We are over halfway through the month of September and last Wednesday, September 14th we celebrated the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, a unique feast in the church year. The season of fall is approaching, schools have been in session for practically a month now, and the church offers us this feast. Not what we expect to celebrate at this time of year. But, in the year 320 AD, the empress Helena discovered the Lord’s cross on this date. According to Adolf Adam’s singular work, “The Liturgical Year,” he reports that in 325 AD the churches of the Cross and the Church of the Anastasis were consecrated on Golgotha in Jerusalem where now the Church of the Holy Sepulchre exists. The cross that Helena discovered was solemnly exposed for veneration of the faithful.
No one else honors an instrument of torture and death, except that we see the cross as the instrument of our salvation. Jesus willingly poured out his life to demonstrate this counterpoint to the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden in the form of this rude wood device. Each year we honor the cross on September 14th and on Good Friday when we use a cross for veneration singing, “Behold, behold the wood of the cross, on which is hung our salvation” from the song, “Behold the Wood of the Cross.”
The preface from this feast in the Third Edition of the Roman Missal states “for you placed the salvation of the human race on the wood of the Cross, so that, where death arose, life might again spring forth…” The New Testament expresses this same thought “We should glory in the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for he is our salvation, our life and resurrection; through him we were saved and made free.” (Galatians 6:14.)
After the fall of Adam comes redemption in the New Adam, Christ, who demonstrated the power of his love, mercy and forgiveness. Whether we wear a cross on a chain around our neck, finger the cross on our rosaries, and simply become aware when we make the sign of the cross on our bodies before offering any prayer, we acknowledge the reality and power of the cross. Jesus died for our sins to set us free and open the gates of the kingdom.
The cross is not merely a reminder of Christ’s death, but a reminder that in Christ we are saved, healed and redeemed. That’s a pretty powerful thought and reality, a reality that gives us room for pause, to reflect and remember how blessed we are. Next time you pray, or look at the cross, think about the gift Jesus gave to us. How do we receive this gift? How do we share this gift of our faith with others?
Father Larry Hendel, Pastor