know, the Orthodox Church bestows a special honour to the precious
Cross, whose mention She has discovered even in the Old Testament.
Fathers of the Church do not stop at the foreshadowing of Christ in the
person of Adam and of the Holy Virgin in the person of Eve. They relate
the "wood" (tree) in the Garden of Eden - which had become the symbol of
the catastrophic Fall - to the "wood" of the life-giving Cross, which
became the symbol of victory against the Serpent.
life-giving power of the Cross also presents itself in the description
of Moses' staff, which turned the bitter water sweet (Exod.15:25). The
Holy Bible further mentions : "Was not water made sweet from wood
in order that his strength might be known?" (Wisdom Sirach 38:5).
Apostle Paul makes reference to this point and underlines that when the
Israelites drank from that water, they drank of a "spiritual drink",
which sprang "from the spiritual rock, which followed them";
and that "that rock was Christ", he added (1 Cor.10:4).
when we honour the precious Cross, we do not drink of the "bitter water"
- we do not refer to the instrument of death; rather, we taste of the
"spiritual drink", which springs from the "spiritual rock" - from the
victor over death and triumphant Lord. This event is a source of
strength and power for all the faithful - against the devil, to whom
belonged the power of death (Hebr.2:14) - as well as against death
itself - man's final enemy (1 Cor.15:26).
see the power of the precious Cross in the bronze serpent that Moses had
lifted up. According to God's instruction, whosoever looked upon
that serpent was cured of poisonous snake bites (Num.21:8). That bronze
serpent is characterized as a "symbol of salvation"
(Wisd.Solom.16,6) which undoubtedly draws its strength from the same
source that animates the Precious Cross: "And as Moses lifted up
the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted
up, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal
life." (John 3:14-15). There is no doubt that it is the same
symbol of victory and triumph that Ezekiel had also seen...
that he saw a man in splendid attire, who gave the command that everyone
be given "the mark upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and have
been afflicted over all the lawless acts that happen in their midst"
the above it has become obvious that the foreshadowings in the Old
Testament did not only refer to the event of Christ's crucifixional
sacrifice, but also to that very "sign" of the Cross - the "sign of the
Son of man" which would again appear as a banner of victory during the
triumphant advent of the Lord. (Matth.24:30).
The power of the Cross
o life-bearing cross - the invincible trophy of piety, the gate of
Paradise, the support of the faithful, the enclosure of the Church - by
which the curse was dispelled and abolished, the power of death trodden
down, and by which we were lifted from the earth to the heavens; o
invincible weapon, opponent of demons, glory of holy martyrs, truly an
adornment, a harbor of salvation, who granted the world the greatest
of Cross-Venerating Sunday very characteristically expresses the place
of the Precious Cross in the life of the Church and each faithful.
is no longer a symbol of death and shame (Deut.21:23), but a source of
life everlasting. By the Cross the curse disappeared and was abolished
and the archon of death conquered - that is, the devil. Consequently, it
comprises the invincible weapon of the Church. It is the formidable
opponent of demons, it is the glory of the martyrs and the Saints of the
Church, the harbor of salvation and the adornment of the faithful.
hearkened, Lord, to the hearing of the dynasty of Your Cross, for with
it, Paradise was opened", chants our Church.
of the Lord expresses the limitless love of God and at the same time,
the limitless value of mankind. There is not greater expression of
God's love than the Cross, just as there is no greater elevation of
mankind than the event of the Cross (John 15:13; Rom.5:8). So great is
the value of mankind in the eyes of God, that for the sake of his
salvation, God Himself was lifted onto the Cross. We can consequently
understand why the Cross is the safe guarantee of God's limitless
compassion, as well as man's outspokenness before the throne of God.
death on the Cross signifies the death of the old world and His
resurrection the commencement of the new age of metamorphosis - that is,
the period of salvation of the entire world.
Apostle Paul mentions that through the Cross the reconciliation between
man and God came about, and that in Christ a "new man" was created.
He characteristically says that "through the Cross" the Lord put enmity
to death (Ephes.2:15-16); that through the Blood of Christ we have "boldness
to enter the Holies" (Åâñáßïõò 10,19). In this manner, we could
see the Cross as the center of God's entire new creation.
