March 23, 2023

Mid-Lent: Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross

Just as we have the more well-known Feast of Mid-Pentecost during period of the Pentecostarion, half way between Easter and Pentecost, so also we have the Feast of Mid-Lent, which is the half way point on the third Sunday of Great Lent.

During Matins in the fourth week of Great Lent, we chant the following hymns:

In the middle of the Fast, the all-revered Wood, all are invited to venerate, who worthily come with their passions, to the passion of Christ. Come all you faithful, let us venerate the Wood, the awful mystery.

Midway on the road of the Fast, the day of the carrying of your honorable Cross, was seen by Abraham and he rejoiced, when the mountain was as a tomb, which received Isaac alive, may it please you to also rescue us faithful from the enemy, to partake in your secret Supper, crying out in peace: our Illuminator and Savior, glory to you.

We climbed with painful sorrow the great mountain of fasting and reached the middle of the course. We made the decision to sacrifice everything, small joys and pleasures to appease the Lord, as Abraham hastened with pain but also fear of God to carry out his act of faith. And behold, in the middle of the mountain of sacrifice, we see the Cross and on it the Lord saying to us: "Behold! Rejoice because I sacrificed myself for you and freed you from tyranny and I become an gracious to those who follow me!"

And thus strengthened and filled with the joy that Abraham had on that day of his redemption, we look, not far off now to the glorious Day of Resurrection to shine forth and espouse the common Hope.

History and Purpose of Mid-Lent

On March 21, 629, Tuesday of the fourth week of Great Lent, the emperor Heraclius handed over the holy Cross that the Persians had stolen to Saint Modestos, Patriarch of Jerusalem. Then the Feast of the Veneration of the Cross was instituted for the third Sunday of Great Lent. (cf. St. Savvas 366 anthology 13th cent. f. 22v.)

On the special day of Mid-Lent, the veneration of the Cross and a vigil took place, according to the Evergetis Typikon of Constantinople in the 12th century. The kontakion of this day foreshadows what is to come on Great Friday:

No longer does the flaming sword guard the gate of Eden, for a marvelous quenching is come upon it, even the Tree of the Cross. The sting has been taken from death, and the victory from Hades. And, You, my Savior, has appeared unto those in Hades saying: Enter again into Paradise.

Setting up the Cross in the middle of Great Lent, as we struggle in the stadium of virtues with ascetic toil and fasting, we withdraw to remember what the purpose is all about, to carry our cross and be crucified with Christ as the Lord carried His and voluntary offered Himself as a sacrifice.

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