Friday, August 1, 2014

Feast of the Procession of the Venerable Wood of the Cross

The Eastern Orthodox and the Byzantine Rite Catholics commemorate the Feast of the Procession of the Venerable Wood of the Cross (or Procession of the Precious Wood of the Life-giving Cross of Jesus Christ) on August 1. This day marks the beginning of the Dormition Fast. The propers of the feast are combined with those of the Holy Maccabean Martyrs, the commemoration of whose endurance is deemed appropriate for the first day of a fast. Unlike the September 14 observance, this commemoration is considered to be a minor feast, but it does have the bringing out of the cross and veneration by the faithful like the September feast.

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 Canons of the Cross and of the Saints.
The Canon of the Cross, of which the Acrostic is:
We all praise the Tree that should be worshipped.
A Composition by Joseph.
Ode 1. Tone 8.
The wonderworking rod of Moses.
Let us today with pure mind and devout intent worship the life-bearing Cross of the Lord; for it is set forth granting to those who approach it sanctification and salvation, illumination, glory and mercy.
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.
When I gave birth to you ineffably, my Child, I escaped the pangs of labour; how then am I now all filled with griefs? For I see you, who hung the earth without restraint, hanged like a malefactor on a Tree.
The Canon of the Saints.
By Andrew of Crete.
Ode 1. Tone 1. Let us all sing.
O all-wise Youths, who like professionals guarded the doctrines of Moses and devoutly imitated the death of Christ, intercede always that we may all be saved.
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.’
Let us glorify the Trinity, the eternal Essence in Unity, consubstantial, one in majesty and power, the Father without beginning, the Son and the holy Spirit.
Both now. Theotokion.
Giving bud ineffably in your womb to the ripe grape cluster, O Mother of God, you were revealed to Christ's Church as a life-bearing vine, giving joy to all.
A Cross Moses traced out as he cut the Red Sea in a straight line with his rod for Israel as they marched on foot; and then united it again overwhelming Pharao with his chariots as with other line he marked out the invincible weapon. Therefore let us sing to Christ our God, for he has been glorified.
Of the Cross. Ode 3. You established.
The Cross, cause of all blessings, is seen and worshipped; and all creation keeps festival with joy, enlightened by the grace of our God who was willingly lifted up on it.
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’.
As she watched life that had died on a Cross, and unable to bear the pain in her heart, the holy Virgin was deeply troubled and she cried, ‘Alas, my Son! What has a lawless people done to you?’
Of the Saints. The stone which the builders.
O Youths who all sprang up and grew together in holiness and were instructed in accordance with the Law by Eleazar, you competed like professionals and trampled down to the ground all the plans of Antiochos.
‘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.
Let us the faithful glorify one Essence of God, one sovereignty, one kingship, uniting without confusion the one Godhead and devoutly dividing it in three hypostases.
Both now. Theotokion.
You were prefigured by the Bush on Sinai that was unconsumed; you appeared to Daniel as a divine Mountain, from which was cut without human hand the indivisible, Christ the rock of our life, who is one Son, born from you, O Mother of God.
A Rod is accepted as a figure of the mystery; for by its budding it marks out the priest. While for the Church that once was barren the Tree of the Cross has flowered for strength and steadfastness.
Kontakion of the Cross. Tone 4.
Lifted up on the Cross of your own will, to the new commonwealth that bears your name grant your mercies, Christ God; make your faithful people glad by your power, granting them victories over their enemies; may they have your help in battle: a weapon of peace, an invincible trophy.
Then Kathisma. Tone 8. The Wisdom and Word.
Having lived devoutly, wise Youths, you bravely as martyrs shamed the tyrant’s threats, as champions of the Law; and as followers of the father you became Saints and with your mother, wise in God, you struggled eagerly. Therefore by death you truly purchased the life of heaven and you rejoice eternally, brave-hearted Maccabees. Intercede with Christ God to grant forgiveness of faults to those who celebrate with love your holy memory.
Glory. Both. Tone 6.
Your Cross, O Lord, has been sanctified; for by it healings take place for those weakened by sins. Through it we fall down before you, have mercy on us.
Of the Cross. Ode 4.
You, Lord, are my strength.
See, the mighty protection and restoration of mortals, the invincible weapon of the faith, the saving Cross is set forth and appears. And sanctifying the hearts of all who approach it with faith it enlightens by grace.
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’.
‘From a virgin womb, my Child, I gave you birth, and now as I see you hanging on a Tree, I am at a loss and do not comprehend the height of the mystery and the depth of your judgements’, cried the All-pure, whom as Mother of God with never silent voices we call blessed.
Of the Saints. Foreseeing by the Spirit.
Rejoice, Eleazar, as you see your holy pupils competing devoutly today on behalf of their ancestral laws and commandments, and refuting the raving of the persecutor Antiochos with wise words.
