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Triumph of the Holy Cross
(instituted in 629)
Have you found your cross yet? You can’t follow Christ until you find it. He himself pointed that out: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) Yes, the joy of the Resurrection always rises out of the pain of the crucifixion. Only by battling to resist the urges of selfishness out of love for God and his Kingdom can we experience the peace of Christ’s love. We all have our personal combination of selfish tendencies, our own recipe of challenges and difficulties in life, which make up the fiber of our cross. Have you found yours? Do you pick it up each day? Today is an especially good day to look for it, or to remind yourself of it, or to polish it up, because today the Church celebrates the Triumph of the Cross.
Originally this celebration was linked to St Helen’s miraculous fourth-century finding of the cross on which Jesus had been crucified. The Emperor Constantine constructed magnificent Basilicas on the hill of Calvary and over the Holy Sepulchre (where Christ was buried) to honor the cross of Christ. When the Persian armies conquered Palestine around the year 600, they carried off the pieces of the True Cross, which had been housed in the basilicas. The Emperor Heraclius recovered them in 614, on September 14th. Ever since, the Church has commemorated the event, and taken advantage of it not only to venerate the actual pieces of wood, but also to praise Christ for the sacrifice he offered upon that wood, a sacrifice that reunited God and man forever.
The cross is at the heart of the Christian message, my dearest niece. It is the intersection of the human and the divine, the arms of God outstretched to embrace suffering mankind, the new tree of eternal life whose fruit is the Holy Eucharist. If only I could walk you through the ancient churches in Rome and Palestine, and show you the surpassingly beautiful mosaics and sculptures of the cross, bedecked with jewels and bursting forth in flowing rivers of grace! Yes indeed, as today’s Mass says, “We should glory in the cross of our lord Jesus Christ, for he is our salvation, our life and our resurrection; through him we are saved and made free.” (Cf. Galatians 6:14)
Look for your cross, my dear niece, and embrace it with all your strength. It will be your life raft, your ladder, your secret passage right into the heart of the Lord.