The Third Sunday of Great Lent. The Veneration of the Cross

For the preaching of the cross is … unto us which are saved… the power of God.

1 Cor. 1:18

On the third Sunday in Great Lent, at the All Night Vigil (on Saturday evening), the Life-Giving Cross is carried out from the altar to the center of the church for the veneration of the faithful throughout the week.

As a traveller weary from a long journey rests under a broad, leafy tree, so do Orthodox Christians making their spiritual journey to the Heavenly Jerusalem—to the Pascha of the Lord—find at the halfway point of their path the “Tree of the Cross”, that they might gather strength under its canopy for their onward journey. Or, as before the arrival of the king returning from victory is preceded by his standards and scepters, so also does the Cross of the Lord precede Christ’s victory over death—His Bright Resurrection.

At this veneration we sing:

“Before Thy Cross, we bow down, O Master, and Thy Holy Resurrection we glorify.”

The Church presents the Cross to the faithful in the middle of the Forty Days in order by this recollection of the sufferings of the Lord’s death to encourage and fortify those who fast to continue their labor of fasting. The veneration of the Cross continues throughout the fourth week of the fast until Friday, and this is why the entire fourth week is called, the Week of the Veneration of the Cross.

“The Cross is the guardian of the whole world, the Cross is the beauty of the Church, the Cross is the might of kings, the Cross is the strengthening of the faithful, the Cross, angel’s glory, and wound to demons.” Thus does one of the Church’s hymns explain the significance of the Cross for the whole world. “By dipping the pen of the cross in the red ink of Thy blood, Thou O Lord didst as king sign the forgiveness of our sins,” says one of the stichera for the feast.


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