Good Morning! Today we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. For those of you who did not utilize Google as I did, this feast day celebrates three main things:
The finding of the True Cross.
The dedication of the churches built at Mount Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre.
Most importantly, the Holy Cross- its significance, meaning, and important instrument of our salvation.
Now, typically I begin falling asleep while learning about history but what I am about to relay to you is actually pretty fascinating- so don’t stop reading this post yet!
On September 14, year 326, St. Helena (Emperor Constantine’s mother) found the True Cross on which Jesus was crucified. How amazing is that?! She was instructed in a dream to go to Jerusalem and search for the true Cross of Christ. St. Helena managed to speak to some of the local people and gain some insight as to where they had inherited information from their ancestors regarding the alleged location Christ was crucified and buried. Upon finding the potential location, she ordered for the area to be deeply excavated in search of evidence of the crucifixion. Three crosses were found, along with the the nails with which our Savior had been crucified and the inscription Pilate had written and placed above the Cross (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews…abbreviated as INRI in Latin.) It was assumed that two of the crosses belonged to thieves who were crucified along with Christ and the third was the True Cross. In order to identify if and which of the three crosses belonged to Christ, a sick woman touched each of the crosses. When she touched the Cross of Jesus, she was miraculously healed. Certainly several miracles must have taken place but another well-known one was of a dead person was laid upon each of the crosses. When laying on the Cross of Jesus, the dead person was restored to life! How crazy is that?!
The Holy Sepulchre was then constructed to be a Church and Holy place at the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. Another church was constructed at Mount Calvary (aka Golgotha aka “the place of the skull”) where Christ died. [For Bibical reference see: Matthew 27:33, Mark 15:22, Luke 23:33, and John 19:17.]
The Cross has an immense amount meaning for all Christians. It is a constant reminder of God’s sacrificial love for us, the denial of self, and Jesus’ victory over death. We look to the example Christ shows us on the Cross as we go out into the world and serve His people. We look to the Cross when we sacrifice our own selfish desires to improve the lives of our friends, family members, and spouses. We look at the crucifix not as a symbol of sadness and death, but as a sign of hope that Christ overcomes our death, giving us eternal life.
While we are on the topic of the Cross, I’d like to take a second to discuss the Sign of the Cross. Being raised Catholic, I’ve never questioned the reason being making the Sign of the Cross until I noticed some of my non-Catholic Christian brothers and sisters refrain from making the sign. While I am uncertain as to the reasons why other denominations refrain from making the sign, I can tell you a few of the reasons I do it.
First of all, making the sign of the Cross is a prayer in and of itself! It helps open ourselves to His grace andprepares us to receive His Blessings.
By saying, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” we are affirming our belief in the Trinity.
It is a reminder of our Baptism.
It is comforting. It helps us center ourselves on Christ and be at peace.
It is a physical way to invoke the Lord’s protection and Blessing.
Let’s get Biblical, Biblical! *to the tune of Physical by Olivia Newton-John”
The sign originated a long time ago. How is it Biblically referenced, you ask?
In the Old Testament, we find passages making mention of having a sign of God on foreheads [Revelations 7:3, 9:4, 14:1] Look those up if you are interested…
Now check this out because it is REALLY cool. “Lord said to him: Pass through the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and mark … the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the abominations practiced within it.” [Ezekial 9:4] In the Hebrew text of this verse, the word that translates in English as “mark” is “tav” in Hebrew. This is significant because tav is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet and in early 2,000 BC this letter was shaped like a Cross, thus referencing the seal/sign of the Cross.
As previously mentioned- the sign of the Cross is closely tied to our Baptism. “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” [Matthew 28:19]
As we read in Scripture, there is Power in God’s name. “…At the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth” [Philippians 2:10] Jesus directly tells us this Himself when He says, “And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.” [John 14:13-14] When we begin our prayers by invoking the name of the Father, Son. and of the Holy Spirit, there is power. There is power simply in His name alone.
Reflection on Today’s Daily Readings
My favorite of today’s reading is the second one from Philippians 2: 6-11.
Brothers and sisters: Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
“He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave…becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” Wow. That is a seriously powerful sentence right there. The Creator of the universe, the Almighty, omniscient God, King of Heaven and Earth, the Alpha and the Omega, Our Lord and Savior, who has all of the control, who can do anything He wants, decides to empty Himself, take the form of a slave, and endure an excruciatingly horrible death. That is unbelievable!
How often in our lives are we too self-righteous to empty ourselves of our own selfish desires? We have a family member who is nearby and available to talk to and socialize with, yet we desire to spend a few extra minutes browsing the internet. We have an elderly relative, neighbor, or friend we know is lonely, sitting at home hoping for a visitor. We have a friend going through a difficult situation but we fail to check up on them and be there to support them as it might “bring our mood down.” We can generate thousands of examples of selfishness but it all comes down to love. We see the most powerful demonstration of Christ’s love in todays Gospel passage- “For God so lovedthe world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” [John 3:16] There is a reason this verse is embroidered on throw pillows, on the bottom of coffee cups and Forever XXI shopping bags. It shows us how to love! To love as God loves, we must give of ourselves and die to ourselves.
As we begin this week, let us look to the Cross as a sign of hope. Let us look to the Cross to be reminded of how much we are loved by God. Let us look to the Cross as an example and demonstration of how we are to love. Let us look to the Cross as a reminder of the weight our sin holds. Let us look to the Cross as a reminder of the Resurrection, the victory Christ has over death. Just as St. Helena searched for the physical Cross of Christ, let us search, in our own way, for the Cross as well. I encourage you to listen to “Lead Me” by Hillsong United as it fits in perfectly with today’s Feast day and daily readings.
May God Bless you on this beautiful Monday!
Lead me to the cross Where Your love poured out Bring me to my knees Lord I lay me down Rid me of myself I belong to You Lead me, lead me to the cross.
Lead Me to the Cross << Youtube link to the song found here!