The Procession of the Cross


This coming Sunday (the 1st of August by the Church calendar) is the feast of the Procession of the Cross in the Byzantine Rite. It is one of the few occasions in the year when, at the Divine Liturgy, the Trisagion is replaced by the hymn:

Before thy Cross we bow down, O Master, and thy Holy Resurrection we glorify!
This feast has not fallen on a Sunday since I have been Orthodox, and, being part of a small mission parish with a working priest, I have never celebrated this feast in Church. Indeed, despite knowing of its existence in the calendar of the Church, I have never really known what it is about. So, in preparing this Sunday's Liturgy, I thought I would do a little exploration. Here is the explanation of the feast by one Fr S. Janos, taken from my Holy Trinity calendar iPhone app:
In the Greek Chasoslov (Orologion) of 1897 is explained thus the derivation of this feast: "By reason of the sicknesses, often everywhere occurring in August, from of old customarily it was done at Constantinople to carry out the Venerable Wood of the Cross along the roads and streets for the sanctifying of places and for the driving away of sicknesses. On the eve (31 July), carrying it out from the imperial treasury, they placed it upon the holy table of the Great Church (in honour of Saint Sophia – the Wisdom of God). From this feastday up to the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God, making litia throughout all the city, they then placed it forth for all the people to venerate. This also is the Issuing-forth of the Venerable Cross". In the Russian Church this feast is combined also with a remembrance of the Baptism of Rus', on 1 August 988. In the "Account about the making of services in the holy catholic and apostolic great church of the Uspenie-Dormition", compiled in 1627 by order of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus' Philaret, there is provided suchlike an explanation of the feast: "And on the day of the procession of the Venerable Cross there occurs 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 XVI Century: "The Baptism of Great-prince Vladimir of Kiev and all Rus' was on August 1". In the practice now of the Russian Church, the service of the Lesser Sanctification of Water on 1 August is done either before or after Liturgy. Together with the Blessing of Waters, there is made a Blessing of Honey (i.e. first-honey for the Saviour: "Saviour of the Water", "Saviour Moisture" [apparently in place of the vinegar and gall offered Him on the Cross?]). And from this day the newly harvested honey is blessed and tasted.
While August may no longer be a time particularly associated with various ailments, there is no time that our souls and bodies are not in need of healing, and when due honour is not due to the Saviour and the precious and life-giving Cross on which He died, and now that the Cross has become for Christians a sign of life rather than death, I particularly love the offering of sweet honey as a replacement and even a reparation for the bitter gall.

So I have purchased my honey and I thoroughly look forward to this Sunday, urging as many of you as possible to join in this celebration.

6 responses:

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

Michael, I didn't know about this either - thanks for the illumination :-)

Jon Marc said...

I don't think I paid this particular feast much attention until I heard it was the feast day for the Vashon or Wayne Monastery (whichever :-) ).

Apparently the Moscow Eparchy's going to revive this custom of processing with the cross, though I don't know whether it's just on the feast or throughout the fast as is said above. The cross in Moscow will be made entirely of materials from Palestine and include 16 (?) relics from the Holy Land.

In Russian: http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/1596243.html

Lector Orientalis said...

Actually—according to every source that I have consulted—, the Trisagion is NOT replaced by anything else on 1st August. According to that ultimate authority Nikolsky, for instance, “Before Thy Cross…” is only sung on two occasions in the year: the Sunday of the Cross (the Third Sunday of Lent) and the Great Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, on 14th September.

Michael said...

You're very welcome, Elizabeth. :-)

Jon Marc, that's fantastic news. I read the piece in translation and the Cross sounds as though it will be a wonderful thing. I wish we could see video footage at some point of this taking place.

Lector Orientalis, welcome! Yes, I think you're right. I have somebody's home-produced sluzhebnik which indicates that the 1st of August is among the dates when the Trisagion is replaced, which is where I got the idea from some time ago. However, somebody asked me last night for some more detailed rubrics for the feast and, upon checking the Order of Divine Services, I saw that it specified quite the opposite. Also, Fr John Whiteford's website, which would usually indicate such a replacement, is silent. So I posted to the Yahoo Ustav list last night to ask for clarification, though I have only now awoken and haven't yet checked for a response.

Michael said...

Hmmm. This is interesting.

I have had a response on the Ustav list from Deacon Sergius Miller. Among the reasons he gives for the Trisagion not being replaced by "Before thy Cross" is that it is not a Great Feast of the Cross. Well, neither is the Third Sunday of Lent but we sing "Before thy Cross" on that occasion instead of the Trisagion, so that doesn't really seem a convincing reason.

Also, in addition to the aforementioned sluzhebnik, I have checked and found that the pertinent rubric in Fr Andrew Phillips' Sluzhebnik for the Episcopal Liturgy also indicates that this replacing is to take place on the 1st of August. It may come from his experience in the Western European Diocese or local custom elsewhere. I suppose there's also the possibility that it could have been an innocent mistake but the various drafts of the book were vetted extensively by Deacon Eugene Kallaur and two residents of the Jordanville monastery, as well as Archbishop Mark himself, with corrections and other modifications being sent back each time, and none of them suggested that this should be changed. In any case, Archbishop Mark has given his blessing to the publication of the book and its contents. Taking that as local episcopal authority, I'll leave the choir outline for this Sunday's Liturgy as it is, with "Before thy Cross" sung instead of the Trisagion.

Besides all of which, it's pretty and I like it. :-)

Jon Marc said...

I'm a fan m'self - English or Slavonic, it's a beautiful hymn and a moving addition to the festal Divine Liturgy :-).

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