Encyclical of Archbishop Demetrios for the Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross
Sep 7, 2006
The Universal Exaltation of
The Precious and Life-Giving Cross
To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Order of St. Andrew, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, the members of our Parishes and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I joyfully communicate with you on the blessed occasion of the Feast of the Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross. On this important Feast of our Holy Orthodox Church, we gather together as a community and elevate the symbol of the cross in our midst. This is a fitting opportunity to consider the supreme meaning of this symbol and its centrality in our lives as Orthodox Christians.
The cross is a symbol of surprising contrast and incredible power. What was once a vicious instrument of execution by the state in ancient Roman times was transformed into an invincible weapon of peace and a symbol of everlasting life. This transformation of the cross from a symbol of death to a symbol of life would not have been possible were it not for the redemptive work of Jesus, the “theanthropos” (God-man), Who humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8).
We should keep this awesome concept at the forefront of our minds as we strive to emulate Jesus through renouncing our attachments to the material things of this world, and through rendering selfless service to our neighbors by sharing in their burdens. Here, we are guided by the demanding words of Jesus, Whosoever would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Mark 8:34). This phrase beautifully encapsulates our Christian calling. It references the cross in a way that moves beyond symbolism, revealing the cross as an instrument of identity that confirms our belonging to a Christian community of believers; a community whose members share in their obedience to Jesus Christ, in their denial of selfish interests, and in their commitment to building up one another as members of His body. Our Christian identity is reinforced every time we behold the symbol of the cross, each time we make the sign of the cross, and, most notably, through selfless acts of service to our neighbors.
The exaltation of the Cross is a visible pronouncement of peace and victory over what at times may seem to be chaos and despair, particularly in the midst of strife among nations and ominous threats of terrorism in our world today. The exaltation of the Cross on this day, our willful obedience to Jesus Christ, and our desire to follow Him through selfless service to others, brings us closer to understanding the comforting words of St. Paul, if we have been united with (Christ) in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His (Romans 6:5).
My beloved Brothers and Sisters,
The Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross is also important because it is the patron feast of our Holy Cross School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts, a place where diverse men and women come from across the country and the world to study Orthodox Christian theology, to learn firsthand the value of service, and to prepare for positions of leadership and ministry within the Church and society. Many of these students are men who have committed themselves to preparation for the holy priesthood, and who have chosen the arduous path of self-denial by taking up their cross as followers of Jesus Christ. All of them are students who have chosen a special place to study and to grow within a unique and sacred Orthodox Christian environment. Accordingly, I ask you to honor our tradition on this day to offer special prayers and gifts of financial support for our Holy Cross School of Theology.
May our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who was crucified on the Cross for our salvation, be with you each and every day of your lives, and may the victory of the Cross grant you peace and inspiration in your offering of selfless service to others in Christ's holy name.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America