September 14, 2019 - The True Cross - A Reflection on John 3:13-17 Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
How about a history lesson today? Did you ever wonder what happened to the cross that Jesus was crucified on? Well, it’s quite an interesting story. In 326 AD, Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine who had converted to Christianty, went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Part of her purpose for going there was to map the important events in the life of Jesus, and to locate preserve any relics that she could find.
After interviewing many locals, Helena discovered the cross of Jesus, which had been hidden by the Jews. It is now called the True Cross. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built at the site of the discovery by order of Constantine. The church was dedicated nine years later, with a portion of the cross. One-third remained in Jerusalem, one-third was brought to Rome and deposited in the Santa Croce (Holy Cross) basilica, and one-third was taken to Constantinople to make the city impregnable.
Over the years, there have been invasions, and the cross has often been taken away by conquering armies, and then recovered later by other conquering armies. It’s been broken up into smaller and smaller pieces, with these relics making their way to several churches around the world. There have, quite naturally, been make fakes made, but for the large part those relics in the bigger churches contain pieces from the original cross.
It is interesting (and encouraging) to note that in addition to the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Church, the Anglican Communion, and a number of Protestant denominations, celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. That day is today, September 14, which is the anniversary of the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Why celebrate this feast? Because many have fallen away and have turned from the Cross. A cross-less Christianity is a contradiction in terms because salvation is ours only through the power of the Cross. Celebrating this feast reminds us of this fact. It also, hopefully, reminds us of what Jesus said to us: “Whoever does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:27).
Wish you a blessed feast.