On the Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross

The third Sunday of Great Lent is also called the “Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross.” It is strategically placed at this point of Great Lent for several reasons, and offers us the opportunity to refocus on where we are headed during the Lenten season. Let us prepare our hearts for the Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross, and help our children to prepare their hearts as well.

The synaxarion for the third Sunday of Great Lent begins, “Let all the earth venerate the Cross, through which it has learned to worship Thee, the Word.” Do our children understand what it means to venerate the cross? Before we go to the Divine Liturgy on the Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross, let us talk with our children again about veneration. The conversation could include this:

1. What is veneration? (It is a way to use our bodies to show that we respect and honor something or someone because of the way that Christ has shone through it/them. The love and respect that we show by veneration does not go to the person or object that we are venerating, but to Christ Himself, because it is His holiness that we are honoring, as modeled/exemplified in what/who we are reverencing.)

2. How do we physically venerate something? (There are different ways to do so, including kissing, bowing, and prostrating. Sometimes we venerate something or someone with a combination of these.)

3. There are several times in the year when we venerate the Cross. Why do we venerate the Cross of Christ on this Sunday? (The Synaxarion says, “Since during the forty days of the Fast we are also in a way crucified, mortified to the passions, contrite, abased and despondent, the precious and life-giving Cross is offered to us as refreshment and confirmation, calling to mind the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ and comforting us. If our God was crucified for our sake, how great should be our effort for His sake, since our afflictions have been assuaged through the Lord’s tribulations, and by the commemoration and the hope of the Cross of glory. For as our Savior in ascending the Cross was glorified through dishonor and grief, so should we also endure our sorrows, in order to be glorified with Him. Also, as those who have traveled a long hard road, weighed down by the labors of their journey, in finding a shady tree, take their ease for a moment and then continue their journey rejuvenated, so now in this time of the Fast, this sorrowful and laborious journey, the Holy Fathers have planted the life-giving Cross, for our relief and refreshment, to encourage and make easier the labors that lie ahead. Or as when there is a royal procession, the king’s scepter and banners precede him, and then he then himself appears, radiant and joyous in his victory, causing his subjects to rejoice with him. So then our Lord Jesus Christ, desiring to show His sure victory over death and His glory on the day of the Resurrection, sends His scepter before Himself, the sign of His kingship, the life-giving Cross, to gladden and refresh us, as it greatly fortifies and enables us to be prepared to receive the King with all possible strength, and to praise Him in His radiant victory.” In other words, the Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross is at this point in Lent to encourage us to persevere in our efforts to put to death our passions; to refresh us and rejuvenate us in the shadow of the cross; and to hold it up before us all as Christ’s victory banner.)

The reasons for the placement of the Veneration of the Holy Cross that are mentioned in the Synaxarion are great word pictures for us to share with our children. They can understand the need to rest in the shade of a tree on a hot day and the sheer joy of raising up a banner in triumph. The Synaxarion for the Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross continues to show us why this Sunday was chosen for the veneration of the Holy Cross, as it goes on to remind us of two stories in the Old Testament Scriptures, as well:

  1. The Synaxarion reminds us of the story in Exodus 15: 23-25: “The Fast is like a bitter source because of our contrition and the sadness and sorrow for sin that it brings. And as Moses plunged the branch in the bitter waters of Marah, making them sweet, so God, Who has led us through the spiritual Red Sea away from Pharaoh, through the life-giving wood of the precious and life-giving Cross, sweetens the bitterness of the Forty Day Fast, and comforts us as those who were in the wilderness, up until the time when by His Resurrection He will lead us to the spiritual Jerusalem.”
  2. It also alludes to Genesis 3: “And since the Cross is called, and indeed is, the Tree of Life, it is the very tree that was planted in the Garden of Eden. So it is fitting that the Holy Fathers have planted the Tree of the Cross in the middle of the Forty Day Fast to commemorate both Adam’s tasting of its sweet fruit and of its being taken from us in favor of the Tree of the Cross, tasting of which we shall in no way die, but will have even greater life.”

Reviewing all of these stories and “word pictures” will help us and our children to be more ready to venerate the Holy Cross. Let us also take a moment to practice the act of veneration with our children, so that they will know what to do and be better able to fully participate in this important day. Together, let us all venerate the Cross of our Lord and God and Savior.

“Oh Lord, save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance,

Granting to Thy people victory over all their enemies,

And by the power of Thy cross

Preserving Thy Kingdom!”


The following are additional resources regarding the Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross:


Learn more about the Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross here: http://lent.goarch.org/sunday_of_the_cross/learn/


Read an excerpt from Alexander Schmemann’s Great Lent on the Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross here: http://www.antiochian.org/great-lent-excerpts/mid-lent


Listen to the Gospel reading for the Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross. It’s told in easier language for younger children here: http://audio.ancientfaith.com/letusattend/2015-03-15-Mk08-Younger-B.mp3 and read for older children here: http://audio.ancientfaith.com/letusattend/2015-03-15-Mk08-Older-B.mp3. Find accompanying printable handouts here: http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/2015-03-15-b.pdf


Fr. Thomas Hopko offers a podcast reflection of the Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross here: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/hopko/sunday_of_the_cross


Craft a fancy “flowered” display for one of your family’s crosses as demonstrated here: http://craftycontemplative.com/2012/03/22/lenten-spring/


Send a fellow Orthodox Christian an e-card of the Holy Cross, encouraging him/her to press on through this Lenten season. http://www.iconograms.org/sig.php?eid=1083

1 thought on “On the Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross

  1. Pingback: Lenten Sundays Series: The Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross | Orthodox Christian Sunday Church School Teachers

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