The Paschal Mystery that is the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, is the source and promise of eternal life. The ultimate and abiding symbol of this glorious of all mysteries is the Cross, on which hung the world’s salvation!
The victory of the cross over sin and death was total and it is the totality of this victory, this joyful triumph that the Church celebrates in this feast. The feast was originally known as the Exaltation of the Cross. The word “Exaltation” meaning placing high, according high importance, lifting up, the feast has a four-fold significance for every Christian.
Firstly, the lifting up of the Cross on Calvary Hill that fateful Friday had involved much suffering and shame, yet, it was a sacrifice for the love of the Father, and for the love the Father bore all humankind.
Raised high up, Jesus made the Cross a pulpit whence he preached, by word and example, the most stirring sermon of his entire ministry on earth — he forgave and gave. Out of every one of his wounds flowed grace.
From his side was born the Church and before he breathed his last, he gave to all humankind the gift of his own Mother, Mary. The cross is indeed the sign of his triumph, the vertical beam linking man to God; while the horizontal beam that stretches across the vertical, linking man to man and inseparably to God.
Secondly, the erection of the Cross in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre: it was in 326 AD that Helena the Empress, and mother of Emperor Constantine, discovered three crosses on Calvary. A miracle worked by touching a cripple to each of the three crosses in turn, helped identify the true cross of Christ.
Consequently, she had the Cross exalted in her palace in Rome which she gift converted into the monumental Church of the Holy Cross. Thanks to her efforts, innumerable fragments of this Cross found their way to every part of Christendom and , according to St. John Chrysostom, were so reverenced as to be encased in gold and worn around the neck.
Thirdly, the triumphal sign of the Cross at the last judgement: Jesus said to Nicodemus, “…just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believed in him may have eternal life” (Jn. 3:14-15).
As on Good Friday, the Cross divided those present on Calvary into two groups, so too when on the last day, “the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven” (Mt. 24:30), all of us shall know whether our place is on the left or on the right.
Fourthly, the acceptance of and dedication to the Cross of Christ by every Christian: the crucifix has a place of honour in every Christian heart, home and place of worship. It is in and with the sign of the Cross that we begin our actions.
Indeed. Whatever we do, we do as our part in bearing the Cross of Christ and thus share in the redemption and salvation of the world.
Behold the wood of the Cross, on which our Saviour hung; come let us adore!