The Life-Giving Cross

Great Lent - Week 3

There is a beautiful irony in the language of the Orthodox Church.  While certain parts of Great Lent focus on the cruelty and brutality that Christ endured for us on the cross, most of our hymns point to the victory, freedom, and life achieved through what was once an instrument of torture and shame.

That is one of the things I admire about Orthodoxy: it does not seek to generate a service filled with emotion or warm fuzzies; instead, it is a spiritual experience.  Emotions are not bad, but they are temporary.  When a service aims to move people through emotional appeal, those who conduct it can be certain that people will fall away from or out of that emotional state, possibly as soon as they leave the parking lot.  The Orthodox Church changes and transforms us by offering an experience of God Himself.

The following are selections from the vespers service of the Adoration of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross:


O Christ our God, of Thine own will Thou hast accepted Crucifixion, that all mankind might be restored to life.  Taking the quill of the Cross, out of love for man in the red ink of royalty with bloody fingers Thou has signed our absolution.

Hail! life giving Cross, the fair Paradise of the Church, Tree of incorruption that brings us the enjoyment of eternal glory: through thee the hosts of demons have been driven back; and the hierarchies of angels rejoice with one accord, as the congregations of the faithful keep the feast.  Thou art an invincible weapon, an unbroken stronghold; thou art the victory of kings and the glory of priests.  Grant us now to draw near to the Passion of Christ and to His Resurrection.

In Paradise of old the tree stripped me bare; for by giving me its fruit to eat, the enemy brought in death.  But now the Tree of the Cross that clothes men with the garment of life has been set up on earth, and the whole world is filled with boundless joy.  Beholding it venerated, O ye people, let us with one accord raise in faith our cry to God: His house is full of glory.

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