and debris or by the temples of idolatry”.
“Thus, the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross is calling us to wake up and to exalt the Cross of Christ in our hearts. It calls us to follow the example of St. Helen to discover the Cross. It means that we need to clean up the rubbish collected on the sacred place of the soul, we need to set aside our earthly cares and to focus on the spiritual life. And it means that this feast calls us to repent. Through repentance we may destroy the idols that we have exalted in our souls, we may abandon to serve our own sins”.
“Dear brothers and sisters! The Cross of Christ has to be cleaned by our repentance, washed by the tears of compunction and exalted by the acts of piety”.
“Today the Precious Cross is placed in the middle of the church. Looking at that Cross, praying before it, let us ask our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ that we may never forget that we are baptized in Him and that we may worthily follow Him and His Holy Cross. Let us pray that the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ may always be a saving and the most important sign in our lives, to which is glory now and forever!”
The choir director prayerfully performed hymns of the Exaltation of the Cross before Holy Communion.
After the dismissal of the Liturgy Fr. Igor greeted the faithful on the occasion of festal celebration and made some announcements. Then the Rector and the altar server performed glorification of the feast in the middle of the church and venerated the Holy Cross.