The history of this feast begins in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul, Turkey). It was the custom there to carry the relic of the True Cross through the streets and squares of the city to ask for God's blessing, and for relief from sickness. On the eve of the feast (July 31), which is observed as a forefeast, it was taken out of the imperial treasury, and laid upon the altar of the "Great Church" (Hagia Sophia). On August 1 it was solemnly placed in the middle of the Great Church for the faithful to venerate. The relic was taken in procession daily throughout the city, offering it to the people to venerate until the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos (August 15), when it was returned again to the imperial treasury.
The Canon of the Cross, of which the Acrostic is:We all praise the Tree that should be worshipped.
The wonderworking rod of Moses.
The life-giving Cross set forth and contemplated sends out a beam of grace formed of light. Let us draw near and receive enlightenment of joy, salvation and forgiveness, as we bring praise to the Lord.
A strange sight is set forth for those who watch, the precious Cross; and like a source it pours out spiritual gifts of grace, brings sins to an end, abolishes diseases and strengthens the thoughts of those worship it sincerely.
A rod which parted the sea prefigured the trophy of the Cross, through which we by faith sail the troubled water of life undrowned, escape all the streams of sin and are filled with divine calm.
By Andrew of Crete.
Who has seen, who has heard what contests the guardians of the Law, the sons of Solomoni, valiantly displayed as they competed with one soul and one thought?
Spurring each other on, the seven holy sons of honoured Solomoni cried out, ‘Let us compete like professionals, and let us die eagerly for our ancestral customs’.
Let us stand with courage, the tyrant has been put to shame, tortures have been made feeble, Beliar has been worsted, the fire has been quenched. Let no one then, brothers, stand outside the starting blocks.
‘For us, Antiochos, the contest is for our ancestral customs’, cried the Youths stripped naked in the stadium, ‘for them we prefer to die rather than to live.’
As their flesh was being scraped with iron claws in the stadium, the guardians of the Law were crying, ‘For us, Antiochos, the pains and the fire are sweet, for the sake of the life of all.’
Made radiant with the light of the splendours of the Cross and having put all our trust in it, let us flee the darkness of sins and let us cry, ‘O enlightenment of all thins, compassionate Lord, glory to you!’
We sing your praise, O Cross, and we embrace you with faith as we beg your mighty power, ‘Rescue us from the snares of the foe, and pilot us all to the haven of salvation as we sing your praise’.
‘Hurry, tyrant, cried out the children of Abraham, do whatever you wish, rage ever more fiercely. We will in no way obey your decrees, with longing for God we choose rather the outrages of tortures.’
‘Let no one be deprived today of the good fight. Let no one be hunted down by the raving beast. The serpent is cunning, let none of us become his fodder’ so the sons of Solomoni spurred one another on.
‘Come, guardians of the Law, let us be tortured together. Come, let us be courageous’, cried the Youths as they devoutly spurred one another to the contests. Let us too imitate their zeal.
You, Lord, are my strength.
The great guardian of the Orthodox is set forth in the midst of all, the precious Cross in the midst of the earth, on which you were lifted up, supremely loving Lord, by your own free will. It sanctifies the world by its worship and it routs the regiments of demons.
Heaven with all the earth is glad; Champions, Martyrs, Apostles, souls of the Righteous now rejoice exceedingly as they see the life-giving Tree set forth in the midst, which saves all and sanctifies believers by grace.
Without conscience I have not kept your laws, O Lord, and am going to be condemned when you come from heaven to judge the works of mortals. Therefore I cry to you, ‘By the power of your Cross turn me back, save me, granting me tears of repentance’.
Be glad, Solomoni, as you see your seven branches blossoming together with the fruits of the Law; from which the blameless Church, reaping heirs of the worship in grace, nourishes us each day as a mother.
Leap for joy, Patriarchs, clap your hands, as you see the guardians of the Law devoutly competing for the worship according to the Law and though tested by every torment in no way abandoning their ancestral customs.
Dance like the best, brave champions, and celebrate a feast with the Martyrs of Christ, as you struggled before them for the Law and with them you are rightly and radiantly praised by the whole Church of Christ.
All the spiritual armies escort you, all-holy Cross, and we mortals, touching you today with lips of clay, with love draw sanctification and blessing, as we glorify the One who was nailed upon you.
Compassionate Lord, heal the persistent passions of my soul, and save me as I worship your precious Cross. By its power all that impedes is driven off and we remain unaffected by evils.
‘Do not imagine, Antiochos, persecutor of the faithful, that your burning fire can frighten. Slaughter too, lawless tyrant. Do what you like’, the Youths cried out.
‘Let us together struggle lawfully, brave martyrs of Christ. Let Moses commands be passed along the line, not to touch polluted foods’, the Youths cried out.
As we praise you, God and King and Lord, we now embrace with joy the Cross which you have given us as an unbreachable wall and are delivered from perils.
The Cross of the Lord, which grants us all great gifts, appears set forth. Mortals, let us approach, as we draw fro it enlightenment of heart and soul.
