Since during the forty days of the Fast we are also in a way crucified, mortified to the passions, some may have sentiments of bitterness, or of despondency, or of lapsing. Therefore, the precious and life-giving Cross is offered to us as refreshment and support. The Cross calls to mind the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who suffered and was crucified for our sake. Our own pangs pale and deafen before His, since our afflictions have been assuaged through the Master’s afflictions. We are also reminded by this commemoration of the hope ushered in for us through the Cross of glory. For as our Savior mounted the Cross, being glorified through dishonor and grief, so should we also endure our sorrows in order to be glorified with Him.

As those who have undertaken a long and hard journey, so now in this time of the Fast have the holy fathers planted the life-giving Cross for our relief and refreshment to encourage and make easier the labors that lie ahead. It is the same as when there is a royal procession, the king’s scepter and banners precede his entry. He, then, makes a triumphant appearance himself, radiant and joyous in his victory. This also redounds to rejoicing in his subjects. Our Lord Jesus Christ, desiring to show His sure trophy over death and His glory on the day of the Resurrection, sends on ahead His scepter, the sign of His kingship, the life-giving Cross. It not only gladdens and refreshes us but also greatly fortifies and enables us to be prepared to receive the King with all possible strength, and to praise Him in His radiant victory. This week lies at the middle of the holy Forty-day Fast.

We bring to mind how Moses plunged the branch in the bitter waters of Marah, thereby sweetening them. In like manner, God, Who has led us through the spiritual Red Sea away from Pharaoh, through the life-giving wood of the precious and life-giving Cross sweetens the bitterness of the Forty-day Fast. He consoles us during our course through the desert of the Fast, carrying us across till the time when, by His Resurrection, He will lead us as far as to the noetic Jerusalem. Since the Cross is called, and indeed is, the Tree of Life, it is fitting that the holy fathers have planted the Tree of the Cross in the middle of the Forty-day Fast. Today is a reminder not only of how partaking of the tree of knowledge led to death but also of how veneration of the Tree of the Cross leads to life.

Through the power of Thy Cross, O Christ God, preserve us also from the temptations of the evil one. Vouchsafe us to venerate Thy divine Passion and life-bearing resurrection, having traversed to the end of course of the Forty-day with ease and dexterity, and have mercy on us, as Thou alone art good and the Lover of mankind. Amen.

Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church, Triodion. Holy Apostles Convent, Buena Vista, Colorado.