Friday, September 14, 2012

The Exultation of the Holy Cross

Today's feast brings us back to the 4th century.  It was then that the practice of adoring the cross became a practice among Christians.  The feast is meant to remind us of the love that God has for each one of us and, as well, that His love was expressed in the sacrifice of his own life by Jesus.

Historical facts:  on the 14th of September, 326, during the reign of the Emperor Constantine, Helena, his mother, discovered the true cross while on a Jerusalem pilgrimage.  Historical notes indicate that the Cross was brought from within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre outside for the people to venerate the sacred object.  Mother and son had the church built to house the Cross.  In 627 the city of Jerusalem was conquered by the Persians.  A portion of the Cross was removed from the church by the victors.  Fourteen years later, Emperor Heraclius set out to recapture the missing portion of the cross.  After achieving his victory, the Emperor demanded the missing portion of the cross as part of the peace treaty.  The Cross was brought to Constantinople and then returned to Jerusalem, to Mt. Calvary, with much triumph.  The Patriarch of Jerusalem, Zachary, brought a halt to the procession about to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  Heraclius was stunned by Zachary's action.  Why was he refused entrance?  All the trappings of triumphalism were so contrary to the condition in which Jesus was when he carried the Cross and on which he was crucified.  Immediately Heraclius removed all the misfitting trappings and entered the gateway that led to the site of the Crucifixion.  He carried the portion of the cross wearing the clothing of a poor man, a tunic and barefooted.  Many miracles took place on that day according to written accounts.

Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim,
Till all the world adore His sacred Name.

Led on their way by this triumphant sign,
The hosts of God in conquering ranks combine.

Each newborn servant of the Crucified
Bears on the brow the seal of Him Who died.

O Lord, once lifted on the glorious tree,
As Thou hast promised, draw the world to Thee.

So shall our song of triumph ever be:
Praise to the Crucified for victory.