Jan Saik

Jan Saik

The Feast of the Holy Cross was one of the 12 great feasts in the Byzantine liturgy. The 1979 BCP is the first American Prayer Book to include Holy Cross Day.  It is also listed as a Feast Day in the book “Holy Women, Holy Men” which celebrates feasts in the Episcopal Church. 

 

The Feast of the Holy Cross recalls three historical events:

the finding of the True Cross by Saint Helena, the mother of the emperor Constantine;

the dedication of churches built by Constantine on the site of the Holy Sepulchre and Mount Calvary;

the restoration of the True Cross to Jerusalem by the emperor Heraclius II.

 

History of the Feast of the Holy Cross 

After the death and resurrection of Christ, both the Jewish and Roman authorities in Jerusalem made efforts to obscure the Holy Sepulchre, Christ's tomb in the garden near the site of His crucifixion. The earth had been mounded up over the site, and pagan temples had been built on top of it. The Cross on which Christ had died had been hidden (tradition said) by the Jewish authorities somewhere in the vicinity.

 

Saint Helena and the Finding of the True Cross 

According to tradition, first mentioned by Saint Cyril of Jerusalem in 348, Saint Helena, nearing the end of her life, decided under divine inspiration to travel to Jerusalem in 326 to excavate the Holy Sepulchre and attempt to locate the True Cross. Tradition has it that Helena found the true cross.  The historian Eusebius, in his Life of Constantine, tells how that emperor ordered the erection of a complex of buildings in Jerusalem “on a scale of imperial magnificence,” to set forth as “an object of attraction and veneration to all, the blessed place of our Savior’s resurrection.” The overall supervision of the work—on the site where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre now stands—was entrusted to Constantine’s mother, the empress Helena. In Jesus’ time, the hill of Calvary had stood outside the city; but when the Roman city which succeeded Jerusalem, Aelia Capitolina, was built, the hill was buried under tons of fill.

 

 The Dedication of the Churches on Mount Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre 

Constantine’s shrine included two principal buildings: a large basilica, used for the Liturgy of the Word, and a circular church, known as “The Resurrection”—its Altar placed on the site of the tomb—which was used for the Liturgy of the Table, and for the singing of the Daily Office.

Toward one side of the courtyard which separated the two buildings, and through which the faithful had to pass on their way from Word to Sacrament, the exposed top of Calvary’s hill was visible. It was there that the solemn veneration of the cross took place on Good Friday; and it was there that the congregation gathered daily for a final prayer and dismissal after Vespers.

Those churches, a large basilica and a circular church, were dedicated on September 13 and 14, 335.  Shortly thereafter the Feast of the Holy Cross began to be celebrated on September 14 because September 14, 335, is the seventh month of the Roman calendar, a date suggested by the account of the dedication of Solomon’s temple in the same city, in the seventh month of the Jewish Calendar, hundreds of years before (2 Chronicles 7:8–10).

 

The Dedication of the Churches on Mount Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre 

Constantine’s shrine included two principal buildings: a large basilica, used for the Liturgy of the Word, and a circular church, known as “The Resurrection”—its Altar placed on the site of the tomb—which was used for the Liturgy of the Table, and for the singing of the Daily Office.

Toward one side of the courtyard which separated the two buildings, and through which the faithful had to pass on their way from Word to Sacrament, the exposed top of Calvary’s hill was visible. It was there that the solemn veneration of the cross took place on Good Friday; and it was there that the congregation gathered daily for a final prayer and dismissal after Vespers.

Those churches, a large basilica and a circular church, were dedicated on September 13 and 14, 335.  Shortly thereafter the Feast of the Holy Cross began to be celebrated on September 14 because September 14, 335, is the seventh month of the Roman calendar, a date suggested by the account of the dedication of Solomon’s temple in the same city, in the seventh month of the Jewish Calendar, hundreds of years before (2 Chronicles 7:8–10).

 

 

from Jan Saik

The following prayer from the Book of Common Prayer seemed particularly appropriate for these times:

 

 

O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions: take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen