Exaltation of the Cross of the Lord. Vigil Service
On the day of the Exaltation (or Elevation) of the Cross, we remember the passions of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross and His victory over hell and death. The Church exalts the Righteous Cross as a sign of this victory and pays it special honors on this day as it is our greatest relic. The feast was established in 326 AD to commemorate the finding of the Cross by the Empress Helen, the mother of the Emperor Constantine. The second event remembered on this day is the recovery of the Life-Giving Cross from Persian captivity. It was returned to Jerusalem by the Greek Emperor Heraclius in the seventh century.
Rev. Fr. Vladimir Kargin, senior priest of the monastery celebrated the rite of the exaltation of the Cross of the Lord during the vigil service held in the Trinity Cathedral of the Seraphim-Diveyevo monastery.
“Thy Cross is the keeper of the universe; Thy Cross is the glory of the Church; Thy Cross is the power of the kings; Thy Cross is the assurance of the faithful; Thy Cross is the honor of angels and the anathema of demons.” This is how the Honorable and Life-Giving Cross of the Lord is praised in the hymns of the feast of its glorious Exaltation.
As the Church sings glory to the power of the Cross of the Lord and its act of salvation, we are reminded that the path to Resurrection goes by way of the Cross and the salvation of our souls is impossible without our battle with sins and passions, or without sorrow and sufferings.
The Elevation of the Cross is performed five times in the middle of the church: to the east, west, south, and north and again to the east. With every elevation, the priest pours fragrant water on the Cross to symbolize the grace of the Holy Spirit. At every turn, the faithful are called to pray for His Holiness the Patriarch and the ruling hierarch, our country, authorities and the armed forces, all other Christians, those who served before and who serves in this holy church. The choir repeats “Lord, have mercy!” one hundred times. At the first half of fifty prayers, the serving priest slowly lowers the Cross as low as possible. As the Cross is lowered, the voices grow quieter and lower. At the singing of the second part of a hundred, the priest gradually raises the Cross. The singing increases accordingly rising to high pitch notes, growing louder, and ending with the thrice sung solemn “Lord, have mercy!” At the end of the signing, the priest blesses the faithful with the Cross three times.
At the conclusion of the rite of the elevation of the Cross, it was placed on analogion in the center of the church where all the faithful venerate it before coming for anointing with the holy oil.