Lift High the Cross

By Marshall, Dan | The World and I, October 1998 | Go to article overview

Lift High the Cross


Marshall, Dan, The World and I


Every September, in a sacred space in upstate New York, a man lifts a wooden cross above his head. It is a simple act, unremarkable when viewed out of context. Yet for the hundreds of Russian Orthodox clergy, monastics, and laity gathered in the cathedral of Holy Trinity Monastery, near Jordanville, New York, it is a grand gesture, full of spiritual power, theological significance, and historical resonance.

Beneath ten gold onion domes topped with crosses, inside walls abundantly frescoed with icons of saints, a rolling chorus of "Lord, have mercy" is sung five hundred times in Old Church Slavonic (the Russian Orthodox liturgical language). Robed in splendid vestments, priests, deacons, and altar boys are gathered around a solid black semicircle of more than fifty Russian-and American-born monks and seminarians. All center on Abbot Laurus--an archbishop of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia--who celebrates the zenith of a service formally known as the Exaltation of the Precious and Life-giving Cross of the Lord.

One of the twelve holiest events in the Orthodox liturgical calendar, the Exaltation of the Cross was established more than fifteen hundred years ago and is celebrated on September 27 according to the Gregorian calendar (September 14 by the Orthodox Church's Julian calendar). It commemorates Empress Helen's finding--in A.D. 326--of what was declared to be the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified. Helen was the mother of Constantine, the first Roman emperor to actively support Christianity after almost three centuries of severe persecution and official neglect.

The Exaltation of the Cross and many other Orthodox traditions throve in Byzantium, spread to Russia, and were finally brought to America, where places such as Holy Trinity Monastery sustain them. When Archbishop Laurus raises the foot-tall cross wreathed with dozens of red carnations, white chrysanthemums, and yellow marigolds, he proclaims not only the salvific crucifixion of Jesus Christ but the eternal victory of Christ's church over its enemies, be they pagan emperors or communist dictators.

A spiritual hospital

Tucked amid fields, forests, and rolling hills, Holy Trinity Monastery stands on U.S. soil but occupies a psychological space far from rural America. The pleasant aroma of incense in church and presence of bearded monks wearing mantias (full-length capes) indicate the Eastern spiritual mind-set. Cyrillic letters on signs and the borscht served at lunch hint at the monastery's Russian roots. "This is a little glimpse of a thousand years of Russian Orthodox monastic tradition," says Father George, gesturing to the yellow brick and dark green roofs of the cathedral, seminary building, and monastic dormitory.

A convert to Orthodoxy, he came to the monastery in 1975. "Monastic life is not peace and quiet like people think," he warns. "It is leaving the temptations of the world to come face-to-face with your own shortcomings."

Monks wear black, don't cut their hair, drop their family names, and are given a new first name when tonsured to emphasize their separation from this world. "In the Roman Catholic Church, the Garden of Eden was a supernatural state; this life is considered a natural state," explains the father, who is both a priest and a monk. "In Orthodoxy, this is a fallen life; the natural state was Adam in paradise. The point of monasticism is to return to that state."

As the Orthodox understand it, the path back to paradise was first charted by the Mother of God, Saint John the Baptist, and the Apostles Paul, John, and James, who took vows of virginity and devoted themselves to continual prayer, fasting, and work. Other early Christians followed their examples without setting themselves apart from society.

When Emperor Constantine brought Orthodoxy from the margins of Roman society to its center in the third century, some Christians became concerned that this change might dilute the faith. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Lift High the Cross
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.