!: Why does my prayer book address the cross as a person, in the way we would address the saints? Wasn't it only a piece of wood, an inanimate object made by men? How it is different from talking to some gallows or electric chair? I want to venerate the cross, but I'm only seeing the wood!
All prayer is received by God, prayer addressing the Cross is actually addressing Him Who was transfixed on it. The Cross is bound to Christ because He was nailed to it.
I have my deceased father's stopwatch in my drawer. It is of no use to me, but I keep it safely in it's original box because it belonged to him and he used it all his working life, where he worked hard to educate myself and my brothers. That stopwatch reminds me of my father's sacrifice for us, and for this reason, throwing it in the bin would be unthinkable to me. This is "veneration". If I do this for a mechanical stopwatch which belonged to my earthly father, how much more should I venerate the Things which belong to my Heavenly Father and which He used to sacrifice Himself not only for me, but for everyone (including my earthly father whom I hope to see again one day thanks to the Cross)?
2: Similarly, I don't really understand about relics. I can accept that miracles may happen, but can't go so far as to be happy to say that dead bones are always miraculous?
We don't venerate the relics of the Saints because
they are miraculous. We venerate them because, like the Cross, they belong to God Who took up residence in them- the Saints' bodies are Temples of the Holy Spirit. Even the objects the Saints use or touch are connected with them and therefore with God. Hence, even inanimate pieces of cloth touched by St. Paul carried God's healing to the sick (Acts 19:11-12).
3: How is Mary the "salvation of all Christian people"? Isn't that Jesus? I'm missing some info here.
If you drink poison, and someone hands you a bottle containing the andtidote, you can call the bottle your "salvation", even though your "saviour" is the antidote inside it. The same goes for the Mother of God. There is no such thing as "Mariology" in Orthodox theology. Every teaching about the Virgin Mary or "Theotokos" ("God-Birther") is actually a teaching about Christ (Christology). For example, the teaching of the Two Natures of Christ, Divine and Human, requires that the Incarnate Christ was born from a Human Mother, and the fact that we call her "Mother of God" or "Theotokos" proclaims that Christ was not only human, but was also God also from the moment of His Incarnation. The All Holy Theotokos is the Bridge by which Our Lord Christ came down from Heaven to save the world. She is the doorway through which Christ entered time and space. For this to happen, the All-Holy Mother of God had to accept her mission that she would do this, and she did: "And Mary said: 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word.'" ( Luke 1:38). In this act, the Virgin Mary accepted her role to bring salvation into the world. She could have said "No"- God does not impose Himself on anyone. By accepting her role as the Mother of God, she gives gives us Christ the Saviour, and in thanks to her for allowing Him to enter the world, we call her the "Salvation of Christians".