Holy Cross Day

Today, September 14th is the Feast of the Holy Cross, or Holy Cross Day. It is an ancient commemoration of Jesus’ sacrifice.

In the 4th century Emperor Constantine commissioned the construction of imperial buildings in Jerusalem to create a new capital for the region. His mother, Helena, was on pilgrimage in the holy land when remnants of the cross were discovered during the excavation of the area of the crucifixion. She ordered the site to be preserved for future pilgrims to venerate the place of Jesus’ death. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher continues to draw Christians of all traditions.

Holy Cross Day is the counterpoint to Good Friday. On Good Friday we focus on the suffering of Jesus, today we remember the triumph of Jesus over death that restores the world to God. Maybe this demarcation draws too fine a line between the two days. In the liturgy of Good Friday, we pray these words during the veneration of the cross:

We glory in your cross O Lord, and praise and glorify your holy resurrection.
For by virtue of your cross joy has come to the whole world.
We adore you O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

These anthems resonate with the words from Paul’s letter to the Galatians: May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.

Jesus says that we are to take up the cross and follow him, to proclaim his triumph over death that brings life to all the world. By imitating his way of being we participate in bringing about this new creation.

We use the sign of the cross in many ways. We are marked with it in baptism, we are anointed with oil when we are sick, sometimes ordinands’ hands are signed with the cross. And as we approach death in the final rites of the church we are once again marked with the cross.

Holy Cross Day reminds us of the great mystery of the Christian faith, that in weakness we find strength. That for us death is not final, only a transition into God’s nearer presence. Because of the power of the cross we pass from death to life eternal.


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