1. The Dedication of the Temple of the Resurrection of Christ at Jerusalem celebrates the dedication of the Church of the Resurrection, built by Saint Constantine the Great and his mother, the empress Helen.
After the voluntary Passion and Death on the Cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the holy place of His suffering was long trampled on by pagans. When the Roman emperor Titus conquered Jerusalem in the year 70, he razed the city and destroyed the Temple of Solomon on Mount Moriah, leaving there not a stone upon a stone, as even the Savior foretold (Mt.13:1-2).
Later on the zealous pagan emperor Hadrian (117-138) built on the site of the Jerusalem destroyed by Titus a new city named Aelia Capitolina for him (Hadrian Aelius). It was forbidden to call the city by its former name.
He gave orders to cover the Holy Tomb of the Lord with earth and stones, and on that spot to set up an idol. On Golgotha, where the Savior was crucified, he constructed a pagan temple dedicated to the goddess Venus in 119. Before the statues they offered sacrifice to demons and performed pagan rites, accompanied by wanton acts.
In Bethlehem, at the place the Savior was born of the All-Pure Virgin, the impious emperor set up an idol of Adonis. He did all this intentionally, so that people would forget completely about Christ the Savior and that they would no loner remember the places where He lived, taught, suffered and arose in glory.
At the beinning of the reign of Saint Constantine the Great (306-337), the first of the Roman emperors to recognize the Christian religion, he and his pious mother the empress Helen decided to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. They also planned to build a church on the site of the Lord’s suffering and Resurrection, in order to reconsecrate and purify the places connected with memory of the Savior from the taint of foul pagan cults.
The empress Helen journeyed to Jerusalem with a large quantity of gold, and Saint Constantine the Great wrote a letter to Patriarch Macarius I (313-323), requesting him to assist her in every possible way with her task of the renewing the Christian holy places.
After her arrival in Jerusalem, the holy empress Helen destroyed all the pagan temples and reconsecrated the places desecrated by the pagans. She was zealous to find the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, and she ordered the excavation of the place where the temple of Venus stood. There they discovered the Sepulchre of the Lord and Golgotha, and they also found three crosses and some nails.
In order to determine upon which of the three crosses the Savior was crucified, Patriarch Macarius gave orders to place a dead person, who was being carried to a place of burial, upon each cross in turn. When the dead person was placed on the Cross of Christ, he immediately came alive. With the greatest of joy the empress Helen and Patriarch Macarius raised up the Life-Creating Cross and displayed it to all the people standing about.
The holy empress quickly began the construction of a large church which enclosed within its walls Golgotha, the place of the Crucifixion of the Savior, and the Sepulchre of the Lord, located near each other. The holy Apostle and Evangelist John wrote about this: “Now in the place where He was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been laid.
Therefore they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day, for the tomb was nearby” (John 19:41-42). The Church of the Resurrection was ten years in building, and the holy empress Helen did not survive to see its completion.
She returned to Constantinople, and reposed in the year 327. After her arrival in Jerusalem, the holy empress built churches in Bethlehem, on the Mount of Olives, at Gethsemane and in many other places connected with the life of the Savior and events in the New Testament.
The construction of the church of the Resurrection, called “Martyrion” in memory of the sufferings of the Savior, was completed in the same year as the Council of Tyre, and in the thirtieth year of the reign of Saint Constantine the Great.
Therefore, at the assembly of September 13, 335, the consecration of the temple was particularly solemn. Hierarchs of Christian Churches in many lands: Bythnia, Thrace, Cilicia, Cappadocia, Syria, Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, Arabia, Palestine, and Egypt, participated in the consecration of the church.
The bishops who participated in the Council of Tyre, and many others, went to the consecration in Jerusalem. On this day all the city of Jerusalem was consecrated. The Fathers of the Church established September 13 as the commemoration of this remarkable event.
2. The Hieromartyr Cornelius the Centurion: Soon after the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross and His Ascension into Heaven, a centurion by the name of Cornelius settled at Caesarea in Palestine. He had lived previously in Thracian Italy.
Although he was a pagan, he distinguished himself by deep piety and good deeds, as the holy Evangelist Luke says (Acts 10:1). The Lord did not disdain his virtuous life, and so led him to the knowledge of truth and to faith in Christ.
Once, Cornelius was praying in his home. An angel of God appeared to him and said that his prayer had been heard and accepted by God. The angel commanded him to send people to Joppa to find Simon, also called Peter. Cornelius immediately fulfilled the command.
While those people were on their way to Joppa, the Apostle Peter was at prayer, and he had a vision: three times a great sheet was lowered down to him, filled with all kinds of beasts and fowl. He heard a voice from Heaven commanding him to eat everything. When the apostle refused to eat food which Jewish Law regarded as unclean, the voice said: “What God hath cleansed, you must not call common” (Acts 10:15).
