On the Third Sunday of Great and Holy Lent, the Orthodox Church commemorates the Precious and Life-Giving Cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Services include a special veneration of the Cross, which prepares the faithful for the commemoration of the Crucifixion during Holy Week.
A small church in the viallage of Ambelokipi has been busy preparing their cross in true Zakynthian style. Laden with violets and wild flowers, in which the ladies of the village have collected, some bring their violets to lay before the icons around the church and the smell of the flowers within the church walls lets us know the the Resurrection will soon play a role in every Zakynthian’s heart.
Tomorrow , being that day you will see Zakynthians return home after the church service with the bunch of wild violets and lavender in hand. These are usually placed on their icons, some also place them around the house as well in vases.
The History of this celebration:-
the Cross of salvation is taken into precession around the Church. The flowers are chosen because as first flowers of spring, the time when nature is reborn, they remind us of Resurrection.
The third Sunday of Lent, the midpoint of this great annual exercise, is dedicated by the Holy Fathers to the celebration of the Holy Cross. The explanation rests in the Synaxarion of the day: “since the Holy Cross is also called the tree of life, and this tree has been planted in the center of Paradise, in the same way the Holy Fathers have planted the tree of the Cross in the center of the Great Lent
The Holy Cross has a central place not only during Lent, but also has a central role in Orthodox daily life. You will often see Greeks make upon themselves the sign of the Cross in the name of the Holy Trinity every time they pray, enter the Church, venerate an icon or participate in the Holy Liturgy. In everything they do they take the Cross with them for protection and salvation.
Paradoxically the Cross, an ancient instrument of torture and death radiates life into the world. This may seem odd to the uninitiated observer, but for Greeks, as Christians they know that at the intersection of its two arms rests the Giver of Life, the maker of the Universe, accepting death so we can receive life.
The tradition says that when the saint empress Helen went to find the Holy Cross in Jerusalem she unearthed three crosses from the pagan temple of Venus. Trying to decide which one is the true cross of our Savior,they brought a sick woman to touch the three crosses. When she touched the true Cross, she immediately recovered and the True Cross was therefore revealed. This is the power of the Cross, transformed from an object of death in a fountain of immortality through the one that sacrificed Himself on it.
Tomorrow, Zakynthians will wish you well, being in Great Lent, the dish of the day in most homes, with be the Zakynthian dish of Octopus in tomato based sauce, served with short macaroni, a truely delicious dish that even in lent you will no doubt be licking your fingers.