My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
On the 14th of September, the Holy Orthodox Church commemorates
the EXALTATION of the Honorable and Life-Giving CROSS.
Apolytikion Hymn (Dismissal Hymn). First Tone
SAVE, O Lord, Thy people and bless Thine inheritance grant Thou
unto the faithful victory over adversaries. And by the power of Thy
Cross do Thou preserve Thy Commonwealth.
Kontakion Hymn. Fourth Tone
THOU Who wast raised up on the Cross of Thine own will, O Christ our God,
do Thou bestow Thy compassion upon this, Thy new commonwealth named
after Thee. Gladden with Thy Sovereign Might our most Orthodox hierarchs,
and vouchsafe them victory over every false teaching, and as Thy help in war
may they possess the weapon of peace, the Trophy invincible.
Constantine the Great was born in 273/274 and reposed in Nicomedia in A.D.337, sharing his feast day with his mother, Saint Helen, equal-to-the- Apostles, on the 21st of May. He distinguished himself in his youth in the service of Diocletian (A.D. 284-305) in the Egyptian and Persian wars. After those campaigns, he went to Gaul and Britain. In the Praetorium at York, he was proclaimed Augustus by his dying father, Constantine Chlorus (A.D.305), and by the Roman troops. Galerius (A.D. 250-311), who was the Emperor of the East and Diocletian’s son-in-law, recognized Constantine as Caesar and recognized him as Augustus.
When Maximian’s son, the cruel tyrant Maxentius (A.D. 279-312)–hated by both Christian and pagans alike–usurped the government of Italy and Africa, the Roman people let out a cry of help for Constantine against him. Constantine marched from Gaul across the Alps with an army numbering 98,000 soldiers of every ethnic background. After three battles he defeated Maxentius at last in October of A.D. 312, at Milvian Bridge near Rome, making Constantine the sole ruler of the West.
Although the precise day when Constantine miraculously beheld the Cross is not known, it surely took place before the splendid victory over Maxentius near Rome. While marching from Gaul to Italy, Augustus, while praying to the True God for light and help at this crucial moment, saw, together with his men, while it was still daylight toward evening, a shining cross in the heavens above the sun, with the inscription: “Εν τούτο Νίκα” (“By this conquer.”) The following night Christ Himself appeared to Constantine in his sleep and directed him to have a standard prepared in the form of the sign of the Cross. He was then commanded to advance against Maxentius and all other enemies. The standard bore the Christian Cross with the Greek monogram, X (Chi) and P (Rho), the first two letters of the name of Christ. Maxentius, on the advice of his false prophets, instead of making a defense behind the city walls, went out on the field and was totally defeated. Soon afterward, he drowned in the Tiber.
After this decisive victory on October 27, 312 A.D.–who controlled the Ilyrian provinces and had been a comrade-in-arms of Galerius and married Constantine’s sister–agreed upon an edict of religious toleration, granting full freedom to all forms of worship, with special favored to the Christian Faith (January 313 A.D.). From this time Constantine FAVORED THE CHURCH OF THE CHRISTIANS. IN IMPERIAL EDICTS HE ALWYS MENTIONS THE CHURCH WITH REVERENNCE.
Constantine became the sole head of the whole Roman Empire by his victory over his Eastern colleague and brother-in-law, Licinius in the battle of Adrianople in July, 324 A.D., and again at Chalcedon, in September, represented a new triumph of the standard of the Cross over the sacrifices to the deities…The Emperor then issued a public announcement to his subjects that they might embrace Christianity of their own free will.
His mother who reigned along with her son as Augusta, in 326 A.D. at the age of 79, was attracted neither by honor nor by the imperial purpose, desired to make a pilgrimage herself to Jerusalem for the purpose of offering prayer and visiting the sacred places. Her son avidly supported her holy and divinely-inspired mission to journey to the site of old Jerusalem, where the Romans had built the new town called Aelia. The Church historian Eusebius reports that her son gave her authority over the imperial treasury, to use and dispense monies according to her own will and descretion in every case. Upon her arrival straightway, she had the temple of Aphrodite pulled down to clear the site of Golgotha. After the temple debris was hauled out of Jerusalem, the question of the exact location of the Cross needed to be addressed.
Now it was no easy matter to discover either this holy relic or even the Lord’s Sepulchre…The biographer and historian Sulpitius Severus in his Sacred History says that “the consecration of the Cross, owing to the opposition of the Jews, had been covered over by the rubbish of the ruined city.” After searching carefully but in vain for this object which God had removed from men’s knowledge, she became eager to obtain information solely on the sitse of the Passion. So she sough out not only Christians full of learning and holiness, but also the most learned of the Jews to innform her of their native wickedness in which, poor men, they even boast.”
The Augusta secured the help of a certain Jew named Judah, who preserved the ancient legacy of the site of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, and who pointed out the east side of the burial cave to the Augusta. According to the historian Sozomen, Judah dwelt in the East adn derived his information from some documents which had come to him by paternal inheritance. Together with Bishop Makarios of Jerusalem (331-335 A.D.)–who previously took the Augusta on a tour of the principal shrines–and his entourage they made their way to the site of Golgotha. Bishop Makarios conducted a prayer service.
Now after many weeks of excavating, a beautiful flower was found growing in an area that was lonely and abandoned. The Augusta noticed that no other plants were growing in the vicinity. Enlightened by God, she ordered her soldiers to concentrate digging at the exact spot where the unusual flower, now called in English “Sweet Basil” (Vasiliko), had taken root. The name, signifying ROAYLTY, also came to be THE OFFICIAL FLOWER OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH. Also, the custom developed taht the basil flower was used by clergymen when blessing homes or during Church services whenever the blessing of the waters takes place.
As the diggers went deeper into the earth, they began to detect a fragrant scent emitting from underground. The Augusta gave orders for the digging to continue. To general astonishment, but precisely as the Queen alone had believed, deep digging opened up cavities in the earth and revealed the secret of the hidden Cross. The earth yielded up THREE CROSSES, THE PLACARD AND THE NAILS. The custom at taht timem was to bury the implements of torture close to the site of suffering. The inscription, however, had been wrenched from the True Cross and cast aside. The Cross of Jesus had been cast aside with the others, without any distinction.
Bishop Makarios observed a funeral procession passing by. Here Sulpitius Severus writes: “Just as if by the appointment of God, the funeral of a dead man was then being conducted with the usual ceremonies.” She was so inspired, explains Saint Paulinus, “that she ordered that the newly deeased man be brouight to her. Her command was instantly obeyed. Sulpitius Severus says, “The corpse was carried in and set down. As the body lay there, the first and then the second cross was placed on him, but death spurned the wood which has supported the guilty. Finally, the Lord’s Cross was revealed by a resurrection, for, AT THE TOUCH OF THE WOOD OF SALVATION, MORTALITY FLED, DEATH WAS SHAKEN OFF, AND THE CORPSE WAS BROUGHT UPRIGHT. Whilst living men trembled, the dead man stood up. As was Lazarus of old, he was freed from the bonds of death, and there and tehn joined the group of spectators watching him, A MAN BROUGHT TO LIFE.”
After the Cross was located, Judah the Jew asked for holy Bapstism, which he received with the name Kyriakos. During the reign of Julian the Apostate (360 A.D.) he succeeded Bishop Makarios as Patriarch of Jerusalem. He suffered and was martyred with his mother Anna. Both are commemorated by the Holy Church on the 28th of Octorber.
Another event which also manifested the divine Cross as distinct from the crosses of the crucified thieves occurred as follows: “There was a certain lady of rank in Jerusalem show was afflicted with a most grievous and incurable desease,” writes Sozomen. “Makarios, Bishop of Jerusalem, accompanied by the mother of the Emperor and her attendants, repaired to her bedside. After uttering a prayer, Bishop Makarios signified by signs to the spectators that the divine Cross would be the one which, on being brought in contact with the invalid, should remove the disease. He approached her in turn with each of the crosses. But when two of the crosses were laid on her, it seemed but folly and mockery to her, for she was at the gates of death. When, however, the third Cross was brought to her, she suddenly opened her eyes, regained her strength, and immediately sprang from her bed, well and whole.” [Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)
(To be continued)
“Glory Be To GOD