DAILY CATHOLIC    TUESDAY     September 14, 1999     vol. 10, no. 174


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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


        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.

Wednesday, September 15, 1999

      First Reading: 1 Timothy 3: 14-16
      Psalms: Psalm 111: 1-6
      Gospel Reading: John 19: 25-27 or Luke 7: 33-35


        This feast commemorates the seven sorrows (Seven Dolors) of the Blessed Mother of God which are documented in Sacred Scripture beginning with the prophecy of Simeon (cf. Luke 2:34), the flight into Egypt (cf. Matthew 2:13), losing the child Jesus in Jerusalem (cf. Luke 2: 46), meeting her Divine Son on the way to Calvary, the Crucifixion, the Pieta, and laying Jesus in the Sepulchre (cf. Luke 23: 49-56). This feast was first introduced by Saint Anselm and various Benedictines in the 11th Century which took on steam in the following century but did not get promoted universally until the 14th and 15th centuries when the Cistercians and Servites emphasized its importance and relevance in Church liturgy and in devotion to Mary's role in the Church. In 1482 Pope Sixtus IV, who also instituted the feast of Mary's spouse Saint Joseph on March 19, established it in the Roman Missal as the feast of Our Lady of Compassion. In 1727 Pope Benedict XIII declared it as the feast of the Seven Dolors of Mary to be celebrated on the Friday prior to Palm Sunday, though the Servites had been celebrating it on the Sunday after the feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross in September since 1668. In 1814 Pope Pius VII made it a universal feast in the Roman Calendar and Pope Saint Pius X established the date in 1913 as the fixed date, giving it the title of "Our Lady of Sorrows." It was fitting this holy saint set the date for this feast where he did because it further emphasized Mary's importance and vital role in co-redemption as well as reminding Catholics everywhere of Mary's suffering during the Passion and Death of her Divine Son whose cross is venerated the day before. Two icons bring home this fact, first the magnificent Pieta sculptured by the master Michelangelo and which resides behind glass at the back right side of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, and the moving hymn "Stabat Mater" employed during Lent and during the Stations of the Cross to reflect Our Lady's grief and tribulations. She is often depicted with seven swords piercing her Immaculate and Sorrowful Heart as described by Simeon in Luke 2: 34, "And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." The Marian Saint Bernard wrote "Truly...He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known; she died in spirit through a love unlike any other since His." The Preface for this feast sums it up best: "On Calvary, the cruel sword of suffering pierced the heart of the Virgin Mary while the Savior of the world, nailed to the cross, freed the sons of Adam from the ancient condemnation and by His Precious Blood He opened the gates of the Kingdom. In suffering death for our sins, Christ willed especially to associate His Mother with the redemptive passion so that she could obtain for her children more copious fruits of that sacrifice."

September 14, 1999       volume 10, no. 174


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