4th Sunday of Fast (Number 1)

Ukrainian Orthodox Cross. Does your family have a Cross at home hanging on a wall?  You may ask why we should have a Cross at home.  From the earliest of times in Christian life, people reverenced the Cross and do so till this very day.  People wear a Cross on a chain on their chest, on their lapel clothing, the Cross is in and on their churches, on their books, and so forth.  The Cross is a sign of Christ’s Crucifixion where He died for our sins.  The Cross is a very similar article like the Holy Icons which are in our churches and where Christians have them in their homes.

Every year in Orthodox Churches the Cross is carried out twice at services, on the third Sunday of Fast(Lent) and on the Holy Day of the elevation of the Cross on September 27th.  Christians do not worship icons or the Cross, but they only reverence them.  The Cross is a very important part in the life of Christians.  Apostle Paul in his writings to the Corinthians says this about the Cross.

“For the preaching of the Cross is to them that perish foolishness; but onto us which are saved it is the power of God.”   (1 cor. 1:18)  Do you see what the Cross is to us: “the power of God,”  as Apostle Paul tells us. Apostle Paul had people who walked with him but some were enemies of the Cross as he weepingly tells us.

He says “For many walk of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the Cross of Christ.”  (Philppians 3:18)

The Ecumenical Councils(325-787 AD) mentioned about the Cross eleven times of different ways the Cross is to be honored and respected.  They say it is to be adorned only second after the Holy Gospel.  So we see what an important roll the Cross plays in a Christians life.  When a person is baptized the sign of the cross is used in anointing the one being baptized.  As the person continues in growth and becomes an adult, many times the sign of the Cross was made on the person.

When a person marries, a number of times the sign of the Cross is made over the couple.  As the person continues one’s life hundreds of times the sign of the Cross will be made upon that person. When finally the person reposes, the sign of the cross is made on the person in the casket. At the end of the service at the cemetery again the sign of the Cross is made in sealing the grave. Even after we die the sign of the Cross will still be made over our grave during the blessing of the grave when the priest, family members and congregation meet on the cemetery to pray and sing that “Christ is Risen.”

Why does our Cross look different than other Crosses?  There are different shapes of Crosses.  There are the Greek Cross, Roman Cross, and many other crosses, but only the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has what we call “The Three barred Cross.”  “Three barred” means three bars across one vertical bar.  Crucifixion was a severe punishment for grave sins.  A number of reasons for the three bars are.

1.  The top short bar had the name of the person and why the person was crucified written on it.

2.  Christ’s hands were nailed to the long bar.  But it’s the angle bar that most people are baffled why it is as it is.  For this slanted bar there are also a few reasons.

A.  For a person to suffer more and prolong his life, a piece of board was nailed to the vertical bar and the crucified person somewhat stood on this bar.  Because of the pain that Christ endured, He lifted up His Right Leg and the board twisted into a slant as we see it on the Cross.

B.  Historical roots show us that Apostle Andrew wanted to go to Rome, so he went on the Black Sea and up the Dnieper River.  There he stopped for the night.  In the morning he went to the top of the banks and looked around and said: “One day a great city will arise here and many churches will be built here.”  Those prophetical words have been fulfilled where Kyiv the capital city of Ukraine stands today.  Apostle Andrew was crucified upside down on a Cross in the form of an “X”.  For three days and nights he hung on the Cross.  One of the bars of Saint Andrew’s Cross “X” is the bar on the Cross to tell us that Apostle Andrew is the Patron Saint of Ukraine.

C.  The third reason is that on each side of Christ there were two robbers crucified.  The robber on Christ’s right repented for his sins and asked Christ to be in Heaven with Him.  The thief on Christ’s left was blaspheming Christ and as we would say today: “making fun of Christ.”  This bar tells us that if we repent for our sins we likewise will go to heaven as the bar points heaven ward.  If we do not repent we will go to hades or hell as we say, in the way the bar on Christ’s left points – downward to hell.

“But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord: He is their strength in the time of trouble.” (Ps.37:39)