Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Mid-Lent and Feast of Holy Cross (phelgo d-sawmo)

The Wednesday of the fourth week of the fast marks the middle of the Lent (phelgo d-sawmo) and the Feast of the Holy Cross in our Syrian Orthodox Church. What is the significance and importance of the Mid-Lent? Why is our church celebrating it on the 4thWednesday during the Great Lent? On this day in middle of Great Lent, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Cross. As we all know, the New Testament is the display of the hidden truths of the Old Testament. In addition, we can see in the Old Testament many shadows of the events of the New Testament. For example, the sacrifice of Isaac on Mount Moriah is considered to be the shadow of the sacrifice on Mount Calvary. Jesus is the only One Who came down from heaven and knows what transpired there.

According to today's Bible readings, the Israelites, led by Moses, were on their way to the Promised Land. When they had no water to drink or bread to eat, they fought against God and His servant Moses. But because of Moses’ prayers and intercessions, God blessed the Israelites with Manna and Birds’ meat. Despite being provided adequate food, they continued to speak against God. When Moses had to stay with God for 40 days on top of the mountain, the Israelites became impatient, said bad things about Moses, and started to discredit God’s name. They gathered their gold ornaments and made a golden calf, making it their object of worship. The Lord God become very angry and sent fiery serpents, biting the Israelites; many of them died. Terrified at God’s vengeance, they came to Moses and said; we have sinned and spoken against the Lord, and pleaded with him to pray to the Lord so that the serpents will be taken away from them. Moses prayed for the people, and God said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent and set it upon a pole, and anyone who has been bitten can look at it and shall live". According to God's command, Moses made a brass serpent, put it upon a pole, and all those who looked at it were saved. Indeed, Moses' golden serpent was a symbol of Christ's cross.

On this day, according to our faith, we erect the "N'ortho", which identifies Golgotha in the middle of the church, so that all who come inside the church could meditate on the Cross, the symbol of Christ’s crucifixion and death. It is believed that Jesus Christ was crucified at the very center of earth so that everybody could see what He did so that we might be saved. When we look at the cross, we get cured from all our spiritual illnesses.

During the middle of Holy Qurbana,  priest takes the cross from the "N'ortho" and brings it up to the altar. There will be a special service to celebrate the elevation of the Holy Cross. The adoration of the Cross in the middle of Great Lent is to remind the faithful in advance of the Crucifixion of Christ. The passages read this day repeat the calling of the Christian by Christ to dedicate his life, for "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Christ)" (v. 34-35). This verse clearly indicates the kind of dedication which is needed by the Christian in three steps: To renounce his arrogance and disobedience to God's Plan, To lift up his personal cross (the difficulties of life) with patience, faith and the full acceptance of the Will of God without complaint that the burden is too heavy; having denied himself and lifted up his cross leads him to the, Decision to follow Christ.

These three voluntary steps are three links which cannot be separated from each other, because the main power to accomplish them is the Grace of God, which man always invokes. The Adoration of the Cross is expressed by the faithful through prayer, fasting, almsgiving and the forgiveness of the trespasses of others. On this Wednesday the Adoration of the Cross is commemorated with a special service following the Divine Liturgy in which the significance of the Cross is that it leads to the Resurrection of Christ.

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