Wise Solomoni gave birth to seven sons, whom wise Eleazar brought up well; and when they had struggled bravely divine grace crowned them.
‘Why do you delay, judge?’ said the band with seven branches in the midst of tortures, ‘punish, slaughter swiftly, do whatever you wish’.
‘Our father has struggled before us, the sons are struggling together, let our mother too follow us, judge. And may their be an addition to the children and a cause of pride.’
‘Though you destroy our bodies by the fire, Antiochos,’ the choir of seven brothers valiantly cried out, ‘do not imagine you can defeat even one of us.’
On the 1st of the month, commemoration of the seven holy Martyrs, the Maccabees, Abim, Antony, Gourias, Eleazar, Eusebonas, Achim and Marcellus, and of their mother Solomoni and their teacher Eleazar.
Set out the path of struggle for the rest.
Ere Thekla a first Champion I present,
Solomoni, before Christ burnt by fire.
Tortures and fire and wheels sent seven Youths
Out of earth's seven days unto the eighth.
And on the first of the month a mother they burnt with her offspring.
Nine from Pamphylia were slain by sword,
One tribe they sought, that of the Martyrs bold.
A sack hid Pappas and a box the sack;
The stream the basket. Pappas was with God.
Victor he went from soul-destroying streams.
The judge said, ‘Sacrifice, and you’ll not die’.
Kirykos bowed his head and said, ‘I won’t’.
A godly longing fell on Theodore,
Through the sword’s stroke to gain the longed for gifts [doreon].
But Polyeuktos for his penalty.
On the same day, commemoration of our Father among the Saints Timothy, Bishop of Prokonnesos, the Wonderworker.
As priest of Prokonnesos God once gave
Honour to Timothy; and now by wonders.
We praise and glorify, we worship and magnify your might, O Lord; for you have granted us your servants the divine Cross as inexhaustible delight and guardian of our souls and bodies.
Do not prove me condemned to evils, Lord, on the day of decision; do not cast me away from your presence in shame, but take pity, save me by your precious Cross as you are supremely good.
When Moses made the bitter waters sweet with wood, he prefigured your grace, O Cross; for we too have been delivered from the bitterness of evils by your power; therefore as we now greet you lovingly, make us sweet by compunction of soul.
‘What are you waiting for then, tyrant?’ cried the Martyrs to the erring judge; ‘we confess one God and we have a native land, the Jerusalem on high that nurtured us.’
‘We will not eat polluted food,’ they say, ‘we will not sacrifice, nor bow the knee to earth. We confess one God and him we fear, from whom we came and to whom we speed.’
From long ago Jacob most clearly prefigured you, all-honoured Cross, by his blessings. While we, who have been counted worthy by grace to look on you, all with undoubting faith draw near and sing, plucking blessing richly, and light and salvation and release from faults.
Robed in white with virtuous deeds, let us draw near crying to Christ with joy, ‘All-loving Master, by your divine and most high Cross exalt the horn of us your people, that bears the name of Christ, so that with faith and profound peace it may praise your might to all the ages’.
Those that were bravest in accordance with God’s law, and who spat on the counsels of Antiochos, valiantly cried out, ‘Wild beasts, swords, fire or scourges can never separate us from God, Antiochos!’
Those who adorned the chair of Moses and kept safe the ancestral laws, shining like seven stars in the world, made dark the wandering stars, made resplendent by the faith.
Those shoots of devout Solomoni, and nurslings of faithful Eleazar, those seven beacons shining like lamps by the lamp of the Law, have clearly been set in the tabernacle of God.
Fair beyond sapphire and gold, bright as the sun you are, divine Cross, lying circumscribed by place and ever manifestly surrounded by spiritual Powers, yet enlightening every part of the inhabited world with rays of the divine power.
The Cross is the harbour of the storm-tossed, guide and support of the wandering, glory of Christ, strength of Apostles and Prophets, boast of Champions, refuge of all mortals. As we all see it set fourth in the midst, we greet it with loving devotion.
When you are about to come on earth to judge the world which you fashioned, Lord, with the Angelic hosts marching ahead and the Cross shining out more brightly than the beams of the sun, take pity on me by its power and save me who fallen more than all mortals.
The captains of the Law, stoutly despising the follies of Antiochos, bore up bravely under tortures, filling themselves with zeal, stirring one another on and hastening to anticipate toils and struggles and to die rather than to live.
As a brave and noble Olympic victor, Solomoni, as she watched her sons being slaughtered, was not shaken in soul, but she cried, ‘Listen, Antiochos, add me to my children, if indeed there is really grace from foes’.
O the prowess of a woman! O height of nobility! She, who had offered the seven-pillared choir of her sons to God for the sake of the Law, eagerly played the man and gave herself over to tortures as an addition to her sons who had just died.
The Youths who were an image of the holy week of seven days, longing to acquire by death the treasure of life, nobly resisted the threats of the persecutor and by their service of the Law shamed his utterly profane devices.
The death that came to the race through eating of the tree, has through the Cross been made of no effect today. For the curse on all mankind of our mother Eve has been abolished by the shoot of the pure Mother of God, whom all the Powers of heaven magnify.