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 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,

On this glorious feast day of the Church, we celebrate with joy the finding and elevation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Through hymns and prayers we honor the Cross and its significance in God’s divine plan for our salvation. At the conclusion of our services, we come and venerate the Cross, affirming our faith in the power of Christ’s redemptive act that revealed the immeasurable love of God.

Assuredly, it was a time of celebration when Saint Helen, the mother of Saint Constantine the Great, found the Holy Cross of our Lord in Jerusalem over seventeen hundred years ago. As Patriarch Makarios lifted the Cross for all to see, the people responded with great veneration of the wood that had borne the body of the Savior and with worship of Christ who through the Cross overcame death to bring salvation and life. But while we follow in this age-old veneration of the Cross, it is clear from the pages of Holy Scripture that the message of the Cross has not always been received with joy and faith. In his first letter to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul wrote, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (I Corinthians 1:18). 

For some who heard the message of the Gospel preached by the Apostles, the Cross was dismissed as foolishness. In the wisdom of the world, suffering and humiliation represented by the Cross did not bring victory, shame did not show power but weakness, and pain and death were not an invitation to life. To such doubts and questions, Paul responded, “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since…the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:20-21).

Here the emphasis is clearly placed on faith, not on any attempt to use the wisdom of the world to understand what was accomplished through the Cross. Through faith, and the power and presence of God that fills our lives, we honor the Cross and greet its elevation with celebration and joy knowing that upon that Cross our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died because of God’s love for us. We acknowledge that the Cross is a symbol of ultimate victory because the one who was sinless gave himself as a pure and holy offering for our sins. We know and proclaim that the Cross is life-giving, for through it our Lord engaged death and defeated its power over us. Thus, as people of faith, the Cross can never be associated with foolishness or shame, for it is the banner of our salvation, an invincible standard of love and offering, a weapon of peace that has destroyed the power of sin and death and given us hope for eternal life.

As we commemorate this great feast of the Church, I invite all of you to look upon the Cross with joy in your hearts and great love for God and one another as we celebrate His great and wonderful blessings. I also ask that you offer prayers for the students, faculty, trustees, and staff of our beloved School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts, which bears the name of the Holy Cross. On this day, it is our tradition to offer fervent prayers and generous gifts in support of those who are following the example of Christ by offering their lives and abilities to the service of His Holy Church. Many of these men, who study to serve as priests in our Church, have turned from any prestige or success that the world has to offer, and have chosen the way of the Cross, a life of sacrifice for the kingdom of God. By the power of the Cross they will be granted the strength and wisdom they need to bring Him honor and glory.

May God give us all the strength to follow the way of the Cross through lives of love, peace, offering, sacrifice, and humility; and may the blessings of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us as we live each day in the power of His Precious and Life-Giving Cross.

With paternal love in Christ,

Archbishop of America

Archive: Archbishop Demetrios' Encyclicals