O Crux Ave Spes Unica

A blessed and glorious feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross! Also called the Triumph of the Cross and, at times, the ‘Invention’ of the Cross, in the original sense of that term, this feast commemorates the ‘finding’ of the true Cross of Christ by Saint Helena, the mother of Constantine, in 326, a decade or so after the great Emperor’s victory over paganism, and his legalization of Christianity in the Roman Empire. One third of the Cross was left in the Holy Land, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre built over the site; one third was brought to Rome, and one third traversed to Constantinople, to make the city impregnable (which it did, more or less, until the last day of May of 1453, and the onslaught of the Ottomans).

This feast also commemorates the recovery of the Cross by the Emperor Heraclius in 629, against apparently insuperable odds, after the vast Persian army carried the precious relic off in 614. It was on this day that he marched in triumph to the great acclaim of the people with the precious cross on his back through the gates of Constantinople.

As valuable as it is, the earthly relic of the Cross is the not, of course, the main event, but reminds us of a far deeper and lasting truth:  The timeless sacrifice of the Son of God on that wooden instrument of torture and death, which in a paradoxical way becomes the arbor vitae, the tree of life, the sign of His infinite love, the ladder to heaven, a sign transcending space and time, extending to all humans who have lived, and ever will.  The Cross is also a sign of the love we must have for each other, a love even to lay down our lives for the sake of love.

We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee, because by Thy Holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.