Feast of the Holy Cross

The twentieth year of the reign of Emperor Constantine, hailed the consecration of the Church,the Sanctuary and the grave of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be praise, in the holy city of Jerusalem, and of all the holy places which ‘Eleni (Helena), the empress, laid bare.  Constantine had gathered together then the Council of Three Hundred and Eighteen Saints in the city of Nicea. The blessed woman ‘Eleni (Helena) took a large sum of his money, and she said unto her son Constantine, “I wish to be blessed by God, and I will go to the holy city of Jerusalem, and I will seek for and discover the Wood of the Life-giving Cross.”  Constantine rejoiced at these words, and he sent soldiers with her; and he gave her much money and apparel made of costly silks threaded with gold.  When she arrived in the city of Jerusalem, and had knelt in prayer in certain of the holy places, she made enquiries about the Wood of the honorable and Life-giving Cross.  With much toil and tribulation she found the Wood of the Cross, and she praised it with great praises, and she paid unto it very great reverence and honor.

Then she commanded her men to build the altar of the sanctuary, and (shrines at) Golgotha, and Bethlehem, and the cave wherein our Lord Jesus Christ was born, and the fortress of Zion, and Gethsemane wherein was buried the body of our Lady the holy Virgin Mary, and the Mount of Olives, and all the holy places; and she commanded [the builders] to decorate them with pearl, and with gold, and with silver.  Now there was in Jerusalem a certain bishop whose name was Abba Macarius, and he gave her counsel, saying, “Do not thus, for after a few days (foreign) peoples will come and will rule over this country, and they will take possession of this place, and will lay it waste, and will seize whatsoever is made of gold and silver and precious stones.  But it is meet that you should build a good, strong building which can neither be overthrown nor torn up from the foundations.  The remainder of this money gives unto the poor and the needy.”  The Empress “Eleni (Helena) accepted his words and delivered much money into his hand, and she commanded all the nobles to build [a building of this kind], and to obey Abba Macarius the bishop in everything which he ordered them to do in the matter of the building.

When the Empress ‘Eleni  (Helena)  returned  to  her  son  Constantine  and  told  him what  she  had  done  in Jerusalem,  he  rejoiced  exceedingly,  and  he  sent  a  further  large  sum  of  money,  and overseers were appointed over the building.  The emperor commanded them to pay the workmen and all those who served in the work of building their wages daily at eventide without fail, for the emperor feared lest they should suffer and lest they should complain if their wages were not paid to them, and lest God should be angry with him because of their complaint.  When the building of the holy places was finished in the third year of the reign of the righteous Emperor Constantine he sent holy vessels and apparel made of silk and gold which was exceedingly costly. He sent messages to the Archbishop of the city of Constantinople to take his bishops, and to Athanasius, the Archbishop of the city of Alexandria, to take the bishops of his diocese, and also to the Archbishop of the city of Antioch, and he commanded them all to gather together in the city of Jerusalem and to consecrate the sanctuary and all the altars of the places which had been built (by ‘Eleni (Helena).  They all assembled in the city of Jerusalem, and they tarried there until the seventeenth day of the month September, by which day they had consecrated the sanctuary and all the altars of the places (i.e. shrines), which had been built.  On that day there was joy, the like of which had never before existed. They performed the appointed service, and they consecrated the Holy Offerings, and they partook of the Holy Mysteries, and a great light appeared, and many signs (were wrought) on that day, the sixteenth of September. They marched round into all the holy places with the Honorable Cross, and they worshipped God therein, and they received the Holy Mysteries, and they adored the Honorable Cross and sang litanies thereto, and (then) they departed to their countries in peace.

The following day became the celebration the festival of the Honorable Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be praise, for this is the day on which the holy woman, the Empress Helena, beloved of God, mother of the righteous Emperor Constantine, revealed the Cross, for having cleared away the hill of Golgotha she found [there] the Honorable Cross.  Why did this great hill come into being?  It was because of the many signs and wonders, which were made manifest at the holy tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ; for the dead were raised, and the paralytics were healed, and the sick were made whole.  Because of these things the Jews were furiously angry, and they sent forth a decree throughout all the country of Judea and Jerusalem ordering that every man should cast the sweepings of his house, and the ashes, and offal of every kind on the grave of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The Jews did this for more than two hundred years, and the ashes and the offal formed a very great heap, and they did so until the Empress Helena came to Jerusalem.  Helena seized certain Jews and shut them up in prison until they told her where the grave of our Lord Jesus Christ was, and she forced them to remove that hill, and the Honorable Cross was discovered.  She built a beautiful church for it, and she consecrated it, and she made a great festival in honor thereof on the seventeenth day of September, which is the day.

All the Christian people came from all their countries to Jerusalem, and they made a great festival in honor of the Honorable Cross, similar to the festival of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Now as certain, Christians were journeying along the road, there was with them a certain man, a Samaritan, whose name was Isaac, and there were many Samaritans with him.  That Isaac the Samaritan was jibing at the Christians and reviling them and saying unto them, “Why do ye trouble yourselves in vain?  Why do ye go and bow down before a mere log of wood?”  Among the Christians was a certain righteous man, a priest whose name was ‘Odokis (Eudoxius), and as they were traveling along the road some of the Christians became thirsty, and they could not find water to drink.  They arrived at a certain well, and they found in it foul and bitter water, and they were suffering greatly from thirst.  Isaac the Samaritan began to laugh at them, and he said unto them, “If your faith was the True Faith this foul and bitter water would change itself and would become sweet water.”  When ‘Okokis (Eudoxius) the priest heard these words from him, he became moved with a divine zeal, and he debated with Isaac the Samaritan.  Isaac the Samaritan said unto him, “If I saw any power in the Name of the Cross then I myself would believe in Christ.”  Then the holy man ‘Odokis (Eudoxius) prayed over that foul water, and it became sweet immediately, and all the people and their animals drank there from.  When Isaac the Samaritan was athirst and wished to drink of the water which was in his own water-skin, he found that it was stinking and that there were worms in it.  He wept very bitterly, and he came to Saint ‘Odokis (Eudoxius) the priest, and he bowed down at his feet, and he believed on the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. He drank of that water which had become sweet, through the prayer of the holy man ‘Odokis (Eudoxius).

Now there was in that water such great power that it became sweet to those who were believers and bitter to the infidels and pagan folk. And there appeared in that water a cross of light, and they built over that water a beautiful church.  When Isaac the Samaritan came to the city of Jerusalem, he went to the bishop, who baptized him with Christian baptism, him and all the men of his house, and they entered the Christian faith and became believers.  Now the Honorable Cross appeared unto them on the tenth day of Megabit, but as they were unable to celebrate a festival in its honor during a fast, they celebrated its festival on the day of the consecration of the church, which was the seventeenth day of September, the day of its appearance in the holy tomb.

Source: The Ethiopian Synaxarium pages 31, 34- 35