Today, September 14th, is the Feast of the Elevation Life-Giving Cross. This feast, one of the twelve great feasts of the Church, commemorates the discovery of the Cross of Jesus by Saint Helena mother of the Emperor Constantine in 325 AD. For more on the feastday, follow this link.
The Cross of Christ, for many, would seem to be the end of the story. But for Christians we know that it was not the end but only the beginning of the story. I have written in a previous essay that Christ was sent, by God, to free all of humanity from the bondage of sin. This bondage began with the disobedience of our first parents in the Garden of Eden. Since that time, humanity has been enslaved to the human passions.
In the actions of our first parents, it was a tree that led to the destruction of the relationship between humanity and God, and in the actions of Jesus, it was a tree that repaired that relationship between God and humanity. As the Vespers Hymns for the Feast proclaim:
For he who deceived Adam by a Tree is caught by the lure of Cross; and he who held under his tyranny the creature endowed by God with royal dignity is brought down in a headlong fall.
For it was fitting that the Tree should be healed by a Tree, and that by the Passion of the passionless God what was wrought on the Tree should destroy the passions of man, who was condemned.
Christ, through the Cross, has given us the strength that is needed to overcome the power that the evil one has on us. We have been given the tools, and the instructions, required to transform our lives from a life that is enslaved to the passions to a life that is totally free in Christ Jesus.
The Vespers Hymns continue:
The serpent’s venom is washed away by the blood of God, and the curse of just condemnation is undone when the Just One is condemned by and unjust judgment.
The way has been paved for us to follow, it is the narrow way and a hard way, but it is right before us, and we need to start the journey down that path. The journey is long and will be difficult at times, but we will never be alone on that journey. We will stumble, and we will fall, but Christ will be there to pick us up and put us back on that path if we just call upon Him.
O Lord, save Your people and bless your inheritance! Grant victories to the Orthodox Christians over their adversaries; and by the virtue of Your Cross, preserve Your habitation.