Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross

Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross

Sunday of the Adoration of the Holy Cross,
Sunday of the Cross

Both Western and Eastern Christians mark the middle of Lent with special services. Roman Catholics and others who follow the Western liturgical calendar celebrate the third Sunday in Lent as Laetare Sunday. Orthodox and other Eastern Christians observe the Veneration of the Holy Cross on the third full Sunday in their Lenten season (see also Easter, Date of).

Orthodoxy is one of the three main branches of the Christian faith. Orthodox Christianity developed in eastern Europe and the countries surrounding the eastern half of the Mediterranean Sea. Orthodox Christians follow a different church calendar than that commonly adhered to by Western Christians, that is, by Roman Catholics and Protestants.

The Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross kicks off the fourth week of Orthodox Lent and marks the halfway point in this season of fasting, prayer, and charity. Sunday morning religious services focus on the meaning of the cross. During church services a cross is carried to the center of the church and surrounded by the smoke of burning incense. Worshipers come forward to bow before the cross and kiss it. Parishioners are reminded of Jesus' single-minded determination to carry out his mission on earth, ending with his death on the cross. The cross therefore serves worshipers as a symbol of Christ's steadfastness. In addition, it represents Christ's offer of salvation, made through his sacrificial death and resurrection (see also Redemption; Sin). Thus the cross stands not only for death but also for new life. It thereby recalls both the Easter message and the promise of the Easter feast that crowns the strenuous Lenten season. The cross remains in the middle of the church throughout the following week. Parishioners may continue to focus their devotions on it, thereby finding the strength to continue their Lenten disciplines (for a similar custom practiced by Western Christians, see Veneration of the Cross).

Further Reading

Rouvelas, Marilyn. A Guide to Greek Traditions and Customs in America. Bethesda, MD: Nea Attiki Press, 1993. Wybrew, Hugh. Orthodox Lent, Holy Week and Easter. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1997.

Web Site

"Sundays of Lent," a document describing Orthodox Lenten services, posted on the Orthodox Church in America web site: