SAN FRANCISCO – On September 14, we celebrate the Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross, commemorating two significant moments in the history of our Church. The first was the finding of the Cross of Christ by Saint Helen in the early 4th century. The second was the recovery of the Cross from the Persians in 630 AD, after it had been lost to them in battle a decade before. On both occasions, the Cross of our Lord was raised high for all the people to see and to venerate. Because we retell the events of Christ’s crucifixion on this day in the Liturgy, September 14 is a strict fast day.
For me personally, the Feast of the Cross has always been a special day filled with many memories, because September 14 is the Feast Day of our beloved ‘Scholé’, the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts. Like the overwhelming majority of the clergy of our Archdiocese, Holy Cross was the place of our spiritual formation for ministering to the faithful. Over its long history, Holy Cross has educated not just the clergy of our Archdiocese, but indeed many clergy, hierarchs, and lay leaders from throughout the Orthodox Christian world. Holy Cross has been a shining example of excellence in theological education and in scholarship.
On the Vespers of the Feast, seminarians receive their ‘school cross’, an emblem of Saint John the Theologian, which is the eagle, holding a scroll that bears the opening phrase of his Gospel, (“Εν αρχή ην ο Λόγος, In the beginning was the Word”, John 1:1). This cross, worn regularly by the students, binds them to one another as classmates and ties them to the School, connecting them with the generations of past students and those who will attend Holy Cross in the future. More importantly, it makes a statement about their formation in the combination of intellectual development and sacrificial service to the Church and to our Holy Archdiocese.
As the crosses are placed around the students’ necks, Archbishop Iakovos of blessed memory, would often chant the Exapostilarion of the Feast: “Σταυρός, ὁ φύλαξ πάσης τῆς οἰκουμένης· Σταυρός, ἡ ὡραιότης τῆς Ἐκκλησίας… O Cross, you are the guardian of the whole world. O Cross, you are the height of the Church's beauty…”
From this beautiful hymn, I would like to focus on just two words: ὁ φύλαξ – the guardian – and ἡ ὡραιότης – the beauty – and connect them to our School in Brookline. Holy Cross is a guardian of our Church because our Church requires well-educated men and women to serve Her. Our Church today is strong and dynamic because of the education they received there. Holy Cross radiates the beauty of our Church because it is on that Holy Hill where fidelity to the past but creativity for the present and future continues to enrich the life of our faithful.
His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America has continued this commitment with his leadership to elevate our beloved Scholé and provide the highest caliber of education and the advancement of Holy Cross as a distinguished institution of higher learning in this country and throughout the world.
Our Scholé is often called the ‘crown jewel’ of our Archdiocese, thus we must strive to support Holy Cross so that it can shine with radiance. We can encourage our sons and daughters to consider studying there. We can offer our encouragement to the students. We can individually contribute to Holy Cross, and our parishes can insert a line item into their budgets to offer support. And, just as this petition is prayed in the Holy Cross Chapel every day, we, too, can call to mind our Sacred School, the President, Deans, Faculty, Staff, Students, Trustees, Benefactors, and Alumni.
May all who celebrate this Feast of the Cross be blessed by our Lord and Savior and protected by His Holy Cross now and forever.