On this date, the Church celebrates each year the feast which is called the Triumph or the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. On Good Friday, we contemplate Our Divine Lord in his sufferings on the cross; today we contemplate him in the glory that he won for the world by his generous death on the cross for our salvation. He said, before his death, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all things to myself.” That “lifting up” began on the cross, continued in his resurrection—up, out of the tomb—and then came to its conclusion when he was lifted up into heaven, there to prepare a place for us.
There are a number of elements to this celebration in our liturgy. There is the terrible fact of Our Lord’s suffering on the cross. We have in our English language the word “excruciating,” meaning very severe pain. The Latin words “ex cruce” mean “from the cross.” The sufferings of a person nailed to a cross are terrible, and that is what Our Lord underwent for our redemption. And then we have the devotion to the physical cross itself. It is supposed to have been located and identified by Saint Helen, the mother of the emperor Constantine; she went to the Holy Land to find and mark as many places and things associated with Jesus as she could. The cross of Our Lord was brought back to Rome and what is left of it is kept in a church called “The Holy Cross of Jerusalem.” Splinters of it have been given by the Holy See to people and institutions all over the world, so there isn’t much left of it in Rome.
Then we have the great Christian devotion to the cross as a sign of Christ’s victory. Every Christian church is marked with a cross, if not more than one. Most Catholic homes are also marked in this way. We Catholics make the sign of the cross over ourselves frequently, and it is used in the administration of the Sacraments and in giving blessings to persons, places, and things.
Let me ask you to think for a moment of Our Lady’s feelings as she stood beside Our Lord’s cross and watched him die on it in agony. I wonder if her thoughts didn’t go back to Bethlehem when she had no more comfortable bed in which to place her newborn baby than a manger full of straw—and probably vermin as well. At his birth, he was laid in the discomfort of a manger; at his death, he died in the terrible suffering of the cross. Not many mothers are asked to see their children suffer that way and to feel their own total helplessness to ease their children’s sufferings.
But all of this pain was the price paid for the redemption of the world. And the Christian people will continue to pray until the end of time: “We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you; because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.