March 22, 2020

Sunday of the Holy Cross


Gospel Reading:

The Lord said: "If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." And he said to them, "Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power."

Mark 8:34–38; 9:1


Corresponding Discussion Questions, Activities, Lessons, and Crafts


Be the Bee #29: The Beauty of the Cross

  • In this epidode, Director of Y2AM Steve Christoforou discusses how Jesus Christ transformed the cross from a symbol of suffering and death to one of hope and life, and how God had a plan for our salvatoin through the cross from the beginning.

Discussion questions:

  • Before Jesus was crucified, He was forced to carry His own cross, which was part of the tortuous method of crucifixion. What do you think it means for each of us to deny ourselves and carry our own cross? (we must let go of self-serving desires in order to follow God)

Action item for the week:

  • Have everyone in the family share something they are struggling with or feel burdaned by right now. Write down what is said and use it as a prayer guide: assign each person another family member to pray for this week. 


Click to see craft ideas for preschoolers from "Orthodox Pebbles"


Discussion questions for Gospel reading:

  • How did Jesus deny Himself for us? (by being crucified)
  • How can we deny ourselves to serve Him? (think of others’ needs above our own, thank God for the good things we have, and don’t dwell on negative things, etc.)

Activity: use activity from "Children of All Ages" section

Middle School:

Discussion questions for Gospel reading:

  • What are all ways you can think of that we incorporate the cross into the life of the Church? (making the sign of the cross, wearing a cross around our necks, etc.)
  • Why do we do these things?

Action Item for the week:

  • Write and send a card to a friend or family member you think could use some encouragement, or someone you know is particularly isolated during this time.

High School:

Discussion questions for Gospel reading:

  • Before Jesus was crucified, He was forced to carry His own cross, which was part of the tortuous method of crucifixion. What do you think it means for each of us to deny our ourselves and carry our own cross? (we muste let go of self-serving desires in order to follow God)

Journal Topic:

  • This new reality during a pandemic is difficult for everyone. What "crosses" do you feel you are bearing right now? What about your family members, friends and loved ones? Is there anything you can do to encourage them?

Action item for the week:

  • Choose one thing you can do this week to help ease someone else's burden: for example, call a friend or relative to lift their spirits, do an extra chore around the house, set some money aside to give to your parish or a charity that's important to you. 

Children of all ages: 

Object lesson and "Time Out Cross" craft project adapted from Let Us Live Orthodoxy, Volume 2 by Georget Photos (printable PDF)



Action item for the week:

  • Incorporate one of the hymns for this Sunday into your prayers this week:
    • Apolytikion (First Tone): O Lord, save Your people and bless Your inheritance; grant victory to the faithful over their adversaries. And protect Your commonwealth, by the power of Your Cross.

    • Festal Kontakion (Grave Tone): No longer does the flaming sword guard the gate of Eden, for a marvelous quenching is come upon it, even the Tree of the Cross. The sting has been taken from death, and the victory from Hades. And, You, my Savior, has appeared unto those in Hades saying: Enter again into Paradise.

    • Seasonal Kontakion (Plagal of the Fourth Tone): O Champion General, we your faithful inscribe to you the prize of victory as gratitude for being rescued from calamity, O Theotokos. But since you have invincible power, free us from all kinds of perils so that we may cry out to you: Rejoice, O Bride unwedded.


  • An excerpt from The Sign of the Cross by Andreas Andreopoulos (Paraclete Press, 2006, pages 116–117)

     From the time it was first practiced by the early Christians, the sign of the cross has been used as a sign of sanctification. The sign of the cross was made by early Christians to sanctify food, the bed, each other, and themselves. Its significance is similar to the sign of priestly blessing; the sign of the cross is a sign of blessing used by laypeople. It is personal and also communal, with nothing secretive or “mystical” about it (in the sense of any kind of privileged knowledge). In this way it differs from notions of spirituality that imply a private, mystical connection with the divine.

    The cross’s spirituality is a spirituality of openness, of transforming the world and our actions, such as eating or sleeping. No moments are more spiritual than others if everything is done in the name of God. In addition, since the most usual way to perform the sign of the cross is over our body, we recognize that our body and our entire self may become temples of the Spirit of God. As a result, a life that is completely consecrated to God is considered more spiritual than life before the fall of Adam and Eve.

  • A hymn of the Church:

Lifted up of Your own will upon the Cross, bestow Your mercy upon Your new community that bears Your name, Christ our God. Make your faithful people glad in Your strength, giving them victory over adversaries. Let them have as an ally that invincible trophy, Your weapon of peace. (From the Matins service)

  • For your meditation and discussion:
    • Think about how often, how many times, throughout the day when you make the sign of the cross. When? Why? How? What are your thoughts and prayers as you make the sign of the cross? How are you blessing that moment? (You might want to journal your thoughts.)
  • For study and conversation:
    • What is the meaning of “to sanctify” beyond the literal understanding of “to make holy?”
    • In the Gospel of John 12:30–36, Jesus speaks about His death. Read the passage and consider how it connects to the hymn of the Church above. How did the crucifixion of Christ “draw all men to Him”?
      • How is the cross of Christ a “weapon of peace” and an “invincible trophy”?


  • There are signs of the cross everywhere if you look carefully, not just traditional religious crosses. Document where you see the cross, photograph them, create a video of them, perhaps write an accompanying script or captions that express what you see.


Corresponding items that can be purchased on Orthodox Marketplace:
Pre-K: one, two, three
Elementary: one, two, three
Middle School: one, two, three
High School: one
Family: one
Adults: one, two, three