Jesus Himself answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the
Son of Man should be glorified", in reference to His being
lifted up onto the Cross (John 12:23).
study the sacred text carefully, we shall see that the Lord actually
characterizes His ascent on the Cross as an elevation, as a glory, as a
triumph against sin and death:
assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground
and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much
grain. 25 He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life
in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves Me, let
him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone
serves Me, him My Father will honor.27 “Now My soul is troubled, and
what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose
did I come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice
came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will
glorify it again.” 29 Therefore the people who stood by and
heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken
to Him.” 30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come because of
Me, but for your sake. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the
ruler of this world will be cast out. 32 And I, if
I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to
Myself.”33 This He said, signifying by what death He would die." (John12:24-33.
see also John13:31-38, Luke24:26).
words of the Lord do not only prove the reality of the passion and the
agony of the Cross; they also present the event of the crucifixion as a
"lifting up" and a glorification of "the Son of Man" - as the starting
point and the centre of glory of the human race.
It is not
an weak, helpless man upon the Cross; it is the Godman Jesus - He Who
descends into Hades as victor and and triumphant conqueror, Who
abolishes the realm of death and Hades in order free man from the bonds
of death and to induct him into the realm of life.
therefore and the death of Christ do not comprise a weakness, but a
strength. The death of the Lord is characterized in the Holy Bible as a
"sleeping lion", which conserves its formidable strength, both during
sleep and after it. This is the reason no-one dares to wake it: "When
you reclined, you slept like a lion and like a whelp. Who will rouse
" (Gen.49:9). " Now
is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast
as Christ had said, thus placing the event of the Cross at the centre of
a universal tribunal. He rendered the Cross a measure and gnomon of
triumph or condemnation of mankind - depending on each person's stance
towards the Cross. As has been said, in the persons of the two
robbers (next to the Cross) all of mankind is
represented and judged: not on the basis of their actions, but based on
the dispositions of people towards the crucified Godman. The
grateful robber confesses Christ. He does not regard Him as a
fellow-sufferer like us humans, that is, as a robber. He confesses
Him as King, as Lord and God. That is why he invoked His mercy.
By doing so, the grateful robber becomes a true theologian and saint -
the first saint of our Church - showing all of us the path of true
spirituality, the path towards salvation, which is the path of the
ungrateful robber perceives the Lord as a common mortal and His Cross as
a symbol of disdain and mockery. That is why he even "blasphemed
Him" (Luke 23:29). He hoped for nothing from the Lord. He
had always been a robber from the past, but he did not want to depend
his salvation on Him, Who was raised upon the Cross in order to attract
all grateful robbers to Him.
wondrous truth is expressed in an unprecedented manner by a hymn of our
midst of two robbers, Your Cross was found to be a balance of
righteousness: the one (robber) being led down
into Hades, burdened by his blasphemy, and the other (robber),
relieved of offenses, being led up towards knowledge of Theology; Christ
our God, glory to You."
The sign of the Cross
make reference to the Cross of the Lord, we do not refer only to the
event of the Crucifixion, but also to the precious wood of the Cross.
Because, as Saint John of Damascus characteristically mentions, by being
in contact with the Precious Body of the Lord, the wood of the Cross is
also sanctified. That is why honour and veneration also befits the
Cross. "Not only the reference to the Cross and the Mystery" says
Saint Gregory Palamas; "but also the form itself is divine and deserving
of veneration, for it is a venerable, sanctifying and finalizing seal
for all the wondrous and inexpressible gifts that come from God."
necessary to underline this, because - as the Apostle mentions - there
are the "enemies of the Cross" (Philip.3:18) These
"enemies of the Cross" exist in our times also; for this reason, it must
be clarified why the Cross of the Lord is not a shame (cmp.Deut.21:23)
but on the contrary, a "boast" (Gal.6:14) - and this, as we said, does
not refer only to the event itself, but also to the Precious Cross.
is an image of the crucified Christ, and it draws its power and its
grace from the passions of Christ.
the reason that sealing with the sign of the Cross is the external sign
of all -without exception- the sacred mysteries of the Church, by which
man's salvation is realized. This is certainly not about some kind
of magical instrument; it is about the life-giving force of the divine
energies. This force is not transmitted by the sign of the Cross per se;
it is the fact of the Cross's association with the Person of Christ.
Besides, this is what applied in the case of the bronze serpent: "7For
the one who turned was not saved because of what was beheld, but because
of you, the savior of all. 8And in this also you convinced our enemies
that you are the one who rescues from every evil." (Wisd.Solom.16:7-8).
Israelites had not comprehended this truth which is why they sought to
bestow worship on the bronze serpent, when worship belongs to God alone.
