4th Week of Great Lent v Friday

Old Testament references to the Cross.

During the entire fourth week of Great Lent, the precious cross is a
constant subject of the services. 

This is typical of the way we celebrate our feasts. It is not ?one and
done¦, like so many people, in (lamentably) and out of the church tend
to mark Christian holidays: there is always a period after a
commemoration where we continue to ruminate on its implications in our

For instance, we consider the time of Pascha to not only include the
Sunday of Pascha, but the entire week following (?Bright Week¦), through
Saturday, is considered to be as one day v for us ?Pascha¦ is a week
long feast. Since Pascha is the greatest of feasts, we continue to refer
to it and use Paschal hymns all the way until the Ascension v a full
forty days. In like manner, although not for as long a period, there are
?after feast- periods for all the great feasts the church celebrates. 

This week is the period after the celebration of the precious cross on
the 3rd Sunday of Great Lent. Our hymnology this week is particularly
filled with OT references to the cross, some of which may seem obscure
to those who are not well versed in the Orthodox understanding of the
scriptures and our services. 

In the following examples, a hymn for the services of today is quoted,
followed by the scriptures it references. 

Today the words of the prophet are fulfilled; for see, we worship at the
place where Thy feet have stood, O Lord; and, tasting from the tree of
salvation, we have been delivered from our sinful passions at the
intercessions of the Theotokos, O Thou Who lovest mankind (Sessional
Hymn, Friday matins in the 4th week, Tone 6) 

Let us enter into his tabernacles: let us worship at the place where his
feet stood. Psalm 132:7  (131:7)

Exalt ye the Lord our God, and worship at his footstool; for he is holy.
Psalm 99:5  (98:5)

I always think of this prophesy when I prostrate before the cross. There
are two kinds of prostrations: penitential, and adoration. Most of the
time we are making a prostration in a penitential manner. We are
remembering that we are sinners, and the physical act of getting on the
ground and then back up is a non verbal prayer, whose basic content can
be summed up as ?Lord have mercy¦. 

A prostration before the cross is different. We are ?worshipping at His
footstool¦, with profound gratefulness and awareness of the
resurrection. In this context, going down reminds us of death, and
getting back up is a physical proclamation of the resurrection. Things
will not always be as they are; we will someday get up and stay up, and
all this is possible because of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Many Protestant commentators totally miss the Messianic context of these
Psalms. They are smart people, and very learned, and no doubt many are
sincere believers, but they have learned things outside of the eternal
wisdom of the church. We in the church have understood these Psalm
verses to be a reference to the cross over two millennia! 

In the middle of the fast we see exalted in our midst the precious
cross, on which Thou wast lifted up by Thine own choice in the middle of
the earth, O Lord supreme in goodness and love. Through its veneration
the world is sanctified and the hosts of demons put to flight. (Matins
Canon, Ode 4, 4th Friday of Great Lent) 

But God is our King of old; he has wrought salvation in the midst of the
earth. Psalm 74:12  (73:12)

When our Lord was put upon the cross, it was thrust into the ?midst of
the earth¦ in order to stand upright. The Psalms are full of obscure
references to Christ and the cross like this one. This reference is not
?intuitively obvious¦ to the casual observer, but it is a theme that is
repeated many times in our services throughout the year. 

We must read the scriptures; this book should not gather any dust in
your house! We also must also read the scriptures with understanding.
One a few are scholars and have the time, temperament, education and
resources to search out the Holy Fathers for scripture commentary. We
all have the time to stand in prayer in the holy services, and listen
and learn. It-s all there, in our services, for those who will stand
still, like Elias, and have ears to hear the wonderful story of our
salvation, recounted in many different ways. 

Thou was crucified, O Son of God, on the pine, the cedar and the
cypress; Sanctify us all, and count us worthy to look upon Thy
life-giving passion (Matins canon, Ode 4, 4th Friday of Great Lent)

And the glory of Lebanon shall come to thee, with the cypress, and pine,
and cedar together, to glorify my holy place. Isaiah 60:13  

Here is one of the most obscure references to the cross in all of
scripture, and here also is another ?name¦ we have for our Lord Jesus
Christ: ?the glory of Lebanon¦. 

The Hebrew version of the scriptures makes this prophesy even more
exact, by adding the words ?I will make the place of my feet glorious¦.
I am not sure why there is this textual difference between the
Septuagint (which is quoted above and used in our services) and the
Masoretic text (the Hebrew text translated into ?typical¦  English
bibles, such as the King James, Revised Standard, etc). This does not
really matter; I have the holy services to guide me and teach me about
the holy scriptures. Maybe after I get a doctorate in Hebrew and Greek I
will look into this textual question!


Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.       HYPERLINK "http://www.orthodox.net/"
 St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas 



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