O Lord, save Thy people, and bless Thine inheritance! Grant victory to the Pious Kings over their adversaries, and by virtue of Thy cross, preserve Thy habitation!
Editor's Note: This article was generated by machine translation, so our staff cautions the reader about possible inaccuracies that may have resulted from this. However, it was deemed worthwhile to still publish such a piece because of the intrinsic value of the message - which remains evident even in its translated form.
The cross of the Lord, as the instrument of our salvation, has been venerated by Christians since the time of the Apostles. However, at the time of Christian persecution, it could only be venerated in secret. "Christ crucified" was a stumbling block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Gentiles. Therefore, Christians did not openly express their veneration of the Cross, so as not to expose Him to mockery. They hid the image of the cross, or displayed the cross so that the pagans could not guess that the drawing was an obvious depiction of the cross.
In 312, the Emperor Constantine the Great, during a campaign to Rome, saw the image of the cross in the sky with the inscription "NIKA", that is, victory. Made a military banner in the form of a cross, Constantine went into battle, defeated the enemy and took Rome. In memory of the victory, Emperor Constantine ordered to put his image in Rome with a cross in his hand and the inscription "This is a sign of salvation, I liberated Rome from the tyrant". Soon after this Christian confession was declared permissible by the Edict of Milan; Emperor Constantine himself set an example of veneration of the cross, commanding to depict himself with a cross even on coins.
Emperor Constantine's vision of the cross in heaven was repeated two more times on his later campaigns, which further strengthened his veneration of the holy cross.
At his request, his mother, St. Helen the Empress, undertook a journey to Jerusalem and there found the Life-Giving Cross uncovered. She brought a piece of it to Constantinople, and the Roman Emperors, going on a campaign, took it with them, trusting in God's help, given through the Cross.
That is why in the marvelous hymns glorifying the Holy Cross they also praised it for the help which the Orthodox kings received from it.
At the same time the Orthodox Church, following the advice of St. Paul, always prays for the kings, even the pagan kings, because they are defenders of the order, and not persecutors of the faith, praying to God that the power of the Cross might help the kings who trust in the Cross. The services of the Holy Cross on Wednesdays and Fridays, on which days the sufferings of Christ are commemorated, and on other feasts of the Life-Giving Cross, are full of such prayers. They say: "The Cross is the power of kings", "about You our most faithful kings praise, as by Your power the Ishmaelite people are sovereignly subdued", "giving victories to the faithful kings against the resistance and preserving Your residence by Your Cross", "giving victory to the barbarians by the True Cross"... These and other similar expressions fill the services of the Cross.
It is remarkable that many of these hymns were written by the Holy Fathers, who themselves suffered cruelly from the iconoclastic kings; they did not cease praying for the kings, firmly believing that after the evil kings there would also be pious kings.
Orthodox Greeks and Southern Slavs did not change those prayers even when under the rule of the Turks or other foreign powers, even if they were heterodox.
What, then, is the meaning of prayers for kings in the prayers to the Holy Cross when any Orthodox nation does not have its own king?
First - Orthodox peoples should pray not only for their Sovereigns, but as members of one body, the Church, also for other Orthodox Sovereigns. The Greeks, Serbs, Bulgarians, and Romanians who were enslaved by the Turks prayed for the then only Orthodox Russian Tsar. It is also the duty of the Russians to pray not only for their own, but also for their sovereigns, especially since the Russian refugees living in their countries enjoy their protection.
Secondly, when praying for the kings, we pray not only for the present-day kings, but also for the future Orthodox Tsars, for according to the interpretation of St. John Chrysostom, the Orthodox sovereigns will hold sway until the coming of the Antichrist, holding back the spread of evil. That is why the Orthodox Church does not cease to pray, granting victories to the faithful tsars over the enemies. These words are found in the prayer to the Life-Giving Cross, which is used especially often, because it is a troparion, that is, as if a hymn, to the days of the Holy Cross.
The first words of that prayer are verse 9 of Psalm XXVII of David, and the words that follow are taken from Psalm 143, written by David concerning his struggle with Goliath.
It was first composed as an octophone sedalion for singing on Wednesdays and Fridays of the 1st voice between the reading of the kathisms of the Psalms. Later it was used also as a troparion of those days, of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross and other days, dedicated to the Holy Cross.
It is also read at the beginning of every everyday matins, it is sung at the Minor Blessing of the Water and on many other occasions.
In Russia and in some other Slavic countries the name of the reigning Sovereign also was inserted into that prayer, but the main content has always remained unchanged and its authentic text, that which was written by the Holy Fathers:
O Lord, save Thy people, and bless Thine inheritance! Grant victory to the Pious Kings over their adversaries, and by virtue of Thy cross, preserve Thy habitation.
Source: 3rm.info (Russian)
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