Monday, September 27, 2010

Before Thy Cross…

On this day, 1,675 years ago, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem was dedicated. The Holy Cross, upon which hung Him Who hung the earth upon the waters, was taken outside the church and venerated by the faithful. Three centuries later, the Byzantine emperor Heraclitus recovered the Cross from the Persians, who had captured it in battle. Today, we celebrate these two events with the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.

The Exaltation, one of the twelve major feasts of the Orthodox Church, is unique in that it includes a special ceremony at the end of the Vigil service where the main officiating priest raises and lowers a cross five times, literally exalting it, while the chanters sing “Lord, have mercy” a hundred times each. Rose water is poured over the cross (which includes a relic of the True Cross) while it is being exalted.

Also on this day, 1,603 years ago, Archbishop John of Constantinople, called Chrysostom, died in exile in Armenia. His last words at the end of his via dolorosa were “Glory to God for all things.” However, since he reposed on a major feast, his feast-day (and my namesday) is on November 13/26.

Today also happens to be my birthday. However, since the Exaltation of the Cross is a fast day (which means no meat or milk) the celebration of my birthday is transferred (like my namesday) to the next non-fasting day after the Exaltation.

That would be hard to explain to the waitresses at Applebee’s, however.

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