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Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross

The Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The story of Mary’s Nativity is known only from the apocryphal source, the “Protevangelion”. Because of this, there is very little information except for what is written in the Gospels. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the calendar begins with the Nativity of the Theotokos celebrated on September 8. This holy day corresponds closely to the date of the Jewish New Year, which to the Hebrews signified the beginning of a new era in their lives. Similarly the early Church, which generally followed the Old Testament celebrations of the Hebrews, proclaimed the new Christian era by announcing to the world the birth of the Holy Virgin Mary. She was to be the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, by His birth was to bring a new era into the world – the era of Christianity.

From the Troparion of the Feast:
“Your Nativity, O Virgin, has proclaimed joy to the whole universe:
The Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, has shone from you, O Theotokos.
By annulling the curse, He bestowed a blessing,
By destroying death, He has granted us eternal life”

The Elevation of the Cross

The historical origins of this feast are not very clear. It is generally accepted that in the fourth century, St Helen (mother of Emperor Constantine), having journeyed to Jerusalem, undertook to rid the Holy Sepulchre of the mound of earth heaped upon and around it, and to destroy the pagan buildings that profaned its site. The work was carried on diligently, with the co-operation of St. Macarius, bishop of the city. The Jews had hidden the Cross in a ditch or well, and covered it over with stones, so that the faithful might not come and venerate it. Only a chosen few among the Jews knew the exact spot where it had been hidden. Through the digging to remove the mound, there was discovered three crosses buried on Golgotha, where Jesus Christ was buried. The true cross was identified because it was found between the two thieves, because it bore the inscription Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, and it was the source of numerous miracles.