The first appearance of the honored Cross occurred in the year 312, in October, during the time of St. Constantine the Great. It appeared in the sky at noontime and was composed of radiant stars, with the words, “By This, Conquer”. Thus, by this first manifestation, the honored Cross became the labarum, the standard, of the first Christian empire, which served the purpose of proclaiming and conveying our Orthodox Christian faith and piety throughout the known world.
The second majestic appearance of the Cross took place during the reign of Emperor Constantius, the son of St. Constantine the Great, in the holy city of Jerusalem on May 7th, 351, the day of Pentecost, when St. Cyril was bishop of Jerusalem. The honored Cross was comprised entirely of a certain divine light visible to everyone for a week, and in magnitude it stretched from Golgotha and the Church of the Resurrection all the way to the Mount of Olives.
In this pamphlet, we have eye-witness descriptions of the third appearance of the Cross. These descriptions are provided by individuals still living in 1975, when the first edition of this pamphlet appeared in Greek.
In the early 1900s and especially in the 1920s, there were strong anti-Church and secularist forces in power in Greece and in the Ecumenical Patriarchate. These forces introduced the Gregorian calendar. The Gregorian calendar is adequate for the functions of business, the stock exchange, and other worldly, secular activities. Liturgically, however, it is in no way possible to reconcile the Gregorian calendar with our canonical , Orthodox Christian Paschalion. Moreover, the introduction of a Church calendar change by a local church created an unacceptable liturgical disunity within the Church Itself.
Vast numbers of the people of Greece refused to accept these anti-canonical, anti-Church changes being forced upon them by state police power. Such people suffered persecution, imprisonment, and deprivation at the hands of secular police powers. But the spiritual eyes of true Orthodox Christians saw clearly even if, at the time, they did not completely comprehend the evil of the new calendar. It was a forerunner and a sign of the greatest heresy in the history of the world—Ecumenism. Many people, however, became confused. Some began to waver. Just as the Arians were in control of the worldly power in 351 and were able to force their heresy upon the empire, so at this time, the calendar innovators controlled the worldly power of Greece. In such a troubled and dangerous time, the All-Merciful God heeded the needs of His people. Again, as in 351, God sent a wondrous apparition of the sign of the All-Honourable Cross to seal the truth and put the false teachers to shame.
The appearance of the Cross took place in this manner: In 1925, on the eve of the feast of the Exaltation of the All-Honourable and Life-giving Cross of Our Saviour, September 14 according to the Orthodox Church calendar (September 27, new style), the all-night vigil was served at the Church of St. John the Theologian in suburban Athens. By nine o’clock that evening, more than two thousand of the Orthodox faithful had gathered in and around the church for the service, since very few true-Orthodox churches had been accidentally left open by the civil authorities. Such a large gathering of people could not, however, go unnoticed by the authorities. Around eleven P. M. the authorities dispatched a platoon of police to the church “to prevent any disorders which might arise from such a large gathering.” The gathering was too large for the police to take any direct action or to arrest the priest at that time and so they joined the crowd of worshippers in the already over-flowing courtyard of the church.
Then, regardless of the true motives for their presence, against their own will, but according to the Will which exceeds all human power, they became participants in the miraculous experience of the crowd of believers.
At 11:30 P.M., there began to appear in the heavens above the church, in the direction of northeast, a bright, radiant Cross of light. The light not only illuminated the church and the faithful but, in its rays, the stars of the clear, cloudless sky became dim and the church-yard was filled with an almost tangible light. The form of the Cross itself was an especially dense light and it could be clearly seen as a Byzantine cross with a crossbar toward the bottom. This heavenly miracle lasted for half an hour, until midnight, and then the Cross began slowly to rise up vertically, as the cross in the hands of the priest does in the ceremony of the Elevation of the Cross in church. Having come straight up, the Cross began gradually to fade away.
Human language is not adequate to convey what took place during the apparition. The entire crowd fell prostrate upon the ground with tears and began to sing prayers, praising the Lord with one heart and one mouth. The police were among those who wept, suddenly discovering, in the depths of their hearts, a childlike faith. The crowd of believers and the platoon of police were transformed into one, unified flock of faithful. All were seized with a holy ecstasy. The vigil continued until 4:00 A.M., when all this human torrent streamed back into the city, carrying the news of the miracle because of which they were still trembling and weeping.
Many of the unbelievers, sophists, and innovators, realizing their sin and guilt, but unwilling to repent, tried by every means to explain away or deny this miracle. The fact that the form of the cross had been so sharply and clearly that of the Byzantine Cross, with a crossbar at the bottom for a foot-rest, completely negated any arguments of accidental physical phenomena.
The fact that such an apparition of the Cross had also occurred during the height of the first great heresy must impress the Orthodox with the importance of the calendar question and of all that is connected with it. No sensible person can discuss this issue lightly, with secular reasoning or with worldly arguments. Innovators, like the Arians in 351, are left without extenuation or mitigation.
By this third appearance, our Lord and Saviour has confirmed from on high that we are to remain faithful to the heritage we have received from our Holy Fathers, and which was codified by the First Ecumenical Council and sealed by almost two thousand years of usage by the subsequent Ecumenical, Local and Pan-Orthodox Councils of our Church.
(The above text is Copyright © 1997, Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Brookline, MA, all rights reserved.)