Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We’re very accustomed to greeting one another with the words “Happy New Year!” only
at the beginning of each January. But we should also greet one another with these
same words each September 1st, for the first day of September also marks the beginning
of a new Church liturgical year. Why September 1? There are various historical
reasons that led to this day being designated as the beginning of the year, or, the
A pious tradition has held that the Lord Jesus began his public ministry on this
day. We recall the episode recorded in the fourth chapter of the Gospel according
to Luke. The Lord enters the synagogue in Nazareth, his hometown, and participates
in the usual Sabbath worship. At the point in the service when the Scriptures are
read, the Lord Jesus is called forward to read from the holy books. He is given
the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, opened to the passage that was appointed for that
day. And he read: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to
preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind, to free those who are oppressed, and to proclaim
the acceptable year of the Lord.” Saint Luke tells us that “all eyes were upon”
Jesus as he read these words. Having read the passage and having set aside the book,
the Lord then says, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (see
Pious tradition also tells us that it was during the month of September (or its equivalent
on the Hebrew calendar) that the Chosen People entered into the Promised Land after
wandering forty years in the desert. Also, it was customary in biblical times to
start the new year at the time of the harvest, the harvest generally being completed
in Mediterranean lands at this time of the year. Having brought in the harvest,
it seemed a logical and convenient time to give thanks and to celebrate a new beginning.
As we begin a new year this month, we also remember that the church calendar is marked
by the celebration of several important events from the history of our salvation.
We celebrate the 12 Great Feasts; we observe the 4 Fasts; we center the year on
the celebration the culmination of salvation history when we celebrate the Lord’s
three-day Pascha. Additionally, every day of the Church’s year is designated to
honor one or more of the saints; many of those dates are the actual dates on which
the saints or saints passed from this life into the life of the Kingdom.
We also note that the Church year begins and ends with feasts dedicated to the Mother
of God. September 8 marks the date of her nativity; August 15 commemorates her falling
asleep. Between these two dates, the Church celebrates the ten other Great Feasts
as well as Pascha, the Feast of Feasts. May the prayers of the Mother of God guide
and protect us as we enter this new year and bring us to the fulfillment of the salvation
which we will remember and celebrate in the year ahead.
With love in the Lord,
The Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross
The Elevation of the Venerable and Life-Creating Cross of the Lord: The pagan Roman
emperors tried to completely eradicate from human memory the holy places where our
Lord Jesus Christ suffered and was resurrected for mankind. The Emperor Hadrian (117-138)
gave orders to cover over the ground of Golgotha and the Sepulchre of the Lord, and
to build a temple of the pagan goddess Venus and a statue of Jupiter.
Pagans gathered at this place and offered sacrifice to idols there. Eventually after
300 years, by Divine Providence, the great Christian sacred remains, the Sepulchre
of the Lord and the Life-Creating Cross were again discovered and opened for veneration.
This took place under the Emperor Constantine the Great (306-337) after his victory
in the year 312 over Maxentius, ruler of the Western part of the Roman empire, and
over Licinius, ruler of its Eastern part. In the year 323 Constantine became the
sole ruler of the vast Roman Empire.
In 313 he had issued the Edict of Milan, by which the Christian religion was legalized
and the persecutions against Christians in the Western half of the empire were stopped.
The ruler Licinius, although he had signed the Edict of Milan to oblige Constantine,
still fanatically continued the persecutions against Christians. Only after his conclusive
defeat did the 313 Edict of toleration extend also to the Eastern part of the empire.
The Holy Equal of the Apostles Emperor Constantine, having gained victory over his
enemies in three wars with God’s assistance, had seen in the heavens the Sign of
the Cross, and written beneath: “By this you shall conquer.”
Ardently desiring to find the Cross on which our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified,
St Constantine sent his mother, the pious Empress Helen (May 21), to Jerusalem, providing
her with a letter to St Macarius, Patriarch of Jerusalem.
Although the holy empress Helen was already in her declining years, she set about
completing the task with enthusiasm. The empress gave orders to destroy the pagan
temple and the statues in Jerusalem. Searching for the Life-Creating Cross, she made
inquiry of Christians and Jews, but for a long time her search remained unsuccessful.
Finally, they directed her to a certain elderly Hebrew by the name of Jude who stated
that the Cross was buried where the temple of Venus stood. They demolished the pagan
temple and, after praying, they began to excavate the ground. Soon the Tomb of the
Lord was uncovered. Not far from it were three crosses, a board with the inscription
ordered by Pilate, and four nails which had pierced the Lord’s Body (March 6).
In order to discern on which of the three crosses the Savior was crucified, Patriarch
Macarius alternately touched the crosses to a corpse. When the Cross of the Lord
touched the dead one, he came to life. Having beheld the raising of the dead man,
everyone was convinced that the Life-Creating Cross was found.
Christians came in a huge throng to venerate the Holy Cross, beseeching St Macarius
to elevate the Cross, so that even those far off might reverently contemplate it.
Then the Patriarch and other spiritual leaders raised up the Holy Cross, and the
people, saying “Lord have mercy,” reverently prostrated before the Venerable Wood.
This solemn event occurred in the year 326.
During the discovery of the Life-Creating Cross another miracle took place: a grievously
sick woman, beneath the shadow of the Holy Cross, was healed instantly. The elder
Jude and other Jews there believed in Christ and accepted Holy Baptism. Jude received
the name Cyriacus and afterwards was consecrated Bishop of Jerusalem.
During the reign of Julian the Apostate (361-363) he accepted a martyr’s death for
Christ (see October 28). The holy empress Helen journeyed to the holy places connected
with the earthly life of the Savior, building more than 80 churches, at Bethlehem
the birthplace of Christ, and on the Mount of Olives where the Lord ascended to Heaven,
and at Gethsemane where the Savior prayed before His sufferings and where the Mother
of God was buried after her death.
St Helen took part of the Life-Creating Wood and nails with her to Constantinople.
The holy emperor Constantine gave orders to build at Jerusalem a majestic and spacious
church in honor of the Resurrection of Christ, also including under its roof the
Life-Giving Tomb of the Lord and Golgotha. The temple was constructed in about ten
years. St Helen did not survive until the dedication of the temple, she died in the
year 327. The church was consecrated on September 13, 335. On the following day,
September 14, the festal celebration of the Exaltation of the Venerable and Life-Creating
Cross was established.
Another event connected to the Cross of the Lord is remembered also on this day:
its return to Jerusalem from Persia after a fourteen year captivity. During the reign
of the Byzantine emperor Phocas (602-610) the Persian emperor Khozroes II in a war
against the Greeks defeated the Greek army, plundered Jerusalem and captured both
the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord and the Holy Patriarch Zachariah (609-633).
The Cross remained in Persia for fourteen years and only under the emperor Heraclius
(610-641), who with the help of God defeated Khozroes and concluded peace with his
successor and son Syroes, was the Cross of the Lord returned to the Christians.
With great solemnity the Life-creating Cross was transferred to Jerusalem. Emperor
Heraclius in imperial crown and royal purple carried the Cross of Christ into the
temple of the Resurrection. With the emperor went Patriarch Zacharios. At the gates
by which they ascended Golgotha, the emperor suddenly stopped and was not able to
proceed farther. The holy Patriarch explained to the emperor that an angel of the
Lord was blocking his way. The emperor was told to remove his royal trappings and
to walk barefoot, since He Who bore the Cross for the salvation of the world from
sin had made His way to Golgotha in all humility. Then Heraclius donned plain garb,
and without further hindrance, carried the Cross of Christ into the church.
In a sermon on the Exaltation of the Cross, St Andrew of Crete (July 4) says: “The
Cross is exalted, and everything true gathers together, the Cross is exalted, and
the city makes solemn, and the people celebrate the feast”.
FEAST OF THE EXALTATION OF THE HOLY CROSS: The feast of the Exaltation of the Holy
Cross will be celebrated with the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, September 14. Please
remember that this feast, although on a Sunday this year, is a strict fast day. Vespers
of the feast will be celebrated the previous evening at Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Romanian Mission, 10030 N 32 Street,
Phoenix. We look forward to joining Father Alin
Munteanu and the Holy Cross community for the celebration of their patronal feast.
PLEASE NOTE: Vespers will not be celebrated that evening at Saints Peter and Paul
AIR CONDITIONERS: For those of you who have not yet pledged or donated toward our
air conditioning/heating project, let this serve as a “friendly reminder.” Everyone
in our parish community has been asked to make a responsible decision concerning
what can be contributed to this endeavor. Pledge and donation forms are still available
in the entrance to the church. Please complete them and return them soon to Father
Daniel or David Homyak, Church Treasurer. Don’t let the fact that we have two air
conditioners now running and that the church is relatively comfortable during the
services fool you! We still need to pay for that comfort. Your commitment to our
parish family is deeply appreciated. Thank you.
UPDATE ON THE DIOCESAN ASSEMBLY OCTOBER 7-9, 2014: A Planning Committee meeting for
the annual Diocesan Assembly which is being hosted by our parish (October 7-9) was
held Wednesday, August 27. Planning continues to go forward with great enthusiasm
as we look forward to welcoming clergy and lay delegates from throughout the Diocese
of the West. If you haven’t yet volunteered to help, please see Fr Daniel.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE DIOCESEN ASSEMBLY ---THE DIVINE LITURGY - Mark your calendars now!
Metropolitan TIKHON and Archbishop BENJAMIN will preside at the celebration of the
Divine Liturgy on Thursday, October 9, at 8:00 a.m. October 9th is the day on which
the Orthodox Church commemorates the Glorification of Saint Tikhon, Patriarch of
Moscow. It is also Metropolitan Tikhon’s nameday. Mark your calendars now and plan
on attending. This is an historic event for our community—plan on taking a few hours
off of work or away from school in order to participate in this special moment. You’ll
be glad you made the effort to participate in this memorable event.
BEGINNING OF THE CHURCH SCHOOL YEAR: The official beginning of the school year –
and our church school program – will be observed on Sunday, September 7. As is our
custom, the school year will begin with the Blessing of Students and Teachers following
the Divine Liturgy on September 7.
MEETING FOR CHURCH SCHOOL PARENTS, TEACHERS, AND FRIENDS: Parents and other interested
parishioners are invited to attend a meeting with the Church School teachers and
aides on Sunday, September 14, following coffee hour. Fr Daniel will speak of the
importance of religious education as well as offer the opportunity to hear ideas
and suggestions—and welcome volunteers!