Holy Cross – 14 September 2020

This cross was discovered during an excavation of an alley close to the ancient western gate of Pliska, original capital of Bulgaria. Its origins are in Byzantium, from where the Christian faith travelled to Bulgaria. It was made in the 9th century, and folds together to make one pendant cross that would have hung around the neck, but here it is shown unfolded.

One of the central sections shows Christ crucified. It contained a tiny sliver of wood, which could be seen through the slits following the body and arms of Christ. This gold cross then revealed a fragment of what was believed to be the true cross.

On the other side (separate here) are the Virgin and Child, Nicholas of Myra, John Chrysostom, Basil of Caesarea, and Gregory of Nazianzos. Embedded in the fragment of wood are specks of bone, most likely from the bodily remains of these saints.

The internal cross is encased in a gold cross of two sides depicting scenes from the life of Christ: the Annunciation, Nativity, Presentation, Baptism and Transfiguration on one side, and the Resurrection and Ascension on the other.

The one who wore this would have carried with them the whole story of salvation, told in image and relics, inspiring prayer and devotion. The purpose was to lead to a deep veneration (not worship) of the cross of Christ. Wearing such an object assisted in the movement towards personal redemption: ‘as we have borne the image of the man of dust (Adam), we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven’, says 1 Cor 15:49. The fragments of the True Cross were considered to be especially spiritually potent because they were suffused with the dual nature of Christ.

 

 

Almighty God,
who in the passion of your blessed Son
made an instrument of painful death
to be for us the means of life and peace:
grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ
that we may gladly suffer for his sake;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Common Worship, Collect of Holy Cross

 

who, though he (Christ Jesus) was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:6-11

Faithful God,
whose Son bore our sins in his body on the tree
and gave us this sacrament to show forth his death until he comes:
give us grace to glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
for he is our salvation, our life and our hope,
who reigns as Lord, now and for ever.

Common Worship, Post Communion Prayer, Holy Cross