Saturday, February 17, 2007

Looking to the Cross

As we prepare to begin Great Lent, forty days of intense personal reflection, prayer, and repentance in preparation for Pascha (Easter), let's begin by looking to the Cross for encouragement and strength:

Hail! life-giving Cross, unconquerable trophy of godliness, door to Paradise, succour of the faithful, rampart set about the Church. Through thee corruption is utterly destroyed, the power of death is swallowed up, and we are raised from earth to heaven: invincible weapon, adversary of devils, glory of martyrs, true ornament of saints, haven of salvation bestowing on the world great mercy.

Hail! Cross of the Lord: through thee mankind has been delivered from the curse. Shattering the enemy by thine Exaltation, O Cross all-venerable, thou art a song of true joy. Thou art our help, thou art the strength of kings, the power of righteous men, the majesty of priests. All who sign themselves with thee are freed from peril. Thou rod of strength under which we like sheep are tended, thou art a weapon of peace round which the angels stand in fear. Thou art the divine glory of Christ, who grants the world great mercy.

Hail! guide of the blind, physician of the sick and resurrection of all the dead. O precious Cross, thou hast lifted us up when we were fallen into mortality. Through thee corruption has been destroyed, and incorruption has flowered forth; we mortal men are made divine and the devil is utterly cast down. Seeing thee exalted by the hands of bishops on this day, we exalt Him who was lifted high upon thee, and we venerate thee, plenteously drawing forth from thee great mercy.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Both now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

The Cross is the guardian of the whole earth; the Cross is the beauty of the Church. The Cross is the strength of kings; the Cross is the support of the faithful. The Cross is the glory of angels and the wounder of demons.

Today the Cross is exalted and the world is sanctified. For Thou who art enthroned with the Father and the Holy Spirit hast spread Thine arms upon it, and drawn the world to knowledge of Thee, O Christ. Make worthy of divine glory those that have put their trust in Thee.

- From the Matins (morning prayer) and Vespers (evening prayer) services text for the Feast of the Elevation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross, celebrated on September 14th. The Festal Menaion, Trans. by Mother Mary and His Grace, Bishop KALLISTOS (Ware), St. Tikhon's Seminary Press, 1998. Photo copyright © 2007 by Dana S. Kees.