- FEAST OF THE HOLY CROSS
- TIEPOLO, Giovanni BattistaTHE EXALTATION OF THE HOLY CROSS
This feast commemorates both the dedication of the basilica built by Constantine for the Holy Sepulcher, and also the return of the True Cross to Jerusalem by Emperor Heraclius of Judea during the seventh century. After Heraclius had recovered it by force from King Chosroes of Persia, he tried to carry it along the Via Dolorosa to Calvary, but was unable to make any headway. Bishop Zachary of Jerusalem, pointing to his luxurious clothing, said, "Attired in these rich robes, you are far from imitating the poverty of Jesus Christ and His humility in bearing His Cross." The Emperor caught the hint -- and went on to Calvary barefooted and wearing a simple cloak.
But it is fitting that we should glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom is salvation, life, and resurrection for us, by whom we are saved and delivered. (Gal. 6:14)
The cross has made suffering a way to life. The mercy of God reached down deep into human anguish and made suffering, which is part of all our lives, redemptive. To consecrate our suffering, in love, to God is to share the hidden glory of the cross of Christ.
To know what God thinks of us we have only to look at the cross. He loves us. The omnipotence that made a universe from nothing, the wisdom that fashioned its plan, work in a love for each of us that is visible upon the cross. To respond to this love is to find our life.
The greatest example of this love is Mother Mary, whose soul was pierced by a sword of sorrow at the Sacred Passion and Death of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
'By the Cross stood the sorrowing Mother Mary, the Queen of Heaven and Mistress of the world.' 'Look, all you who pass by, and see if there is any sorrow like unto mine.' (John 19:25; Lam. 1:12)
The Sign of the Son of Man
Today, Sunday, September 14, 2008, we celebrate the glorious Cross of Christ! We honor this instrument of torture on which Jesus, our Savior and our God, died almost two thousand years ago. We also venerate all the relics of the Holy Cross scattered throughout the world in order to inflame in our heart an ever greater devotion toward the Passion of the Savior of men.
Through the Cross and on the Cross, the body of Jesus was marked by greater trophies than were ever presented to any athlete! And in this instrument, the soul of Jesus found the truly unique Door through which one enters God's Heaven for eternity! In brief, the cross may rightly be called the "Sign of the Son of man" (Mt 24:30), as seen in the sky by Emperor Constantine in the year 312, a sign
accompanied by the words: "By this sign you will conquer."
Through the Cross, Jesus conquered death, definitively, for all eternity. Through the Cross, we too can conquer death, the death that comes from sin, "the second death" of which Saint John speaks (cf. Rev 20:14). Through the Cross, all of us - Jesus first, and then us - are led by the Spirit of God (cf. Heb 9:14) to the Glory of the Resurrection! Eternal Life and Bliss in God come through the Cross: the Sign of the Son of Man is a glorious sign!
In this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus himself explains the meaning of the bronze serpent of which the first reading speaks: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." (Jn 3:14-15) The bronze serpent proclaims the lifting up of the body of Jesus on the Cross of Calvary, but also the lifting up of the soul of Jesus into Heaven!
The bronze serpent already plunges us into eternity, where man is called by God to see him face to face, in a vision that enlivens, through the Spirit of God, both the soul and the body of each of the elect. Just as it is the vision of God that enlivens man in eternity, it was the vision of the bronze serpent that healed and
enlivened the body of the Hebrews when they were bitten by a serpent: "So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live." (Nb 21:9)
Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient unto death, death on the cross. The suffering of the cross was one of the most painful to endure, but above all the most infamous, for the Romans reserved it to slaves and rebels. So let us set our hearts on changing our ways and acting as responsible citizens, and above all citizens who obey all laws, not only those of God and nature, but also those of the State. Let us be sure to observe traffic laws, for example. Let us honor our superiors, and above all our parents! If we obey with Jesus, we will be exalted with Jesus: "Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name!" (Ph 2:9)
After Jesus' discourse, Saint John, who was at the foot of the Cross on the day of the Lord's death, comments on the words of the Master. He reveals to us the soul of the Cross, its spirit, that which had led Jesus to die in this way: "God so loved the world..." The Cross manifests to all men God's love for the world, this world that God calls to his service and to his praise! In this lies all the glory of that instrument of torture: it serves to show all the men and women in the world that God's love goes as far as folly, the folly of the Cross!
During this Sunday Eucharist, we will receive communion. Let us unite ourselves to Christ on his way of the Cross in order to be worthy of the eternal life he promises to share with us! Let us firmly believe that God's love surpasses anything we could ever imagine! Let us ask Mary for these graces! She stood at the foot of the Cross, watching her Son die: may She thus be our model in the love of God and men!
Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen