THE ELEVATION OF THE VENERABLE AND LIFE-GIVING CROSS
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
The Elevation of the Venerable and Life-Giving Cross, Commemoration of the 6th Ecumenical Council
ST. PAUL’S FIRST LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS 1:18-24
Brethren, the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
JOHN 19:6-11, 13-20, 25-28, 30
At that time, when the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, "Crucify him, crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no crime in him." The Jews answered him, "We have a law, and by that law he ought to die, because he has made himself the Son of God.
When Pilate heard these words, he was the more afraid; he entered the praetorium again and said to Jesus, "Where are you from?" But Jesus gave no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, "You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?" Jesus answered him, "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore he who delivered me to you has the greater sin." When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called the Pavement, and in Hebrew, Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, "Behold your King!" They cried out, "Away with him, away with him, crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar." Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek.
But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold your son!" Then he said to the disciple, "Behold your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. Then when Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, "It is finished"; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
The Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross
The pagan Roman Emperors tried to obliterate the holy places where our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and rose from the dead, so that they would be forgotten. Emperor Hadrian (117-138) ordered that Golgotha and the Lord's Sepulchre be buried, and that a temple in honor of the pagan "goddess" Venus and a statue of Jupiter be placed there.
Pagans gathered at this place and offered sacrifice to idols. Eventually after 300 years, by Divine Providence, the Christian holy places, the Sepulchre of the Lord, and the Life-giving Cross, were discovered and opened for veneration. This took place under Emperor Constantine the Great (306-337) after his victory over Maxentius (in 312), who ruled the Western part of the Roman Empire, and over Licinius, the ruler of its Eastern part. In the year 323 Constantine became the sole ruler of the vast Roman Empire.
In 313 Saint Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, by which Christianity was legalized and persecutions against Christians in the Western half of the Empire were stopped. Although Licinius had signed the Edict of Milan in order to oblige Constantine, he continued his cruel persecutions against Christians. Only after his conclusive defeat did the Edict of Milan extend also to the Eastern part of the Empire. The Holy Equal of the Apostles Emperor Constantine, triumphing over his enemies in three wars, with God’s assistance, had seen the Sign of the Cross in the heavens. Written beneath were the words: “By this you shall conquer.”
Ardently desiring to find the Cross upon which our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, Saint Constantine sent his mother, the pious Empress Helen (May 21), to Jerusalem, providing her with a letter to Saint Makarios, the Patriarch of Jerusalem. Saint Helen journeyed to the holy places connected with the earthly life of the Savior, building more than 80 churches, at Bethlehem the birthplace of Christ, and on the Mount of Olives where the Lord ascended to Heaven, and at Gethsemane where the Savior prayed before His sufferings, and where the Mother of God was buried after her Dormition.
Although the holy Empress Helen was no longer young, she set about completing the task with enthusiasm. In her search for the Life-giving Cross, she questioned both Christians and Jews, but for a long time her search remained unsuccessful. Finally, she was directed to a certain elderly Jew named Jude who stated that the Cross was buried beneath the temple of Venus. They demolished the pagan temple and, after praying, they began to excavate the ground. Soon the Lord's Tomb was uncovered. Not far from it were three crosses, and a board with the inscription ordered by Pilate, and four nails which had pierced the Lord’s Body (March 6).
In order to discover on which of the three crosses the Savior had been crucified, Patriarch Makarios alternately touched the crosses to a corpse. When the Cross of the Lord touched the dead man, he was restored to life. After witnessing the raising of the dead man, everyone was convinced that the Life-giving Cross had been found.
Christians came in a huge crowds to venerate the Holy Cross, beseeching Saint Makarios to lift the Cross, so that those far off could see it. Then the Patriarch and other spiritual leaders lifted the Holy Cross, and the people prostrated themselves before the Honorable Wood, saying “Lord have mercy." This solemn event occurred in the year 326.
During the discovery of the Life-giving Cross another miracle took place: a woman who was close to death was healed by the shadow of the Holy Cross. The elderly Jude (October 28) and other Jews believed in Christ and were baptized. Jude was given the name Kyriakos, and later he was consecrated as the Bishop of Jerusalem. He suffered a martyr’s death for Christ during the reign of Emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363).
Saint Helen took part of the Life-giving Wood and nails with her to Constantinople. Saint Constantine ordered a majestic and spacious church to built at Jerusalem in honor of the Resurrection of Christ, also including under its roof the Life-giving Tomb of the Lord and Golgotha. The church was built in ten years. Saint Helen did not survive until the dedication of the church, she reposed in the year 327. The church was consecrated on September 13, 335. On the following day, September 14, the festal celebration of the Exaltation of the Honorable and Life-giving Cross was established.
Another event connected to the Cross of the Lord is remembered also on this day: its return to Jerusalem from Persia after a fourteen year captivity. During the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Phokas (602-610) the Persian king Khozróēs II attacked Constantinople defeated the Greek army, plundered Jerusalem, capturing both the Life-giving Cross of the Lord and the Holy Patriarch Zachariah (609-633).
The Cross remained in Persia for fourteen years, and only under Emperor Herakleios (610-641), who defeated Khozróēs and concluded peace with his successor and son Syroes, was the Lord's Cross returned to the Christians.
With great solemnity the Life-giving Cross was transferred to Jerusalem. Emperor Herakleios, wearing a crown and his royal purple garments carried the Cross of Christ. The Emperor was accompanied by Patriarch Zachariah. At the gates by which they ascended Golgotha, the Emperor stopped suddenly and was unable to proceed. The holy Patriarch explained to the Emperor that an Angel of the Lord was blocking his way. Herakleios was told to remove his royal trappings and to walk barefoot, since He Who bore the Cross for the salvation of the world had made His way to Golgotha in all humility. Then Herakleios donned plain clothes, and without further hindrance, carried the Cross of Christ into the church.
In a sermon on the Exaltation of the Cross, Saint Andrew of Crete (July 4) says: “The Cross is exalted, and everything true is gathered together, the Cross is exalted, and the city makes solemn, and the people celebrate the feast."
Repose of Saint John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople
Saint John Chrysostom died on September 14, 407, but because of the feast of the Exaltation of the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord, the commemoration of the saint was transferred to November 13. On January 27 we commemorate the transfer of the holy relics of Saint John Chrysostom from Comana to Constantinople, and on January 30, the Synaxis of the Three Hierarchs.
Monastic Martyr Macarius of Dionysiou, Mount Athos
No information available at this time.
Monastic Martyr Joseph of Dionysiou, Mount Athos
Saint Joseph was a monk of Dionysiou Monastery on Mt. Athos, where he shone forth with the virtues of monastic life. He was an iconographer, and he painted the icon of the holy Archangels on the iconostasis of Dionysiou’s main church.
In obedience to the instructions of Igumen Stephen, Saint Joseph traveled to Constantinople with Eudocimus, who had apostasized from Orthodoxy to become a Moslem. Eudocimus repented, and wished to wipe out his sin through martyrdom.
When faced with torture and death, however, the unfortunate Eudocimus denied Christ again, blaming Joseph for turning him from Islam.
Saint Joseph was arrested and threatened with death. In spite of many tortures, he refused to convert to Islam. This holy martyr of Christ was hanged on February 17, 1819, and so he obtained an incorruptible crown of glory.
Some sources list his commemoration on February 17, while others list him on September 14 or October 26.
Icon of the Mother of God of Lesna
The Lesna Icon of the Mother of God appeared on the Feast of the Universal Exaltation of the Cross in the year 1683 and was found by Alexander Stelmashuk, a shepherd, who had gone into the woods in order to escape the heat. There he saw a small Icon in the branches of a pear tree, emitting a bright radiance. He fell to his knees in reverence, but then he was so overcome with fear that he ran to tell a friend about his discovery. The two shepherds went to the village priest, who went back with them to remove the Icon from the tree. They brought it to an Orthodox church in the village of Bukovich, not far from the town of Lesna.
When news of the Icon's miraculous appearance circulated throughout the surrounding area, Roman Catholic priests decided to use the Icon to convert the Orthodox to Catholicism. In 1686, when they met with opposition from the Orthodox faithful, they removed the Icon by force in 1686 and placed it in the Roman Catholic church at Lesna.
At the beginning of the eighteenth century, Catholic monks founded a large Roman church and monastery at Lesna, where the wonderworking Icon was. In 1863, the monks took part in the Polish revolt, and, by a decree of the Russian government, the Icon was returned to the Orthodox Church. The monastery was closed and turned into an Orthodox women’s monastery in 1885. A new iconostasis was built, but it was only two rows high so that people could see the Lesna Icon hanging in the High Place.
The Icon has worked many miracles, healing the sick, dispelling melancholy, and alleviating every sort of misfortune.
The Lesna Icon of the Mother of God is also commemorated on September 8 and on the Day of the Holy Trinity (Pentecost).
Repose of Saint Anthimus, Bishop of Georgia
Saint Anthimus of Iberia was one of the most highly educated people of his time. He was fluent in many languages, including Greek, Romanian, Old Slavonic, Arabic, and Turkish and well-versed in theology, literature, and the natural sciences. He was unusually gifted in the fine arts—in painting, engraving, and sculpture in particular. He was famed for his beautiful calligraphy. Finally, Saint Anthimus was a great writer, a renowned orator, and a reformer of the written Romanian language.
