Archbishop Daniel read from the Gospel of John, retelling how Christ was wrongly accused and sentenced to death, and how He was crucified between two thieves. On the Cross, in pain, the Lord directed the Apostle John to take the Virgin Mary, as his own mother, before giving up His Spirit. To ensure the death of those crucified, the soldiers broke the bones of the thieves, but, finding that Christ had already died upon the Cross, the soldier did not break His bones, but pierced His side and out came blood and water.
His Eminence delivered a moving sermon, stating that today we honor the Elevation of the Cross. He explained how after the Lord’s Resurrection, the Early Church was violently persecuted by the Roman Empire, which actively destroyed not only Jewish holy sites, but Christian ones as well. He explained that the only remaining Jewish structure is a single wall which remains of the Temple of Jerusalem – the Wailing Wall. To this day Jews pray before the wall of the Second Temple which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, believing that the Grace of God exists in that wall.
Likewise, the early Christians has erected a small church atop Golgotha where the Lord was crucified, but it was also destroyed by the Romans who sought to destroy Christianity. The early Christians would gather in mausoleums and crypts below ground, among the tombs, to escape persecution, pray, and worship the Holy Trinity. Today, our church’s doors stand wide open, and everyone is free to enter and pray, but nobody comes. In the old days people risked their lives to go to church, but today people find other things to interest them.
In 326 AD the Emperess Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, traveled to Jerusalem to discover the ancient Christian Holy Sites. With much effort she finally located the site and found three crosses buried in the rubble. While two were dark and blackened with age, one was covered with a fragrant green plant which nobody had known to this point. This plant was then named Basil (Vasylki) which means “King” because it was found growing upon the Precious and Life-Giving Cross of the Lord. To this day the Cross is decorated with flowers and basil.
Once the Cross was found and determined to be the True Cross, Patriarch Macarius brought it into Jerusalem as crowds gathered and sang, “O Lord, save Your people, and bless Your inheritance…” Lifting the Cross and blessing all four directions of the world with it, the Patriarch raised it up high so it could be seen from a great distance, allowing people to come forward, pray, and venerate the miraculous Cross of the Lord.
The Cross was lost, it was found, it was elevated… and then over the years it was stolen, recovered, lost, splintered… Little fragments exist all over the world today. His Eminence continued by pointing to the decorated Cross lying next to him on the Tetrapod, and stated that while we bow before this Cross, there is yet another Cross we need to pay attention to. Just as the True Cross was found and lost over time, often so has the cross been lost that we were gifted in our infancy, or adulthood, when we were baptized. The chain broke, or we hid it away too well and have forgotten where it is. But that is not the Cross the Lord expects us to elevate. Every morning when we arise from sleep, we are to elevate the Cross of our faith. We are to lift it up high, so everyone around us can see it, and they too can be saved. The expectation of God is that we do not hide this Cross in the rubble of our lives, but raise it high, and let it brightly shine dispelling the darkness around us and bringing others into the Light of salvation.