The Cross is the fundamental symbol for Christians, seen as the instrument of the world’s salvation by the crucified Christ.
Emblem of Victory
When Orthodox think of the crucified Christ, they think not only of his suffering and desolation; they think of him as Christ the Victor, Christ the King, reigning in triumph from the Tree. As heard in the first exorcism before Baptism:
On the Tree he triumphed over the powers which opposed him, when the sun was darkened and the earth was shaken, when the graves were opened and the bodies of the saints arose. By death he destroyed death, and brought to naught him who had the power of death.
The Church teaches that Christ is the victorious king, not in spite of the Crucifixion, but because of it. In the words of Saint John Chrysostom, “I call him king because I see him crucified.”
Veneration of the Cross
After the final blessing with which the Liturgy ends, the people come up to kiss a Cross which the priest holds in his hand. Twice a year the Cross is venerated in the center of the church.
Elevation of the Holy Cross (September 14)
This feast day commemorates two events. First, the discovery of the Cross by the Empress Helen (the mother of St. Constantine the Great) on Golgotha, the place where Christ was crucified, in A.D. 326. Second, the recovery of the Cross by Emperor Heraclius and the Byzantine army from the Persians; the Cross was elevated in Jerusalem by Patriarch Zacharios on March 21, 630.
Third Sunday of Lent
The cross stands in the midst of the church in the middle of the Lenten season not merely to remind men of Christ’s redemption and to keep before them the goal of their efforts, but also to be venerated as that reality by which man must live to be saved. He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me (Matthew 10:38). For in the Cross of Christ Crucified lies both the power of God and the wisdom of God for those being saved (1 Corinthians 1:24).