Happy feast! I'd like to share with you some of my favorite hymnography for today, which is when we celebrate the Cross.
O Lord, save Thy people,
and bless Thine inheritance!
Grant victories to the Orthodox Christians
over their adversaries;
and by virtue of Thy Cross,//
preserve Thy habitation!
This hymn was a sort of anthem for the Byzantine empire; the original in Greek says 'grant victories to Thy rulers over the barbarians', but as there are no more kings, we use different words in English. They still sing it that way in Greek.
O thrice-blessed Tree, on which Christ the King and Lord was stretched!
Through thee the one who deceived us through a tree has fallen,
caught by the bait of God, Who was nailed to thee in the flesh,//
and Who grants peace to our souls.
I'd like to note the phrase 'thrice-blessed Tree', and the fact that the Cross is honored in Orthodox hymnography. I was shocked the first time I heard my Protestant friends sing about 'the cursed tree' in reference to the Cross.
Come, all ye nations,
let us fall down in worship before the blessed Tree,
by which eternal justice has come to pass!
For he who deceived Adam by a Tree
is caught by the lure of the Cross;
and he who held under his tyranny the creature endowed by God with royal dignity
is brought down in a headlong fall.
The serpent’s venom is washed away by the blood of God,
and the curse of just condemnation is undone
when the Just One is condemned by an unjust judgment.
For it was fitting that the tree should be healed by a Tree,
and that by the Passion of the passionless God
what was wrought on the Tree should destroy the passions of man, who was condemned.
But glory to Thy dread dispensation for our sakes, O Christ the King,
through which Thou hast saved us all,//
since Thou art good and the Lover of man!
What more can I add? The nature of creation, marred by the Fall, has been restored by Christ.
Come, ye faithful, and let us venerate the life-giving Wood
on which Christ the King of Glory stretched out His hands of His own will
to the ancient blessedness He raised us up,
whom the enemy had before despoiled through pleasure
making us exiles far from God.
Come, ye faithful, and let us venerate the Wood
through which we have been counted worthy to crush the heads of our invisible enemies.
Come, all ye kindred of the nations,
and let us honor in hymns the Cross of the Lord:
“Hail, O Cross, complete redemption of fallen Adam!
With thee as their boast our faithful kings
laid low by thy might the people of Ishmael.
We Christians kiss thee now with awe,
and glorifying God Who was nailed upon thee, we cry:
‘O Lord, Who on the Cross wast crucified, have mercy upon us,//
for Thou art good and lovest mankind!’”
Magnify, O my soul, the most precious Cross of the Lord!
Thou art a mystical Paradise, O Theotokos,
who, though untilled, hast brought forth Christ;
through Him the life-bearing wood of the Cross was planted on earth.
Now at its Exaltation,
as we bow in worship before it, we magnify thee.
God is our king before the ages; He has worked salvation in the midst of the Earth!
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