Q&A — “Why do we venerate the Cross?” and 7 other questions about the Cross
by Fr. Emmanuel Hatzidakis on September 13, 2013
Feast of the Exaltation of the Precious and Life-giving Cross
(Q&A for young and old alike)
Q. Why do we venerate the Cross?
Because the Cross became the principal instrument of our salvation. We hold the Cross of the Lord in honor, we extol it, we praise it, we wear it, and we make the sign of the Cross over us, because Jesus Christ our Savior was nailed on it, He spilled His precious blood on it and died on it, and thus through His death and resurrection He destroyed death.
Q. Isn’t it morbid to honor an instrument of pain and death?
This instrument of death has become an instrument of salvation, of eternal life, so we love it, we cherish it, and we want to always remember it.
“Remember the Alamo!” Why do we remember this defeat? Because Alamo stands for liberty, bravery, valor, freedom. Similarly we remember the Cross on which our Lord Jesus Christ fought against the powers of darkness, of sin, of evil, of the devil, of death. It seemed like a defeat, but it became a great victory with His resurrection from the dead.
Q. Why did Christ die on the Cross?
Christ was lifted up on the Cross and died out of love for us of His own free will in order to save us, to redeem us, to rescue us from suffering, corruption and death.
He surrendered Himself voluntarily to death in order to overcome death and grant us eternal life. He descended to the region of the dead, but He rose victorious and triumphant from the tomb, to live forever, and grant us His life.
Q. Why did Christ die in such a painful way?
Christ had to die to defeat death to which we were subject. But it was not becoming of Him to die a natural death, because death is unnatural for the sinless One. So He had to die of violent death in total freedom. He faced death without fear so that we too may overcome its fear, because “something better” awaits us, and death becomes the doorway and the means to achieve it.
Christ didn’t mind to face the suffering of a death on the Cross. Mothers have great pain when they deliver, but they don’t mind, because joy follows that temporary pain. Christ suffered, but He did it gladly, because He loves us so much, and wants to bring us to a new life with Him. He would sacrifice Himself, and He does sacrifice Himself, perennially on the altars of our churches for our salvation.
Q. Why do we pride in the Cross?
Because the Cross is our symbol of victory. The Cross is our power. The Cross stands for life. Cross means love. Christ is the Victor, the Champion, the Winner. He obtained a great victory over death for us. Now the victory is ours.
Q. How is the victory of the Cross ours?
Let’s illustrate it. At the Beijing, China Olympic Games, the American athletes won many metals. One athlete alone won eight gold metals—Michael Phelps. He set an all time record for most gold medals won in a single Olympics. He also set seven new world records and one Olympics record. A spectacular and amazing performance. He made us all very proud. Why? We didn’t win anything, did we? Did you, or you win anything? No. But in him, in this American athlete, all Americans won. His victory became our victory.
Similarly with Christ. The eternal Son of God wanted to make us sharers of His life, His glory, His joy. But we chose, and many of us continue to choose, a life away from Him, which is death. But because He loves us He became man, a human being like us. Being God in the flesh He put death itself to death and obtained for us a great victory on the Cross. It was His victory, but He obtained it not for Himself (because He is Life and the Life-giver, and Life cannot die), but for us. So now we celebrate because the entire human race won in Him, just like America and all its citizens celebrate Phelps’ victory as their own.
Q. So what do we have to do now?
We need to join Jesus Christ our Lord, and make His victory truly ours. How? By believing in Him, by being baptized in Him, and by living in Him. Now we need to strengthen our faith and to live His life, a life of purity, of virtue, of obedience, of sacrifice, of love for God and for each other.
The greatest virtue for children is obedience. Obedience is not a dirty word. Christ, the Son of God, obeyed His Father and sacrificed Himself for us, not reluctantly, but gladly, because He loves us.
The Cross will help us in this struggle, because it is not only our prize and our trophy, but also our help and our weapon to fight evil.
Q. What is our prayer, as we venerate the Cross of the Lord?
- To thank the Lord Who died on the Cross out of love for us.
- To make a commitment to live in faith and obedience to Him.
- To ask for strength and courage to be true followers of the Lord.
The Apolytikion, or anthem of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross:
Save, O Master, Your pious people,
and bestow Your blessings on Your inheritance;
grant to the faithful Christians
against the enemy victories;
and protect Your Nation
of The True Believers by Your precious Cross.