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Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross   The cross we are looking at in this icon is the cross where our Lord suffered and died.  The icon represents the moving and historic event which took place in A.D. 326 in Jerusalem, and it is St. Macarius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, who is lifting the cross so that all of us may say “Lord, have mercy.”  Furthermore, the story involves the Emperor Constantine (306-337) and his holy mother, St. Helen.  In the 20th year of his reign over Rome, Constantine sent his mother to find Lord’s cross, along with other missions.  Following what was said among the faithful, Helen found three buried crosses! Out of these three, one had the sign “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” (Luke 23:38) at the top.  The other two crosses were where the two thieves were crucified. (Luke 23:39-43).  To make sure that cross was the cross of Jesus, the Patriarch let a dying woman touch it and witnessed her being healed immediately and coming back to life. ​ The familiar background shows that this is happening in a Jerusalem, quite possibly the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which St. Helen had built on the site of Jesus’s crucifixion and her son Constantine dedicated.  Even these days in Jerusalem, the Stations of the Cross end at the spot where the exaltation of the cross took place through St. Macarius, surrounded by many bishops on the right side, and St. Helene, St. Constantine, and women of Jerusalem on the left side.  Above them, deacons are holding candles.  Note that the cross has three bars:  The first short one has the sign “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” the middle long bar is where Jesus’s hands were nailed, and the third short one is for the foot-rest.     Here, St. Macarius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, is raising up the life-giving cross to the whole world.  The ceremony not only celebrates the finding of the cross but also provides us with a solemn occasion to remind us Christians of the meaning and the victory of the cross.  On the day of the Feast, worshippers venerate the cross at the end of the ceremony.   Everybody is looking upward to follow the cross the Patriarch is lifting.  The icon is well-focused; hence, we also cannot help raising our eyes and hearts to the cross.  It is a truly precious and it is a truly life-saving cross, because He died on this cross!  Yes, it is one of the most mysterious paradoxes in human history: “Because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world.” 

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