For this reason, "4He removed the high places and smashed all the
steles and utterly destroyed the groves and the bronze snake that Moyses
had made, for until those days the sons of Israel had been making
incense offerings to it, and he called it Neesthan." (4 Kings 18:4).
of the Cross expresses the presence of the Lord in the life of the
faithful and the Church, and comprises the symbol of victory and triumph
over sin and death (Ephes.2:16). Thus, the sign of the Precious Cross is
justly referred to as the symbol of victory and triumph over the devil
and over the works of the devil:
You have given us Your Cross as the weapon against the devil; for he
shudders and shakes, unable to behold its power, because it raises the
dead and has also abolished death; for this, we venerate Your Burial and
Resurrection." (Verses from the Sunday Laudatory Hymns, Tone A).
Precious Cross is the "sign" of salvation of God's children - the "sign
of the Son of man" (Matth.24:30).
the reason that John's Book of Revelation mentions that during the end
times, salvation will be secured for those who will bear the sign of the
out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given
power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. They were commanded not
to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but
only those men who do not have the seal of God on
(Rev.9:3-4. Cmp.also 7:2-4; Ezek.9:4-6).
all the above, every Orthodox faithful justifiably prays: "By the power
of Your Cross, o Christ, fasten my mind in praising and glorifying Your
of the Cross is not a latter-day custom by Christians. It can be found
in the Apostolic Tradition. It is testified by Justin Martyr the saint
(150 A.D.) and by Tertullian (200 A.D.). The latter in fact says
characteristically: "We Christians, in all our travels and moves, in
every departure and return, when we put on our garments and shoes, when
we bathe and when we sit at the table, when we light our lamp, when we
are seated or laying down, in all of our actions in our daily lives in
general, we make the sign of the Cross". This custom, he
continues, "has its beginnings in the Tradition of the Church; it was
toned up through customary practice, and should be preserved
How we sign ourselves with the sign of the Cross
sign of the Cross, the entire theology of the Church and the entire
essence of the Orthodox faith is depicted. The Orthodox Christian
joins 3 fingers together (image 1 below), he then touches them against
his forehead first (image 2), then against his abdomen (image 3), and
finally, he touches his shoulders horizontally, from right (image 4) to
left (image 5).
three joined fingers on the forehead we reflect and confess our faith in
the One, Triadic God. When we place them on our abdomen, we do so as a
representation of the Son, Who was born of the Virgin Mary. When,
finally, we touch our shoulders, we do so as a representation of the
Holy Spirit, which is characterized as "the arm of the Lord" (John 12:38)
and as "power from on high" (Luke
24:49; Acts 1:8).
remaining 2 fingers joined together (image 1) in preparing to make the
sign of the Cross, we represent the incarnation of Christ and the
inseparable union of His two natures, thanks to which human nature was
cured and raised to the heights of Theosis (deification).
The armor of the Cross
sign of the Cross is also the testimony of the new life on the part of
the person who has been reborn, "in Christ".
sign of the Cross, we "seal" the main members of the body with a
protective wall and thus dedicate them to God, in order to render them
instruments for Christ and the Holy Trinity. We seal our mind, our
heart, and all our strength and we express that dedication of our selves
even more intensely together with the phrase: "In the name of the
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."
sign of the Cross, finally, we become participants in the passions and
the Resurrection of Christ; we mortify the old self and everything that
has to do with the works of the devil, and we are raised up together
with Christ into a new life. "The Cross of the Lord signifies the
abolishment of sin", as Saint Gregory Palamas says characteristically.
"This is why one of the God-bearing fathers, when asked by an unfaithful
person if he believes in the Crucified One, the saint replied 'Yes - the
One Who crucified sin'..."
the above, we can understand why the Cross is a true suit of armor for a
Christian - Christ's suit of armor - a formidable weapon, which the
demons are terrified of.
why we Orthodox Christians make the sign of the Cross in every
circumstance: when we pray, when we go to sleep, when we wake up, when
we begin a project, and when we complete it. When we depart for a
journey, when we pass outside a sacred Temple... generally, in all our
Precious Cross is not - as we said - a magical medium at the disposal of
man. An inner participation is imperative also. First of all, we must
sign our body with the sign of the Cross visibly, not negligently, and
in accordance with the order of our Church: With the three fingers
joined together so that it will be as though the Cross itself were
sacred sign must furthermore be accompanied by absolute faith in the
Holy Trinity and the fact of Christ's Incarnation, as well as in His
crucifixional death and His life-giving Resurrection. In other words,
faith in all of the salvific dogmas of our Church, which we proclaim
with the sign of the Cross.
is more, it must be accompanied by the absolute hope in God's
inexpressible love and mercy, but also by our irrevocable decision to
crucify and abolish our own sinful self, and to accept God's grace in
order to hereafter consciously live a renovated life and an inner