St. Helen's Uncovering of the Precious Cross and Precious Nails in Jerusalem


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Commemorated on March 6

The Holy Empress Helen uncovered the Precious Cross and Nails of the Lord in Jerusalem in 326.

At the beginning of his reign, St. Constantine the Great (306-337), and his mother, St. 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 the Savior from the taint of paganism.

Empress Helen journeyed to Jerusalem with a large quantity of gold. St. Constantine wrote a letter to Patriarch Macarius asking that he assist Helen with the task of restoring the Christian holy places.

After her arrival in Jerusalem, Empress Helen ordered the destruction of the pagan temples and began to reconsecrate the places which had been defiled by the pagans.

In St. Helen’s quest for the Life-Creating Cross, she questioned several Christians and Jews, but her search remained unsuccessful. Finally, an elderly Jewish man named Jude told her that the Cross was buried beneath the temple of Venus. St. Helen ordered that the pagan temple be demolished, and that the site be excavated. Soon, they found Golgotha and the Lord's Sepulcher. Not far from the spot were three crosses, a board with the inscription written by Pilate (John 19:19), and four nails which had pierced the Lord's Body.

However, it had to be determined the actual cross on which the Savior had been crucified. Patriarch Macarius saw a funeral procession passing nearby and ordered that the dead man inside the coffin be removed and placed on each cross. When the corpse was placed on the Cross of Christ, the dead man was immediately restored to life. After witnessing this event, everyone was convinced that the Life-Creating Cross had been found. With great joy, St. Helen and Patriarch Macarius lifted the Life-Creating Cross and displayed it to all the people standing nearby.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)