13 September is the eve of the Feast of the Glorious Cross. The feast marks the beginning of the final liturgical season of the Maronite year.
The feast originated after Saint Helen found the True Cross of Christ when she was on a pilgrimage to the Holy lands. Born in the 3rd Century, St Helen converted to Christianity and was the mother of the Emperor Constantine who was the first Christian Emperor of Rome.
In the Hoosoyo of the liturgy of the feast we are reminded that the Holy Cross is the instrument of our salvation. The instrument of death became the life-giving tree. The wood of Adam’s tree of sin became Christ’s tree of life.
After converting to Christianity, Saint Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to search for the cross used in the Crucifixion. She positioned groups of believers on all of the hilltops between Constantinople and Jerusalem. During the search, she found three crosses down in the valley between the hills. To verify which Cross belonged to Jesus, Saint Helena brought sick people with her. Each sick person touched the crosses and it was when the sick person touched the third one and was healed that she knew it was the True Cross. She lit a bonfire as a signal which was then passed to Constantine with bonfires on all the hills.
In Maronite and Eastern tradition, on the night of the feast, huge bonfires and candles illuminate houses and villages as far as the eye can see. Bonfires are lit on mountains and in villages, huge crosses with lights are hung and candles in sandbags are placed around the houses.
It is a wonderful tradition to teach our children and is one which you can prepare for the eve of the feast the night of 12 September. You can light candles and place them around your house and teach your children of the triumph of light over darkness!
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