O Cross our one reliance hail!
So may thy power with us avail
To give new virtue to the Saint,
And pardon to the penitent.
This feast celebrates two historical events: the discovery of the True Cross by Saint Helen, mother of the Emperor Constantine, in AD 320 under the temple of Venus in Jerusalem. The feast is also memorialized in the basilica of the Holy Cross in Rome, a church constructed by Helen. In the USA, the metropolitan cathedral of Boston honors this feast with the name of Holy Cross. It is also the dedication in AD 335 of the basilica and shrine built on Calvary by Emperor Constantine, which mark the site of the Crucifixion.
The greatness of this feast reminds us that the Cross is the instrument, the vehicle of our salvation; touching our lips to the glorious cross of our redemption, we take up the crosses in our own lives and accept and reverence them as well. And by God’s grace we are able to carry our cross to the natural conclusion.
Saint Andrew of Crete tells us: “We are celebrating the feast of the cross which drove away darkness and brought in the light… Had there been no cross, Christ could not have been crucified. Had there been no cross, Life Itself could not have been nailed to the tree. And if Life had not been nailed to it, they would be no streams of immortality pouring from Christ’s side, blood and water for the world’s cleansing. The legal bond of our sin would not be canceled, we should not have obtained our freedom, we should not have enjoyed the fruit of the tree of life, and the gates of paradise would not stand open. Had there been no cross, death would not have been trodden underfoot, nor hell despoiled… The cross is called Christ’s glory; it is saluted as his triumph.”
Today the Church celebrates the feast of The Exaltation of the Cross. You’ll also hear the feast called, The Triumph of the Cross. Whatever we say, today recalls Saint Helena’s finding the True Cross of the Lord. A gift of the Church is to incrementally teach and live the various mysteries of the faith. And there is a wisdom in this method because we slowly come to incorporate ourselves into the Divine Life.
One of the antiphons for the sacred Liturgy says,
“We should glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, for he is our salvation, our life and our resurrection: through him we are saved and made free.”
As Pope Francis said this morning at Mass, this mystery can only be approached from the stance of prayer and tears.
The words spes unica come to mind. I learned these words when I was a student of the Brothers of the Holy Cross. They are the same words that the tradition of the Church indicates with the the phrase used when making the Stations of the Cross: We adore you O Christ and we bless you. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.
So, what do Christians mean in this feast, in exalting an object of Roman torture? The Cross is the key that unlocks true nature of love; the cross shows us that redemption is a serious matter; God’s work of redemption through the passion and death of Jesus on the cross is the greatest work of the Trinity in that death leads to resurrection –death is defeated by death itself– and communion with God is now possible again. Second, the Cross reminds us that God the Father is directly involved with our human history; it is not an abstract event; God knows us and walks with us.
I am giving emphasis these days on knowing what we believe as Catholics by looking at the liturgical sources. We first go to the sacred Liturgy to study and pray the prayers prayed by the priest for Mass, Lauds, Vespers, or those smaller rites such as the Blessing of Basil that you would find on today’s feast of the Holy Cross, also called the Roodmas. Ours is a richly endowed sacramental faith.
“The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, which,
the day after the dedication of the Basilica of the Resurrection raised over
the tomb of Christ, is exalted and honored, in the manner of a memorial of His
paschal victory and the sign which is to appear in the sky, already announcing
in advance His second coming” (from the Roman Martyrology)
The Blessing of Basil
V. Our help is in the
name of the Lord.
R. Who made heaven and earth.
Let us pray.
merciful God, deign, we beseech You, to bless Your creature, this aromatic
basil leaf. + Even as it delights our senses, may it recall for us the triumph
of Christ, our Crucified King and the power of His Precious Blood to purify and
preserve us from evil so that, planted beneath His Cross, we may flourish to
Your glory and spread abroad the fragrance of His sacrifice. Who is Lord
forever and ever.
The bouquets of basil leaf are sprinkled with Holy