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.
We faithful with never silent mouths glorify a Trinity in Unity as we cry out, ‘Trinity in Unity, worshipped together and praised in a Trinity of persons, to you be glory, honour and worship’.
Both now. Theotokion
Holy Virgin, Bride of God, we sing your praise as the one who gave birth to God and wall of the faithful; for your raised up the fallen nature of Adam and made new the image by alone giving birth to the pre-existent God.
O Lord, I have heard the mystery of your dispensation; I considered your works and glorified your Godhead.
Of the Cross. Ode 5. Why have you rejected me.
Shout for joy, you nations, sing, leap and chant, you tribes, to God who has given the Cross as an unshakeable support. As it now set forth let all of us believers rejoice as through it we enjoy the blessings.
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.
Of the Saints. Grant us your peace.
Lovers of Christ, let us imitate the seven Youths, whom Moses lawfully brought up and Eleazar instructed in their ancestral Law through true religion.
‘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.
O Trinity, before eternity, co-eternal and of equal majesty, Father, Son and holy Spirit, holy Unity in three persons, save those of Adam’s race who faithfully sing your praise.
Both now. Theotokion.
O Christ, alone compassionate, grant us peace; for your most pure Mother, together with the Saints who struggled for their ancestral customs and for Moses’ Law, entreats you.
O thrice-blessed Tree, on which Christ, the King and Lord, was stretched! Through it the one who deceived through a tree has fallen, caught by the bait of God who was nailed to you in the flesh and who grants peace to our souls.
Of the Cross. Ode 6. Have mercy on me, Saviour.
When the Cross was fixed in the earth, the fall of demons came about. As we see it now gloriously set forth and as we greet it lovingly we rise up from the sin of our falls.
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.
Give us strength, Pure Virgin, to fast from every evil, and ever give us power to keep from mean and wicked deeds, for you are the protection of all mankind.
Of the Saints. As I imitate the Prophet Jonas.
The Wisdom of God built a temple and supported it on seven spiritual pillars, foreshadowing these Youths as guardians of the Law.
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.’
Let us faithfully worship the Father and the Son and the right Spirit in one Godhead, as we cry, ‘Holy Trinity, save your world!’
Both now. Theotokion.
How did you bear a Son whom no father had begotten? How did you remain pure after child-birth as you were before? It is God who knows, who does all things just as he wills.
Jonas, stretching out his hands like a cross in the belly of the sea monster, clearly prefigured the saving Passion. Escaping from there on the third day, he was an image of the transcendent Resurrection of Christ God, who was nailed in the flesh and by his rising on the third day enlightened the world.
Kontakion. Tone 2. Seeking the things on high.
You pillars of God’s Wisdom, in umber seven, and lamps with seven lights of the divine light, all-wise Maccabees, greatest of martyrs before the Martyrs, with them ask the God of all things that those who sing your praise may be saved.
The Ikos.
Sion, praise your God with fervour, for he has truly strengthened the bars of your gates and blessed your sons. For they, as a triumphant army, a truly noble and stout-hearted regiment, resisted with godly mind the devices of the wicked men. But as you enjoy the crowns of victory of the heavenly Sion and draw near to the throne of God, making supplication without ceasing on behalf of all, ask that those who sing your praise may be saved.
The Month of August has thirty one days. The day has 13 hours and the night 11.
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.
VersesBefore Christ Eleazar first bore fire;
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.
On the same day, commemoration of the nine holy Martyrs who struggled in Perge of Pamphylia, Leontios, Attos, Alexander, Kindeos, Mnsitheos, Kyriakos, Minaios, Katounos and Eukleis.
Nine from Pamphylia were slain by sword,
One tribe they sought, that of the Martyrs bold.
On the same day, Saint Pappas the New was thrown into a sack, shut up in a basket and cast into the sea, and so achieved perfection.
A sack hid Pappas and a box the sack;
The stream the basket. Pappas was with God.
On the same day, the holy Martyr Eleazaros, his head consumed by fire, attained perfection
VersesWhen Eleazar’s head was burnt by fire,
Victor he went from soul-destroying streams.
On the same day, the holy Martyr Kirykos attained perfection by the sword.
The judge said, ‘Sacrifice, and you’ll not die’.
Kirykos bowed his head and said, ‘I won’t’.
On the same day the holy Martyr Theodore attained perfection by the sword.
A godly longing fell on Theodore,
Through the sword’s stroke to gain the longed for gifts [doreon].
On the same day, Saint Polyeuktos, was buried in dunghill and attained perfection.
Verses.Job on a dunghill had his throne, I say,
But Polyeuktos for his penalty.
On the same day, commemoration of the holy Martyrs, Menas, Menaios and the others in Viglention, near the bronze Tetrapylos.
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.
At their holy intercessions, O God, have mercy on us. Amen.
Of the Cross. Ode 7. The fire in Babylon once stood in awe
