Tuesday, September 14, 1999
First Reading: Numbers 21: 4-9
Psalms: Psalm 78: 1-2, 34-38
Second Reading: Philippians 2: 6-11
Gospel Reading: John 3: 13-17
FEAST OF THE TRIUMPH OF THE HOLY CROSS
In the Latin Roman Rite this feast is celebrated on September 14th each year to celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on which Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, died. Historians record that the true cross was unearthed by the Empress Saint Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine the Great in the year 326. With Constantine as emperor his mother had the funds and the visa so-to-speak to conduct an extensive expedition for the true cross for it was the sign of the cross in the sky that enabled her son to be victorious - "In hoc signo vinces." Though she was nearly 80 years old her mission was to uncover Christ's cross so that all the world could give it the reverence and veneration it deserved. On arriving in Jerusalem there was no visible sign of any evidence because the heathens had constructed pagan temples over anything Christian to show their disdain. This was the signal to Helena where to look and so she sought out where stones had been piled high, leading her to many discoveries including the sepulchre where Jesus was buried, finding the tools of torture as well after she had the pagan temples destroyed. In the process her expedition nearby uncovered three crosses with the nail holes still visible and, after more digging, discovered the crude rough iron nails that had pierced the hands and feet of our Savior, as well as the two thieves. Helena grappled with which of the three was the true cross and sought out the holy bishop Saint Macarius, who suggested to Helena that the three crosses be taken to a very influential lady who lay very ill in the city. His reasoning and faith was that God would reveal which was the true cross when it touched and healed the sick woman. Helena did just this as Macarius prayed for the miracle they sought. God answered their prayers when the third cross was placed near the woman after the first two had failed. Almost immediately the woman regained full health. Helena was so overcome with joy and gratitude that she ordered a church be built on the spot where she discovered the cross and placed the major portion of the cross in an elegant silver casing inside the church for protection, entrusting it to St. Macarius. Because this pine wood cross was shredding some, Helena took a healthy piece back with her back to Rome, placing it in another church she had delegated to be built there which was renamed Of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem or the Church of Santa Croce in Rome where it is still preserved today. Helena died peacefully in her son Constantine's arms on August 18, 326. St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Macarius' successor, stated that pieces of the true cross were spreading throughout the world which later confirmed what St. Paulinus of Nola wrote: though pieces of the sacred wood were slivered off the main cross almost daily and given to the devout, the cross seemed never to diminish in size. Today these relics are indeed on every continent and we have personally seen many times crosses that contain a sliver of the true cross. As a relic the sliver of the cross is often carried beneath a covered canopy in procession. When it is presented for exposition it is customary to genuflect in veneration, and kissing the relic is a total indication of respect and veneration.