“The Cross is the School of Love.” – Saint Maximilian Kolbe
Upon our necks we hang crosses. We clasp the Crucifix upon Our Rosary. We reverently display crucifixes in our home. We even begin all our times of prayer with the Sign of the Cross as a further living reminder of its power and necessity in our lives. All these actions are to facilitate the memory of the amazing love of Our Lord and what He endured for each one of us.
Reflecting on the Cross teaches us how to love as deeply as God does. Jesus’s brutal death on the Cross is an astounding offering that we cannot ever take enough time to reflect with and meditate on. When we look at the Cross, we must remember that it is our sins that nailed Jesus there. It is the sins of the past, present, and future that Jesus took so devoutly upon His body as He offered Himself to the Father for the necessary sacrifice needed for our Redemption.
On September 14, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is celebrated.
“The feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross celebrates two historical events: the discovery of the True Cross by Saint Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, in 320 under the temple of Venus in Jerusalem, and the dedication in 335 of the basilica and shrine built on Calvary by Constantine, which mark the site of the Crucifixion. The basilica, named the Martyrium, and the shrine, named the Calvarium, were destroyed by the Persians in 614. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher which now stands on the site was built by the crusaders in 1149. However, the feast, more than anything else, is a celebration and commemoration of God’s greatest work: his salvific death on the Cross and His Resurrection, through which death was defeated and the doors to Heaven opened.” (The Exaltation)
St. Helena went to Jerusalem to seek out the True Cross of Jesus. When three crosses were found, it is said that the True Cross was identified after a woman who was dying touched the authentic cross. There are so many ways that we can reflect upon on how the cross heals us, too. This feast should encourage us to take time to pray before a cross and to take time to ponder its meaning for our lives and for that of our world.
“To this day, the Eastern Churches, Catholic and Orthodox alike, celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on the September anniversary of the basilica’s dedication. The feast entered the Western calendar in the seventh century after Emperor Heraclius recovered the cross from the Persians, who had carried it off in 614, 15 years earlier. According to the story, the emperor intended to carry the cross back into Jerusalem himself, but was unable to move forward until he took off his imperial garb and became a barefoot pilgrim.” (Exaltation of the Holy Cross)
To carry the crosses of our lives, it takes God’s strength, graces, and love. We cannot bear the weight and the burden alone. Only with and through God can we keep ahold of the cross through the anguish until we embrace the glory of God.
How can we exalt the cross more in our lives?
Are you willing to take up and embrace the cross more in your life?
One final note on this upcoming feast day. I recently learned about Operation True Cross, the first initiative of the Mantle of Mary project by the Mary Foundation. They are going to undertake a massive pilgrimage to pray for America by carrying a precious relic of the True Cross across America. Their pilgrimage will form the shape of the cross over America as they travel by foot starting this September 14 from the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Wisconsin heading south to Indianapolis. Three other pilgrimages will take them from the Franciscan Dolores Mission in San Francisco (Spring 2023) to head East, from Corpus Christi (Fall of 2023) to head north, and then finally from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC (Spring of 2024) heading west. All three of these will each individually end in Indianapolis to complete the cross. I was in awe of this idea and their desire to really pray over America at a time when it is so crucial. For more details, I invite you to check out this article regarding Operation True Cross. They will be saying Daily Prayers to Save America which we can pray with them wherever we are. Mass intentions are being collected free and anonymously at this link (https://www.catholicity.com/petitions/petitions.html) to be taken with them on their pilgrimages. Let us pray and journey with them in whatever way God calls us to so that we can be united in praying for America.
Jesus clearly tells us “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
The Exaltation quotes retrieved from https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/saint/the-exaltation-of-the-holy-cross-594
Exaltation of the Holy Cross quote retrieved from https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/exaltation-of-the-holy-cross
Author: Laura Stephens