Through this vision the Lord commanded the Apostle Peter to preach the Word of God to the pagans. When the Apostle Peter arrived at the house of Cornelius in the company of those sent to meet him, he was received with great joy and respect by the host together with his kinsmen and comrades.
Cornelius fell down at the feet of the apostle and requested to be taught the way of salvation. Saint Peter talked about the earthly life of Jesus Christ, and spoke of the miracles and signs worked by the Savior, and of His teachings about the Kingdom of Heaven.
Then Saint Peter told him of the Lord’s death on the Cross, His Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, Cornelius believed in Christ and was baptized with all his family. He was the first pagan to receive Baptism.
He retired from the world and went preaching the Gospel together with the Apostle Peter, who made him a bishop. When the Apostle Peter, together with his helpers Saints Timothy and Cornelius, was in the city of Ephesus, he learned of a particularly vigorous idol-worship in the city of Skepsis. Lots were drawn to see who would go there, and Saint Cornelius was chosen.
In the city lived a prince by the name of Demetrius, learned in the ancient Greek philosophy, hating Christianity and venerating the pagan gods, in particular Apollo and Zeus. Learning about the arrival of Saint Cornelius in the city, he immediately summoned him and asked him the reason for his coming. Saint Cornelius answered that he came to free him from the darkness of ignorance and lead him to knowledge of the True Light.
The prince, not comprehending the meaning of what was said, became angry and demanded that he answer each of his questions. When Saint Cornelius explained that he served the Lord and that the reason for his coming was to announce the Truth, the prince became enraged and demanded that Cornelius offer sacrifice to the idols.
The saint asked to be shown the gods. When he entered the pagan temple, Cornelius turned towards the east and uttered a prayer to the Lord. There was an earthquake, and the temple of Zeus and the idols situated in it were destroyed. All the populace, seeing what had happened, were terrified.
The prince was even more vexed and began to take counsel together with those approaching him, about how to destroy Cornelius. They bound the saint and took him to prison for the night. At this point, one of his servants informed the prince that his wife and child had perished beneath the rubble of the destroyed temple.
After a certain while, one of the pagan priests, by the name of Barbates, reported that he heard the voice of the wife and son somewhere in the ruins and that they were praising the God of the Christians. The pagan priest asked that the imprisoned one be released, in gratitude for the miracle worked by Saint Cornelius, and the wife and son of the prince remained alive.
The joyful prince hastened to the prison in the company of those about him, declaring that he believed in Christ and asking him to bring his wife and son out of the ruins of the temple. Saint Cornelius went to the destroyed temple, and through prayer the suffering were freed.
After this the prince Demetrius, and all his relatives and comrades accepted holy Baptism. Saint Cornelius lived for a long time in this city, converted all the pagan inhabitants to Christ, and made Eunomios a presbyter in service to the Lord. Saint Cornelius died in old age and was buried not far from the pagan temple he destroyed.
3. Saint John was a monk of the Prislop Monastery in southwestern Romania at the turn of the sixteenth century. After several years in that place, he went into the mountains to lead a solitary ascetical life, struggling against the assaults of the demons.
One day, while Saint John was making a window in his cell, he was shot and killed by a hunter on the other side of the creek, who mistook him for a wild animal.
Saint John’s holy relics were later brought to Wallachia (southern Romania). He was glorified by the Orthodox Church of Romania in 1992.
4. Saint Macrobius was from Paphlagonia, and suffered martyrdom with Saints Gordian, Elias, Zoticus, Lucian and Valerian.
Gordian and Macrobian served in the imperial court, and they enjoyed the particular favor of the emperor. When he found out that they were Christians, he sent them to Scythia. There they met Zoticus, Lucian and Elias, who were also courageous confessors of Christ. First Saints Gordian and Macrobius suffered.
After this Saints Elias, Zoticus, Lucian and Valerian were tortured and then beheaded in the city of Tomis in Scythia (Tomis, Romania). They suffered at Paphlagonia (Asia Minor) at the beginning of the fourth century during the reign of the Roman emperor Licinius (311-324).
5. Sunday before the Exaltation of the Cross – Today’s Sunday is also know as the Sunday before the Exaltation and along with the Sunday after the Exaltation of the Cross, it provides an opportunity for the faithful Christians to honor the precious and life-giving Cross and to become immersed in the mystery of our Lord’s sacrificial crucifixion. In today’s Gospel by John, Christ foretells us about His Crucifixion.
He tells us that the same way that Moses raised the snake in the desert, He too must be raised and sacrificed in order for all of those who believe in Him to obtain eternal life. Christ in this gospel reading uses this example from the Old Testament, in order to help his disciples understand the events that will follow, His passion and ultimately his Crucifixion.