07 The Feast of Exaltation of the Holy Cross - Fr Errol Fernandes SJ

posted Sep 6, 2018, 10:38 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Sep 6, 2018, 10:38 AM ]
The Exaltation of the Holy Cross is one of the 12 great feasts in the yearly Church cycle. Because the Cross is at the heart and centre of all that we as Christians believe, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, the triumph of the Cross of Christ over the power of sin and death. The feast, which is celebrated on September 14, provides us with another opportunity to reflect on the central mystery of our faith: that the one who was lifted up on the Cross in crucifixion has triumphed over the power of sin and death because God highly exalted Him.

This feast commemorates two historical events: first, the finding of what was considered the Cross of Christ in the year 326 by the mother of Constantine the Great, St Helen, and second its recovery from Persia in 628.

A story is told of Emperor Heraclius who in the year 628, after making peace with the Persians, carried what was considered the Cross on which Jesus hung back to Jerusalem on his shoulders. He was clothed with costly garments and with ornaments of precious stones. But at the entrance to Mt Calvary, a strange incident occurred. Try as hard as he would, he could not go forward. Zacharias, the Bishop of Jerusalem, then said to the astonished monarch: "Consider, O Emperor, that with these triumphal ornaments, you are far from resembling Jesus carrying His Cross." The Emperor then put on a penitential garb and continued the journey, and carried the Cross into the Church of Holy Wisdom, where it was triumphantly exalted. It was then resolved that the Feast of the Triumph or Exaltation of the Cross be celebrated by the Church in all parts of the world.

The Cross — because of what it represents — is the most potent and universal symbol of the Christian faith. It is a constant reminder — and witness — of Christ's ultimate triumph, His victory over sin and death through His suffering and dying on the Cross. The Cross, once a tool of death, has become a means to life, an instrument of our salvation. It gives strength to resist temptation, it gives hope to seek new life, and it dispels fear and darkness.