Third Sunday of Great Lent ~ Adoration of the Holy Cross

On this the Third Sunday of Great Lent, our Holy Church celebrates the Adoration of the Holy Cross. We have also reached the mid point of Lent and we are almost at the time of the Glorious Resurrection. We pause at this time to remember the Cross upon which our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was hung for our sins and for the sins of our first parents. At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy it is the custom for the faithful to come forward and venerate the cross. They do this by making three great prostrations. It is not enough for us to simply bow our heads and make the sign of the cross for are in the presence of the King and therefore should show the respect due Him.

It is of interest to point out that the theme of this day is not sorrow but of joy! We get a slight glimpse of what is to come in a few short weeks when our Lord Rises from the Dead and opens for us the gates of Paradise. Fr. Alexander Schmemann of blessed memory has this to say about this day, “We are in mid-Lent. On the one hand, the physical and spiritual effort, if it is serious and consistent, begins to be felt, its burden becomes more burdensome, our fatigue more evident. We need help and encouragement. On the other hand, having endured this fatigue, having climbed the mountain up to this point, we begin to see the end of our pilgrimage, and the rays of Easter grow in their intensity.”

The Vesperal hymns of this day are beautiful and teach us the Theology of the day. In each of the stichera of the day is a little more of that light that Fr. Alexander speaks about.

O Christ Savior, the might of death has broken down under your Cross; and the deceit of Diabolus has ceased; and humanity has escaped and been saved. Wherefore, praise is offered you perpetually.

It is because of the crucifixion of Christ that he trampled down death by His own death. He has set us free from the bondage of that first sin and opened the gates of paradise to us. However, we still must take the initiative and walk through the gates. He has done His part and He is counting on us to do our part.

The whole creation, O Lord God, has been lighted by your glorified Resurrection; and paradise has been opened. Wherefore, all creatures laud you and offer you praise.

The whole of creation has been redeemed by His self-emptying of Himself on the cross. Creation was created in a state of perfection and was sullied by that sin of our first parents. Christ’s death has restored this “shine” to the entire creation and all of it rejoices.

Lent is our self-crucifixion we hear in the Gospel of this day to that is anyone would follow Christ we must take up our cross and follow Him. Fr. Alexander reminds us that it is not our cross that will save us but the very cross of Christ. We must not just do this during this Holy Season of Lent but everyday of our lives. Christ will show us how to do this if we mediate on His suffering and righteous death. For by walking with Him on His road we will find our own salvation. In His footsteps we will find redemption for our sins.

The Vesperal Hymns continue:

Rejoice, O life-bearing Cross, the unconquerable triumph of true worship, O door of paradise, the confirmation of believers, the wall of the Church, through which corruption has disappeared and perished, and the power of death was swallowed, and we ascend from earth to heaven, you incontestable weapon and adversary of Satan’s; for you are the glory of Martyrs and their adornment in truth, the haven of salvation that grants to the world Great Mercy.

Here we see the hymn change and we are addressing the cross itself. The power of the Cross can not be conquered by anything and is the subject of our true worship. The cross is the door through which the doors of paradise were opened and it is the wall that protects the Church and swallowed up death. It is the only true weapon that defeats Satan for the power of the Cross is greater than his.

Come, you first created couple who fell from the heavenly rank through man-destroying envy, because of a bitter delight resulting from the taste of the old tree. Behold, here comes in the truth the most revered Tree. Hasten to kiss it, shouting to it in faith, You are our helper, O most revered Cross, of whose fruit when we partook we attained incorruption and received securely the first Eden and the Great Mercy.

Here we see all of the faith coming together. The first created couple, Adam and Eve, represents all of Humanity and tells the story of how sin entered the world. It was this sin that closed the doors of paradise and changed of very nature from what it was intended to be. We see that a tree was what caused this first sin and now a Tree will be used to bring redemption to the world. The fruit of that first tree, an apple, brought sin and the Fruit of the second Tree, Jesus Christ, will change that sin into celebration. Our nature changes from one of corruption to one of incorruption and we are able to pass through the door.

In the Icon of the Resurrection we see the Resurrected Jesus holding the hand and pulling out of the tomb our first parents and redeeming humanity for all time.

The theme of Lent will now switch from ourselves and the sacrifices that we have been making to those that have been made and are continuously being made for us. We still need to keep to our Lenten regiment but we also now need to focus on what has been done for us.

We adore you O Christ, and we praise You. Because by your holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

error: Content is protected !!