Third Sunday of Lent
Veneration of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross
Martyrs Chrysanthos, Daria, and those with them of Rome; Martyr Pancharios of Nicomedia; New-martyr Demetrios the joiner of Constantinople; Venerable Innocent of Komel
March 19, 2017
Troparion of the Resurrection – Tone 6
When Mary stood at Thy grave, looking for Thy sacred body, angelic powers shone above Thy revered tomb; and the soldiers who were to keep guard became as dead men. Thou led Hades captive and wast not tempted thereby. Thou didst meet the Virgin and didst give life to the world, O Thou, Who art risen from the dead, O Lord, glory to Thee.
Troparion for the Holy Cross – Tone 1
O Lord, save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance, granting to Thy people victory over all their enemies, and by the power of Thy Cross preserving Thy commonwealth.
Troparion of St Joseph – Tone 2
Proclaim, O Joseph to David, the ancestor of God, the amazing wonder, for by the angel they were revealed unto thee. For thou hast seen a Virgin great with child, and thou gave glory with the shepherds and didst worship with the Magi. Wherefore, plead with Christ God to save our souls.
Kontakion for The Annunciation (And Great Lent) – Tone 8
To thee, the Champion Leader, do I offer thanks of victory, O Theotokos, thou who hast delivered me from terror; but as thou that hast that power invincible, O Theotokos, thou alone can set me free: from all forms of danger free me and deliver me, that I may cry unto thee: Hail, O Bride without Bridegroom.
Epistle – Hebrews 4:14-5:6
Brethren, since we have a High Priest, Who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One Who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. Because of this he is bound to offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. And one does not take the honor upon himself, but he is called by God, just as Aaron was. So also Christ did not exalt Himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by Him Who said to Him, “Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee”; as He says also in another place, “Thou art a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”
Gospel – Mark 8:34-9:1
The Lord said, “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” And Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Kingdom of God come with power.”
Pearls from The Lenten Triodion
“With grateful souls let us accept the Fast: for by the power of the Spirit it makes the stubborn passions wither, and gives us strength to do the works of God; it makes our mind ascend to heaven, and gains for us the forgiveness of our sins from the God of all mercy.”
“Come, let us all greet the time of holy abstinence with cymbals and with songs of praise; for through the Fast spiritually we trample underfoot the serpent, from whom all evil takes its origin. Therefore let us cry with boldness unto Christ: Grant us, Savior, without condemnation to look upon Thy precious Cross and to venerate it, keeping joyful feast with psalms and hymns.”
“Gladdened by the Fast and greatly rejoicing in song, gaining mastery over all the passions through our prayers, let us trample underfoot the snares of the devil, and cry aloud with one accord to Christ: Count us worthy to look upon Thy Cross, in Thy compassion granting us great mercy.”
“Moses, having found in fasting a means of purification, spoke with God who alone is pure. O my soul, be purified by fasting, and so draw near to the God of love.”
“May the Fast bring light to our souls, O Lord, and do Thou count us worthy uncondemned and with rejoicing to behold Thy Cross, and to worship it with fear; and in Thy love for man grant us to attain Thy voluntary passion.”
“As we continue the joyful celebration of the Fast, we cry aloud: Keep us all in peace, O Lord, deliver us from every snare of the enemy, and in Thy surpassing love count us worthy to venerate with fear Thy precious Cross, through which Thou grantest to the inhabited earth Thy mercy, O Thou who alone art merciful.”
“O Cross of Christ, thou art our light, our holy token and ensign of victory. Make abstinence sweet for us and count us worthy to venerate thee.”
“Thy lifecreating Cross, O Lord, is my seal unto salvation: for by its virtue I overthrow the adversary and praise Thee as God mighty in power.”
Veneration of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross
The commemoration and ceremonies of the Third Sunday of Lent are closely parallel to the feasts of the Veneration of the Cross (Sept 14) and the Procession of the Cross (Aug 1). Not only does the Sunday of the Holy Cross prepare us for commemoration of the Crucifixion, but it also reminds us that the whole of Lent is a period when we are crucified with Christ.
As we have “crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24), and will have mortified ourselves during these forty days of the Fast, the precious and life-giving Cross is now placed before us to refresh our souls and encourage us who may be filled with a sense of bitterness, resentment, and depression. The Cross reminds us of the Passion of our Lord, and by presenting to us His example, it encourages us to follow Him in struggle and sacrifice, being refreshed, assured, and comforted. In other words, we must experience what the Lord experienced during His Passion - being humiliated in a shameful manner. The Cross teaches us that through pain and suffering we shall see the fulfillment of our hopes: the heavenly inheritance and eternal glory.
As they who walk on a long and hard way and are bowed down by fatigue find great relief and strengthening under the cool shade of a leafy tree, so do we find comfort, refreshment, and rejuvenation under the Life-giving Cross, which our Fathers “planted” on this Sunday. Thus, we are fortified and enabled to continue our Lenten journey with a light step, rested and encouraged.
Or, as before the arrival of the king, his royal standards, trophies, and emblems of victory come in procession and then the king appears in a triumphant parade, jubilant and rejoicing in his victory and filling those under him with joy, so does the Feast of the Cross precede the coming of our King, Jesus Christ. It warns us that He is about to proclaim His victory over death and appear to us in the glory of the Resurrection. His Life-Giving Cross is His royal scepter, and by venerating it we are filled with joy, rendering Him glory. Therefore, we become ready to welcome our King, who shall manifestly triumph over the powers of darkness.
The present feast is placed in the middle of Great Lent for another reason. The Fast can be likened to the spring of Marah whose waters the children of Israel encountered in the wilderness. This water was undrinkable due to its bitterness but became sweet when the Holy Prophet Moses dipped the wood into its depth. Likewise, the wood of the Cross sweetens the days of the Fast, which are bitter and often grievous because of our tears. Yet Christ comforts us during our course through the desert of the Fast, guiding and leading us by His hand to the spiritual Jerusalem on high by the power of His Resurrection.
Moreover, as the Holy Cross is called the Tree of Life, it is placed in the middle of the Fast, as the ancient tree of life was placed in the middle of the garden of Eden. By this, our Holy Fathers wished to remind us of Adam’s gluttony as well as the fact that through this Tree has condemnation been abolished. Therefore, if we bind ourselves to the Holy Cross, we shall never encounter death but shall inherit life eternal.