Solemnity of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
On Sunday, September 16, 2012 the Armenian Church will celebrate the Feast of the
Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This celebration is one of the five major feasts
of the Church (DAGHAVAR), and the most important of the four feasts of the Holy
The cross is a source of great pride for Armenians as a KHATCHAGIR-or
“cross-bearing”-nation and people. Over the centuries, Armenians have
borne Christ’s cross with faith, hope, and love. What was once an instrument of
torture and death became for Christians the symbol of salvation, and victory
over death because Jesus was crucified on the Cross.
The Exaltation refers to the elevation (Exaltation) of the True Cross on which
Christ was crucified. According to church tradition, the cross was elevated for
veneration on three different occasions. It was first elevated by St. James the
Apostle, the first Bishop of Jerusalem, who lifted the cross with the words,
“We bow before Your cross, O Christ”-a hymn still used in the
The second occasion involved the discovery of the cross after a period of some 300
years. In 326 A.D., Queen Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, traveled
to Jerusalem to identify the holy places associated with Christ’s life. She
authenticated the True Cross by placing upon it the body of a recently deceased
youth, who was miraculously raised to life.
The third occasion came in the 7th century, when the Persians had seized the cross
of Jesus after conquering the city of Jerusalem. Leading a coalition of forces,
including Armenians, the Emperor Heraclius recaptured the cross and, en route
to Jerusalem, passed with it through Armenia, where the cross was repeatedly
raised up and venerated.