The One beyond time is revealed in time bearing flesh, and through his loving-kindness he heals our chronic passions of both flesh and spirit; while already he sanctifies us by his divine Cross.
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.
Make broad the narrowness of my mind by your intercession, Sovereign Lady, who narrowed all the devices of the foe, guide me through the narrow way to walk towards the broad plain of life, O Mother of God.
Of the Saints. The fire did not touch.
The zealots for the ancestral Law, the unflinching guardians of Law united in soul, with all devotion confessed one God in three hypostases, faithfully uniting and devoutly distinguishing.
‘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.’
Let us raise a song to the Trinity, glorifying the Father without beginning, the Son and the right Spirit, one single essence, whom thrice we praise, crying, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy.’
Both now. Theotokion.
Hail, wall and joy of all, O Virgin all-praised. Hail, hope of the ends of the earth. Hail, beauty of mortals and immaculate delight of the Angels. For you the only God in the flesh.
The senseless decree of a godless tyrant, redolent of threats and blasphemies hateful to God, drove peoples to confusion. But neither the fury of wild beasts nor the roaring of the fire frightened three Youths; but united in the fire that answered with a spirit bringing dew they sang, ‘O our God and the God of our Fathers, O highly exalted, blessed are you!’
Of the Cross. Ode 8. The Chaldean tyrant.
Godlike Elissaios once drew the iron from a river with wood, from long ago foreshadowing you, all-honoured Cross. For we who through you have also been drawn out of the abyss of error to sure faith are today counted worthy to behold you and to worship you in faith to all the ages.
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’.
Of the Trinity.
As we all praise a single nature, consubstantial, equally without beginning, co-eternal, equal in majesty, yet distinct in persons, the Father unbegotten, the Son and the holy Spirit, uncreated essence and Godhead, we sing, ‘You priests, you people highly exalt God to all the ages.
‘As I now see you as an innocent lamb hanged and nailed to the Cross by lawless people, my Son who are from all eternity, I am assailed with griefs and beset with a mother’s pangs’ cried the All-pure, whom with never silent voices we devoutly praise to all the ages.
Of the Saints. The One who with wisdom.
Those guardians of the laws of their ancestral customs, those heralds of ordinance of Moses, appearing like seven beacons in the world, flood us with the rays of their struggles, those spiritual lanterns.
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.
Glory to the Father, the Son and the Spirit, to the Godhead, Trinity of persons, and Unity of nature by hypostases, praised without ceasing by all creation and to all the ages.
Both now. Theotokion.
You were revealed, Mary, to be the treasure-house of the good-pleasure of the Father, abode of the coming of the Son, dwelling-place of the Spirit, typifying in yourself the manifestation of the Trinity.
O Youths, equal in number to the Trinity, bless the Creator, Father, God; sing the praises of the Word who descended and changed the fire to dew, and highly exalt the all-holy Spirit that grants life to all, to the ages.
Of the Cross. Ode 9. Heaven was amazed.
Once fixed to the Cross with nails through feet and hands, pierced in the side, your thirst quenched with vinegar and gall, you healed my wounds, O King of all, supremely good, the joy, the sweetness, glory and eternal redemption of all.
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.
‘Without corruption I gave birth to you from the womb, whom the Father begot before the ages; how do corrupt mortals rend you, my Son, and inhumanly gouge your side with a lance, your hands and feet with nails?’ cried the All-pure, whom we fittingly magnify.
Of the Saints. The light-bearing cloud.
Those brought up in accordance with the Law and who died on behalf of the Law, the pupils of Eleazar, the Children of Solomoni and zealous followers of Moses, as they were being dragged out shouted, ‘Antiochos, we do you hesitate, why do you delay, why are you not doing what you want to against us?’
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.
Let us honour gloriously the heroes of the Law, whom Eleazar brought up and left a fair example, offering himself to the torments of the Saints, as they intercede that peace may be given to the world and to us forgiveness.
Holy Youths of the Law of God, by your intercessions rescue from all disease and corruption those who celebrate the memory of your sacred contests, granting to this Monastery of ours peace and deliverance from evils.
I glorify Light, the Father, I magnify Light, the Son and I worship Light, the Spirit, the holy Trinity; but in three persons and one Godhead an eternal and unending might, bringing all things out of non-existence.
Both now. Theotokion.
Say, O Virgin, how did you give birth? How did milk come from your breasts? How did you become the one who gave birth to him who came from you without father and without mother is the only-begotten from the Father on high? How did you suckle the One who nourishes the world? How? As he knows, as he was well-pleased.
Mystic Paradise are you, O Mother of God, who untilled brought forth Christ, who planted on the earth the life-giving Tree of the Cross. And so as it is raised today, we worship it and magnify you.

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.

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