WE ADORE YOU O CHRIST, AND WE BLESS YOU
BECAUSE BY YOUR HOLY CROSS YOU HAVE REDEEMED THE WORLD
PROLOGUE FEAST OF THE EXALTATION OF THE HOLY CROSS SEPTEMBER 14
The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Triumph of the Cross), celebrated every year on September 14, recalls two historical events: the finding of the True Cross by Saint Helena, the mother of the emperor Constantine, and the dedication of churches built by Constantine (335) on the site of the Holy Sepulchre and Mount Calvary.
After the death and resurrection of Christ, both the Jewish and Roman authorities in Jerusalem made efforts to obscure the Holy Sepulchre, Christ’s tomb, in the garden near the site of His crucifixion. The earth had been mounded up over the site, and pagan temples had been built on top of it.
According to tradition, Saint Helena, Mother of Emperor Constantine, nearing the end of her life, decided under divine inspiration to travel to Jerusalem in 326 to excavate the Holy Sepulchre and attempt to locate the True Cross.
In celebration of the discovery of the Holy Cross, Constantine ordered the construction of churches at the site of the Holy Sepulchre and on Mount Calvary. Those churches were dedicated on September 13 and 14, 335, and shortly thereafter the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross began to be celebrated on September 14.
In a deeper sense, the feast also celebrates the Holy Cross as the instrument of our salvation. This instrument of torture, designed to degrade the worst of criminals, became the life-giving tree that reversed Adam’s Original Sin when he ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden.
The cross reminds us of many things: salvation, redemption, hope, atonement, forgiveness, love, mercy etc. Catholic Christians display it in their homes. They wear it on their person. They make the sign of the cross before prayer and on entering their Church with the waters of Baptism.
At Mass, the same sacrifice offered on Calvary is offered in an “unbloody manner” as the re-presentation of Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross on Calvary. When we receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion, we do not simply unite ourselves to Christ; we nail ourselves to the Cross, dying with Christ so that we might truly rise with Him. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23).
Theologians, classically, have tried to come to grips what the cross teaches us and how the cross saves us. Christians believe that somehow we are washed clean in the blood of Jesus, that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and that we are saved through the cross. For this blog, I am more interested in what the cross teaches or reveals to us.
At Jesus’ death, the Temple veil before the “holy of holies” was split in two from top to bottom revealing the inner heart of God. There is no longer a veil between us and God’s heart. The cross of Jesus fully reveals what God looks like!
The cross of Jesus doesn’t just reveal God’s unconditional love for us; it also reveals that vulnerability is the path to intimacy. What the cross tells us, more clearly than any other revelation, is that God is absolutely and utterly nonviolent. He totally surrenders to us in love, draws us to Himself in this moment of vulnerability and sacrifice.
As God in His vulnerability draws us in, we can draw God into relationship by doing likewise. When we become like little children, vulnerable, dependant, acknowledge that we are powerless, and turn our selves over to God’s holy will, “thy will be done” then God can come into that vulnerability, that weakness, and we can know it is not about us now but God.
God will not abandon us nor did He abandon His Son on the cross. With the words, “It is finished,” Jesus acknowledged that He has remained faithful to the Father and trusts that all will be well. On Easter, Jesus is raised in glory and sits today and forever at right hand of the Father.
When are so paralyzed by fear and overcome by darkness that we can no longer help ourselves, when we have reached the stage where we can no longer open the door to let light and life in, God can still come through our locked doors, stand inside our fear and paralysis, and breathe out peace.
“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”John 20:19
Too often, people associate God with coercion, threat, guilt, and that He will somehow rise up and crush by force all that is evil. That concept is the main reason why so many fear God, hate God, try to avoid God, or are disappointed in God. God is not coercion, threat, guilt, nor the great avenger of evil and sin. Rather, God is love, light, truth, and beauty. God is like a mother, gently trying to coax another step out of a young child learning to walk.
God didn’t spare Jesus from suffering. That is one of the key revelations inside of the cross and most misunderstood. We are forever predicating our faith on a rescuing God, Have a genuine faith in Jesus, and you will be spared from life’s humiliations and pains! Have a genuine faith in Jesus, and prosperity will come your way! Believe in the resurrection, and rainbows will surround your life! Really!!! How many of you have found that to be true!
God is not ordinarily a rescuer. Why didn’t Jesus rush down to save Lazarus since he loved him? The answer to that question teaches a very important lesson about God, and faith, namely, that God is not a God who ordinarily rescues us. God is a Redeemer. God absorbs (takes in) all the hate, bitterness, resentment, violence, and sins of this world.
Jesus never promised us rescue. Rather, he promised that, in the end, there will be redemption, vindication, immunity from suffering, and eternal life. In the early, intermediate and late chapters of our lives, there will be the same kinds of humiliation, pain, and death that everyone else suffers. The cross and resurrection of Jesus reveal a redeeming, not a rescuing, God.
O happy fault that earned for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer!
EASTER VIGIL PROCLAMATION
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