Here is a next-to-skin cross with the image of Exaltation of the Cross on the obverse, and the Don icon of the Mother of God together with the selected saints on the reverse. The images and shapes most worshipped by the Russian Cossacks are used in this cross.
Cossacks has always been free people, brave warriors, and served Fatherland with good faith and fidelity; and they created an original culture imbued with sincere religiousness. It had an impact on everything: domestic and family ways of life, songs, clothes, adornments, and, of course in selecting of venerated saints and wonder making icons. Fortresses and villages (stanitsa) were first thing built where Cossacks had appeared, and most often in honor of Exaltation of the Cross.
The feast history begins in 325 when at command of Zarina Helena diggings were carried out in Jerusalem, and the Life-giving Cross of the Lord was found. People crowded around wishing to see the Holy Cross. Then Macarius, the Holy Patriarch of Jerusalem raised (exalted) the Cross in public view. In memory of the event Church established the Triumph of the Holy Cross (the Holy-Rood Day). It is one of the Great feasts, and is celebrated on September 27 (14). On icons of the Triumph Sts. Constantine and Helena always stand beside the Cross, since it was due their labors that the Cross was found as well as Christianity started spreading freely. On the next-to-skin cross we see those saints on the left and right sides on the crossbar. Sts. Equal to Apostles Constantine and Helena are commemorated on June 3 (May 21).
The Don icon of the Mother of God is the principal image of the cross reverse. That icon was with the regiments of Don Cossacks at the field of Kulikovo (1380) protecting fighting Russian warriors with its miraculous power. In 1591 The Don icon again guarded Russian land against the Tatar invasion. On the approaches to Moscow the Crimean Tsarevitch Nuraddin was stopped by Russian host bringing the wonder making image. Later on that very place where the Don icon had stood the Donskoy Monastery of the Mother of God was built, and the icon observance was established on September 1 (August 19).
On either side of the icon there are portrayed Holy Pious Princes and great military leader – Alexander Nevsky and Demetrius Donskoy.
St. Alexander Nevsky is venerated in Russia because he proved to be a brave warrior and a far-sighted politician in that dangerous time when two enemies at once came close to Russia – the Tatar and Mongolian hordes, and troops of crusaders. Russia was unable to fight on two fronts. Therefore the Prince took the field against the crusaders since they encroached upon the soul of Russian nation – its faith and ethnic independence. Meanwhile Tatar craved only for money. So, the Prince entered into alliance with khan, and agreed to pay tribute, thus having laid the foundation for conversion of the East to Christianity.
The great man of prayer and protector of Russian land is commemorated on November 14 (1), the day of his passing away in 1263.
Before the Battle of Kulikovo on September 8, 1380 St. Demetrius Donskoy prayed for the help of his famous ancestor, St. Alexander Nevsky. According to the legend the saint rose from the dead, and fought invisibly against Mongolian commander Mamai who wished not only to get tribute from Russian land, but to live in Russian towns, and to possess their lands and people. Nobody of Mongolian khans planned this sort of things, preferring to rule subjected nations from remote capital. St. Demetrius consolidated Russia against new terrible enemy, and led to the battle hitherto unseen in Europe long ago. The Battle of Kulikovo echoed around from Hamburg to Shiraz, and made the Russian host famous all over the Christendom. St. Demetrius is commemorated on June 2 (May 19).
At the cross foot we see the image of St. Vladimir Equal to Apostles, baptizer of Russia. He governed Russian state for 37 years (978 - 1015). 28 of them passed in Christianity. The day of his departing into the Lord – July 28 (15), 1015 – became his commemoration day.
The images of the saints on the cross are overshadowed by the Archangel Michael, ferocious enemy of any kind of evil, Heavenly General (Voivode), the patron of Christian warriors both in life, and after death. His winged figure often decorated Princes' helmets; and it was he, to whom cemeterial churches were devoted in ancient times. In honor of the Archangel Michael the Kremlin Cathedral consecrated in his name – burial vault of Moscow Princes and Russian Tsars. The Archistratigus Michael is commemorated on November 21 and September 19.
«Exaltation of the Cross. The Don icon of the Mother of God»
Is It Possible to Buy a Consecrated Cross in a Store
Crosses and icon are consecrated on the Communioun table in the church altar. That is why it is impossible for all the factory products to be consecrated. Besides in a store the pieces are looked at and touched by different people. According to Church rules a non-worshipful touch to consecrated things desecrates them.
Therefore if you bought a piece in a store or at the exhibition better re-sanctify it (even if it marked as a consecrated one). You can do it free of charge in any church after the Liturgy. Truly consecrated crosses may be purchased only in church shops.