Many years back, it was a tradition that the Precious and Life-Giving Cross be carried in a procession around the streets of Constantinople. This was in response to the number of illnesses that inundated the Holy City in the month of August.
The Holy Cross was brought out from the imperial treasury on July 31st and placed upon the Holy Table (Αγία Τράπεζα) of the Great Church of Αγία Σοφία. From the 1st of August until the Dormition of the Theotokos on the 15th, there was a procession of the Holy Cross throughout the entire City. Those who were sick were brought before the Cross that they may be healed.
The Procession of the Holy Cross is the 1st of three Feasts of the Savior in August. The second one is the Feast of Transfiguration (Aug 6) and the third is the Feast of the Icon-made-without-hands (Aug 16).
Our defense and immunity, purifying and hallowing -- brethren, let us hail and embrace the precious Cross: for it relieves pain and suffering and cures noisome malady; it releases ailing souls from all manner of agony, flooding forth a sea of miraculous healings over those who bow and venerate its image with faith and reverence and piety (Sticheron of Festal Vespers).
In recent times, we have been hearing of the rise in cases of the Delta-variant of COVID-19. It is expected to be a much more contagious variant than the previous ones and to affect especially the youth. After nearly one and a half years of a pandemic and the loss of over 600,000 lives in America, the virus is still very much a threat to us all. It is very much a distinct possibility that we too may be inundated with illnesses this August.
Yet, despite the tenacity of this virus, the Holy Cross is infinitely mightier. It is somewhat coincidental that the rise of COVID-19 cases occurs near this particular Feast. Whether coincidental or not, we are reminded that our most formidable weapon is the Precious and Life-Giving Cross. Let us remember that it was on the Cross that sin and death were conquered.
All mortal nature, come, celebrate all together and mystically exult; for today is presented the wood of the precious Cross, as a free source of cures and health, unto those who run to it with reverence and longing and give glory to the Master crucified on it, to Christ who loves humanity (Festal Kathisma of Matins).
On August 1st we also begin the 14 day Fast of the Dormition of the Theotokos. In the midst of Great Lent, on the 3rd Sunday, we celebrate the Veneration of the Holy Cross. The Feast has a two-prong focus: to strength us to continue on the arduous fast and to remind us of our destination. It is by the Cross, thus, the Crucifixion that will lead us to the Resurrection and ultimately eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Instead of the Holy Cross being remembered in the midst of our fast period, we now begin this fast remembering the Holy Cross.
As we approach the middle of the Summer with the Delta-variant upon us, let us turn to our Invincible Weapon: the Holy Cross. Just as the faithful came out in the streets of Constantinople many years back to venerate the Cross, may we in like manner demonstrate faith and vigilance.
Let us shout with exultant joy, and in odes let us magnify the all-precious Cross and salute it with a kiss. And let us cry out to it and say, "O Cross ever-venerable, by the power you possess, sanctify us in every way, soul and body too. From all manner of injury arising from our enemies preserve us who venerate you in piety" (from the Festal Αίνοι).
May the Holy Cross, in its Vision and Victory guide us through these unprecedented times and protect us from all evil and harm. Let us fervently and triumphantly chant from the depths of our souls:
Save, O Lord, Your people and bless Your inheritance, granting victory to the faithful over the enemy, and by Your Cross protecting Your commonwealth (Festal Apolytikion).
A Blessed and Peaceful Dormition Fast to All!
A graduate of Long Island University, College of Pharmacy, and Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, John works to share the richness and beauty of the Orthodox Faith with the wider community.
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BONUS: Y2AM has released a brand new ministry training course. And check out our "Be the Bee" episode on carrying your cross: