Exaltation of the Cross
Readings – Vigil
Reading from Exodus (Exodus 15:22-16:1a)
Moses brought up the children of Israel from the Red Sea, and brought them into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water to drink. And they came to Marah, and could not drink of Marah, for it was bitter; therefore he named the name of that place, Bitterness. And the people murmured against Moses, saying: ‘What shall we drink?’ And Moses cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree, and he cast it into the water, and the water was sweetened. There He established to him ordinances and judgements, and there He proved him, and said: ‘If thou wilt indeed hear the voice of the Lord thy God, and do things pleasing before Him, and wilt hearken to His commands, and keep all His ordinances, no disease which I have brought upon the Egyptians will I bring upon thee, for I am the Lord thy God, Who healeth thee.’ And they came to Elim, and there were there twelve fountains of water, and seventy stems of palm trees; and they encamped there by the waters. And they departed from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sin.
Reading from Proverbs (Proverbs 3:11-18)
My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him: for whom the Lord loveth, He rebuketh, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. Blessed is the man who hath found wisdom, and the mortal who knoweth prudence. For it is better to traffic for her, than for treasures of gold and silver. And she is more valuable than precious stones: no evil thing shall resist her; she is well known to all who approach her, and no precious thing is equal to her in value. For length of existence and years of life are in her right hand; and in her left hand are wealth and glory: out of her mouth proceedeth righteousness, and she carrieth law and mercy upon her tongue. Her ways are good ways, and all her paths are peaceful. She is a tree of life to all who lay hold upon her; and she is a secure help to all who stay themselves on her, as on the Lord.
Reading from the Prophecy of Isaiah (Isaiah 60:11-16)
Thus saith the Lord: ‘Thy gates shall be opened continually, O Jerusalem; they shall not be shut day nor night; to bring in to thee the power of the gentiles, and their kings as captives. For the nations and the kings which will not serve thee shall perish; and those nations shall be made utterly desolate. And the glory of Lebanon shall come to thee, with the cypress, and pine, and cedar together, to glorify My holy place. And the sons of those who afflicted thee, and of those who provoked thee, shall come to thee in fear; and thou shalt be called Sion, the city of the Holy One of Israel. Because thou hast become desolate and hated, and there was no helper, therefore I will make thee a perpetual gladness, a joy of many generations. And thou shalt suck the milk of the gentiles, and shalt eat the wealth of kings; and shalt know that I am the Lord Who saveth thee and delivereth thee: the God of Israel.’
Holy Gospel according to John (12:28-36)
The Lord said: ‘Father, glorify Thy name.’ Then there came a voice from Heaven, saying, ‘I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.’ The people therefore who stood by and heard it said that it thundered. Others said, ‘An angel spoke to him.’ Jesus answered and said, ‘This voice came not because of Me, but for your sakes. Now is the judgement of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.’ This He said, signifying what death He should die. The people answered Him, ‘We have heard from the law that Christ abideth for ever; and how sayest thou, “The Son of Man must be lifted up”? Who is this son of man?’ Then Jesus said unto them, ‘Yet a little while is the Light with you. Walk while ye have the Light, lest darkness come upon you; for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have Light, believe in the Light, that ye may be the children of Light.’
Readings – Liturgy
The Reading from the First Epistle of the Holy Apostle Paul to the Corinthians (1:18-24)
Brethren: The preaching of the Cross is to those who perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved, it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.’ Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness, but unto those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the Power of God and the Wisdom of God.
The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to John (19:6-11, 13-20, 25-28, 30-35)
At that time, the high priests and elders took council against Jesus to put Him to death. And they delivered Him to Pilate saying, ‘Away with him, away with him! Crucify him!’ Pilate saith unto them, ‘Take ye him and crucify him, for I find no fault in him.’ The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.’ When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid. And he went again into the judgement hall and saith unto Jesus, ‘From whence art thou?’ But Jesus gave him no answer. Then saith Pilate unto Him, ‘Speakest thou not unto me? Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?’ Jesus answered, ‘Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.’ […] When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth and sat down in the judgement seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. And it was the Preparation of the Passover and about the sixth hour. And he saith unto the Jews, ‘Behold your King!’ But they cried out, ‘Away with him, away with him! Crucify him!’ Pilate saith unto them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar!’ Then delivered he Him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus and led Him away. And He bearing His Cross went forth into a place called the Place of a Skull (which is called in the Hebrew, Golgotha) where they crucified Him and two other with Him, on either side one and Jesus in the midst. And Pilate wrote a title and put it on the Cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. This title then read many of the Jews, for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city, and it was written in Hebrew and Greek and Latin. […] Now there stood by the Cross of Jesus His Mother, and His Mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His Mother and the disciple standing by whom He loved, He saith unto His Mother, ‘Woman, behold thy son!’ Then saith He to the disciple, ‘Behold thy Mother!’ And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, […] bowed His head and gave up the ghost. The Jews therefore, because it was the Preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day (for that Sabbath day was an high day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. Then came the soldiers and brake the legs of the first and of the other which was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs, but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true.
Troparion of the Exaltation of the Cross (Tone 1)
Save, O Lord, Thy people and bless Thine inheritance; grant Thou unto Orthodox Christians victory over enemies; and by the power of Thy Cross do Thou preserve Thy commonwealth.
Kontakion of the Exaltation of the Cross (Tone 4)
O Thou Who wast lifted up willingly on the Cross, bestow Thy mercies upon the new community named after Thee, O Christ God; gladden with Thy power the Orthodox Christians, granting them victory over enemies; may they have as Thy help the weapon of peace, the invincible trophy.
Exaltation of the Cross
Two events in connection with the Honorable Cross of Christ are commemorated on this day: first, the finding of the Honorable Cross on Golgotha and second, the return of the Honorable Cross from Persia to Jerusalem. Visiting the Holy Land, the holy Empress Helena decided to find the Honorable Cross of Christ. An old Jewish man named Judah was the only one who knew where the Cross was located, and, constrained by the empress, he revealed that the Cross was buried under the temple of Venus that Emperor Hadrian had built on Golgotha. The empress ordered that this idolatrous temple be razed and, having dug deep below it, found three crosses. While the empress pondered on how to recognize which of these was the Cross of Christ, a funeral procession passed by. Patriarch Macarius told them to place the crosses, one by one, on the dead man. When they placed the first and second cross on the dead man, the dead man lay unchanged. When they placed the third cross on him, the dead man came back to life. By this they knew that this was the Precious and Life-giving Cross of Christ. They then placed the Cross on a sick woman, and she became well. The patriarch elevated the Cross for all the people to see, and the people sang with tears: “Lord, have mercy!” Empress Helena had a silver case made and set the Honorable Cross in it. Later, the Persian Emperor Chozroes conquered Jerusalem, enslaved many people, and took the Lord’s Cross to Persia. The Cross remained in Persia for fourteen years. In the year 628 A.D. the Greek Emperor Heraclius defeated Chozroes and, with much ceremony, returned the Cross to Jerusalem. As he entered the city Emperor Heraclius carried the Cross on his back, but suddenly was unable to take another step. Patriarch Zacharias saw an angel preventing the emperor from bearing the Cross on the same path that the Lord had walked barefoot and humiliated. The patriarch communicated this vision to the emperor. The emperor removed his raiment and, in ragged attire and barefoot, took up the Cross, carried it to Golgotha, and placed it in the Church of the Resurrection, to the joy and consolation of the whole Christian world.