Little is known about the youth of Saint Anthimus. He was a native of the Samtskhe region in southern Georgia. His parents, John and Mariam, gave him the name Andria at Baptism. He accompanied King Archil to Russia and helped him to found a Georgian print shop there, but after he returned he was captured by Dagestani robbers and sold into slavery. Through the efforts of Patriarch Dositheus of Jerusalem, Anthimus was finally set free, but he remained in the patriarch’s service in order to further his spiritual education.
Already famed for his paintings, engravings, and calligraphy, Anthimus was asked by Prince Constantine Brincoveanu (1688-1714) of Wallachia (present-day Romania) to travel to his kingdom around the year 1691. After he had arrived in Wallachia, he began to manage a local print shop. The printing industry in that country advanced tremendously at that time, and the chief inspiration and driving force behind the great advances was the Georgian master Anthimus. He succeeded in making Wallachia a center of Christianity and a major publisher of books for all the East.
In 1694 Anthimus was enthroned as abbot of Snagov Monastery (in present-day Romania), where he soon founded a print shop. In the same year his new print shop published Guidelines for the Divine Services on May 21, All Saints’ Day. The book was signed by Subdeacon Michael Ishtvanovich, future founder of the first Georgian print shop.
In 1705 Anthimus, “the chosen among chosen abbots of Wallachia,” was consecrated bishop of Rimnicu Vilcea, and in 1708 he was appointed metropolitan of Hungro-Wallachia. The whole country celebrated his elevation. As one abbot proclaimed: “The divine Anthimus, a great man and son of the wise Iberian nation, has come to Wallachia and enlightened our land. God has granted him an inexhaustible source of wisdom, entrusted him to accomplish great endeavors, and helped to advance our nation by establishing for us a great printing industry.”
Under the direct leadership of Saint Anthimus, more than twenty churches and monasteries were erected in Wallachia. Of particular significance is All Saints’ Monastery, located in the center of Bucharest. The main gates of this monastery were made of oak and carved with traditional Georgian motifs by Saint Anthimus himself. The metropolitan also established rules for the monastery and declared its independence from the Church of Constantinople.
From the day of his consecration, Metropolitan Anthimus fought tirelessly for the liberation of Wallachia from foreign oppressors. On the day he was ordained he addressed his flock: “You have defended the Christian Faith in purity and without fault. Nevertheless, you are surrounded and tightly bound by the violence of other nations. You endure countless deprivations and tribulations from those who dominate this world…. Though I am unworthy and am indeed younger than many of you—like David, I am the youngest among my brothers— the Lord God has anointed me to be your shepherd. Thus I will share in your future trials and griefs and partake in the lot that God has appointed for you.”
His words were prophetic: In 1714 the Turks executed the Wallachian prince Constantine Brincoveanu, and in 1716 they executed Stefan Cantacuzino (1714-1716), the last prince of Wallachia.
In his place they appointed Nicholas Mavrokordatos, a Phanariote (a member of one of the principal Greek families of the Phanar, the Greek quarter of Constantinople, who, as administrators in the civil bureaucracy, exercised great influence in the Ottoman Empire after the Turkish conquest) who concerned himself only with the interests of the Ottoman Empire.
During this difficult time, Anthimus of Iberia gathered around him a group of loyal boyar patriots determined to liberate their country from Turkish and Phanariote domination. But Nicholas Mavrokordatos became suspicious, and he ordered Anthimus to resign as metropolitan. When Anthimus failed to do so, he filed a complaint with Patriarch Jeremiah of Constantinople.
Then a council of bishops, which did not include a single Romanian clergyman, condemned the “conspirator and instigator of revolutionary activity” to anathema and excommunication and declared him unworthy to be called a monk. But Nicholas Mavrokordatos was still unsatisfied and claimed that to deny Anthimus the title of Metropolitan of Hungro-Wallachia was insufficient punishment. He ordered Anthimus to be exiled far from Wallachia, to Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai. Metropolitan Anthimus, beloved of the Romanian people, was escorted out of the city at night since the conspirators feared the reaction of the people.
But Metropolitan Anthimus never reached Mt. Sinai. On September 14, 1716, a band of Turkish soldiers stabbed Saint Anthimus to death on the bank of the Tundzha (Tunca) River where it flows through Adrianople, not far from Gallipoli, and cast his butchered remains into the river.
Thus ended the earthly life of one more Georgian saint—a man who had dedicated all of his strength, talent, and knowledge to the revival of Christian culture and the strengthening of the Wallachian people in the Orthodox Faith.
In 1992 the Romanian Church canonized Anthimus of Iberia and proclaimed his commemoration day to be September 14, the day of his repose. The Georgian Church commemorates him on June 13.