The Exaltation of the Holy Cross
(September 14, 2014)
The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross commemorates the victory that Our Lord accomplished through his death and resurrection. The cross is a mark of great suffering and humiliation, but it is a horrific symbol which we adore because through it we have come to know the great love that Jesus has for us, and through the wounds that it inflicted, we have been healed.
The Cross of Jesus Christ was found in the fourth century by St. Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine. According to the legend, a goodly Jew named Judah was the only person who knew of the location of the cross. Under pressure from St. Helena, he revealed that it had been buried under the temple of Venus which had been built by Emperor Hadrian at Golgotha. As she found three crosses buried at the site, it seemed impossible to determine which one was the cross of Christ. Just then a funeral procession was passing by the place, and Helen had all three of the crosses brought to the side of the dead body. When the third cross was placed upon the dead man, he rose to life, confirming that this was indeed the life-giving cross of Jesus.
There are probably hundreds of legends and stories that are attached to the finding and veneration of the cross (each with a hundred variations), and all of them seek to remind us of how dearly we value the sacrifice that Jesus made by carrying it. The cross is the burden that he lifted when he walked among us, it is the symbol of his suffering, it is the altar on which he as our high priest offered himself as the sweetest victim. It is the weapon by which the powers of hell are vanquished, it is the bridge between heaven and earth, and it is the balance on which the price of our redemption has been measured out.
And so as we honor the cross which Christ bore for us, we pray that we might find in his example the strength to bear our own burdens with patience and to triumph over our own difficulties assisted by the strength that comes only from above.