Veneration of the Holy Cross
Next week will be the third Sunday of Lent. The third Sunday of Lent is called in Greek Σταυροπροσκυνήσεως, which means Veneration of the Cross. It is one of the two principal feasts of the Cross. The other major feast of the Cross is the Exaltation, on Sept. 14. My points today will be on: What the Veneration of the Cross is, why we have it on the third Sunday of Lent, and how we will do it here.
What It Is
The Veneration of the holy Cross is a special service during which you will be invited to venerate a replica of the Cross.
The word venerate means to regard with love and respect. The Greek equivalent, προσκυνῶ, means to bow in worship and to kiss. The Greek word προσκυνῶ is actually used to indicate the worship due to God, as well as what we do to holy icons and the Cross. In English, we use venerate with reference to holy icons and the Cross, while for God we use the word worship.
This goes to show that what is important is not the language or the specific words that we use, but rather the intended concepts and the context we use them in.
Christians everywhere venerate the holy Cross as a way of honoring the implement that was used to accomplish our salvation, and as a way of remembering our Lord’s Passion. In some places, the worshipping communities have a piece of the wood of the actual Cross. So when they kiss the Cross, they are venerating the actual Cross of Christ. Most of us will show our reverence by venerating a replica of the Cross. Either way, what is important is the attitude of reverence and the fear, faith and love for the Lord that one has (or does not yet have).
Why Venerate the Cross on the Third Sunday of Lent
We do the service of the Veneration of the Cross on the third Sunday of Lent because that day marks the middle of Lent. This is when people who have been keeping the fast start to get tired of it. So, in order to receive strength for the rest of Lent, we do this Veneration of the Cross. It reminds us that the whole of Lent is a period when we can be crucified with Christ.
Some people who don’t know any better remember it as the day we get a flower. It’s not flower day. The appropriate way of thinking about this is to anticipate, and then remember it, as the day we venerate the holy Cross.
How We Will Do It Here
In many places the Veneration of the Cross is done after the Divine Liturgy. That usually ends with kissing the priest’s cross, getting a flower, and taking your own antidoron; or it can end in nothing, because you were dismissed before the end of the service.
The correct time for this service is right at the end of Matins, before the Liturgy begins. That’s how we will do it here next week. Once everyone present has had a chance to venerate, the Cross will be placed in the narthex for latecomers to venerate properly when they arrive. This will give everyone the opportunity to bow and kiss the Cross, thoughtfully and reverently.