The Procession of the Venerable Wood of the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord: In the Greek Horologion of 1897 the derivation of this Feast is explained: "Because of the illnesses that occur in August, it was customary, in former times, to carry the Venerable Wood of the Cross through the streets and squares of Constantinople for the sanctification of the city, and for relief from sickness. On the eve (July 31), it was taken out of the imperial treasury, and laid upon the altar of the Great Church of Hagia Sophia (the Wisdom of God). From this Feast until the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, they carried the Cross throughout the city in procession, offering it to the people to venerate. This also is the Procession of the Venerable Cross."
In the Russian Church this Feast is combined also with the remembrance of the Baptism of Rus, on August 1, 988. In the "Account of the Order of Services in the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Great Church of the Dormition," compiled in 1627 by order of Patriarch Philaret of Moscow and All Rus, there is the following explanation of the Feast: "On the day of the Procession of the Venerable Cross there is a church procession for the sanctification of water and for the enlightenment of the people, throughout all the towns and places."
Knowledge of the day of the actual Baptism of Rus was preserved in the Chronicles of the sixteenth century: "The Baptism of the Great Prince Vladimir of Kiev and all Rus was on August 1."
In the present practice of the Russian Church, the Lesser Sanctification of Water on August 1 is done either before or after Liturgy. Because of the Blessing of Water, this first Feast of the Savior in August is sometimes called 'Savior of the Water." There may also be a Blessing of New Honey today, which is why the Feast is also called "Savior of the Honey." From this day the newly gathered honey is blessed and tasted.
We mortals, who sail among the waves of life and are storm-tossed by a tempest of sufferings, let us with faith take refuge in the precious Tree as a vessel of salvation, and it will silence the waves and the winds and break the passions, and we will reach in joy the haven of salvation without storms.
The all-holy Cross has shone more brightly than the sun, shedding wonders like sunbeams and healings like flashes of lightning. Let us mortals, ever held fast by the darkness of dread dangers, draw near and we shall receive the light-bringing grace of healings as we magnify the God who was nailed to it in the flesh.
Doxastikon of the Aposticha of the Cross in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
The saying of your Prophet Moses has been fulfilled, O God, which said, ‘See your life hanging before your eyes.’*** Today the Cross is exalted and world is freed from error. Today the Resurrection of Christ is consecrated, and the ends of the earth rejoice as with David’s cymbals they offer you their hymn and say, ‘You have wrought salvation in midst of the earth, O God, good and the lover of mankind: the Cross and Resurrection, through which you have saved us. All-powerful Lord, glory to you.’
Fair beyond sapphire and gold, bright as the sun you are, divine Cross, lying circumscribed by place and ever manifestly surrounded by spiritual Powers, yet enlightening every part of the inhabited world with rays of the divine power.
The Cross is the harbour of the storm-tossed, guide and support of the wandering, glory of Christ, strength of Apostles and Prophets, boast of Champions, refuge of all mortals. As we all see it set fourth in the midst, we greet it with loving devotion.
When you are about to come on earth to judge the world which you fashioned, Lord, with the Angelic hosts marching ahead and the Cross shining out more brightly than the beams of the sun, take pity on me by its power and save me who fallen more than all mortals.
Archimandrite Ephrem ©