September 14, 2008
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 Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Each year on September 14, our Holy Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast of the Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross. This important event in the liturgical life of the Church reminds us of the continuous presence of Christ in our midst. Specifically, it reminds us of His redemptive work of dying on the Cross for our salvation. Christ’s crucifixion on the Cross serves as the precursor to his Resurrection; and it is for this reason that we refer to the Cross, once a horrifying instrument of death, as a sacred symbol of that which is “Precious and Life-giving.”
In contemplating the significance of the Cross as the core symbol of our Orthodox Christian faith and as the sign of the ultimate victory of Jesus Christ over death, we are called to a more refined understanding of power in Christian terms. St. Paul explains such power in terms of humility, for Jesus Christ "humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:8). St. Paul recalls this power as, "power made perfect in weakness" (II Corinthians 12:9). The Lord Jesus Christ explained to the multitudes and to the disciples that the Cross is also a symbol of selfless service and sacrifice to others: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Mark 8:34).
On this day, when we gather as communities to raise the Cross visibly in our parishes, we are in effect raising that symbol collectively as standard-bearers of our Christian identity. Through raising the Cross, we engage in the act of elevating humility and selfless service to others as great virtues, and we pronounce power in Christian terms as the ultimate victory of Christ over sin and death.
Also, as we remember the Cross and its message of service to others, we are celebrating the feast of our Holy Cross School of Theology, our beloved Seminary in Brookline, Massachusetts. There, diverse students from all over the world learn the value of Christian service. Many of these students are men who are dedicating their time at the Seminary in preparation to enter the Holy Priesthood, which is a most sacred and perfect way of serving the Lord Jesus Christ in ministry. Thus, on this day, our prayers extend to all the students, benefactors, trustees, staff, alumni, and faculty of Holy Cross School of Theology. As is our custom on this day, our faithful are encouraged to offer not only their prayers but also gifts of financial support to the Seminary, which is critical to sustain the formation of our clergy, so that future generations of Greek Orthodox faithful in America may be nourished with the Life-giving message of the Gospel. Please consider giving generously to the Seminary this year.
It is my heartfelt prayer that as we reflect upon the significance of this day, we may come to a closer understanding of the great love and mercy of our Lord. Let all of us, through the power of His Precious and Life-giving Cross, enjoy this victory over the forces of sin and death, and let us make this victory our own victory.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America
September 14, 2008