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The Finding of the Holy Cross

The Liturgical Year

Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B.

May 3rd

The Finding of the Holy Cross

It was most just that our divine King should show himself to us with the sceptre of his power, to the end that nothing might be wanting to the majesty of his empire. This sceptre is the Cross; and Paschal Time was to be the season for its being offered to him in glad homage. A few weeks back, and the Cross was shown to us as the instrument of our Emmanuel’s humiliation and as the bed of suffering whereon he died; but has he not since then conquered Death? and what is his Cross now but a trophy of his victory ? Let it then be brought forth to our gaze and let every knee bend before this sacred Wood, whereby our Jesus won the honour and praise we now give him!

On the day of his birth at Bethlehem we sang these words of the Prophet Isaias: A child is born unto us, and a son is given unto us, and his government is upon his shoulder. (Is 9:6) We have seen him carrying this Cross upon his shoulder; as Isaac carried the wood for his own immolation; but now it is no longer a heavy burthen. It is shining with a brightness that ravishes the eyes of the angels; and after having received the veneration of man as long as the world lasts. it will suddenly appear in the clouds of heaven, near the Judge of the living and the dead-a consolation to them that have loved it, but a reproach to such as have treated it with contempt or forgetfulness.

Our Saviour did not think the time between his Resurrection and Ascension a fitting one for glorifying the instrument of his victory. The Cross was not to be brought into notice until it had subjected the world to him whose glory it so eloquently proclaimed. Jesus was three days in the tomb; his Cross is to lie buried. unknown to men, for three centuries: but it is to have its resurrection, and the Church celebrates this resurrection to-day. Jesus would, in his own good time, add to the joy of Easter by miraculously revealing to us this sacred monument of his love for mankind. He entrusts it to our keeping – it is to be our consolation as long as this world lasts: is it not just that we should love and venerate it?

Never had Satan’s pride met with such a humiliation as when he saw the instrument of our perdition made the instrument of our salvation. As the Church expresses it in her Preface for Passion tide:  “he that overcame mankind by a Tree, was overcome by a Tree.” Thus foiled, he vented his fury upon this saving Wood, which so bitterly reminded him both of the irresistible power of his conqueror and of the dignity of man who had been redeemed at so great a price. He would fain have annihilated the Cross; but knowing that this was beyond his power, he endeavoured to profane it, and hide it from view. He therefore instigated the Jews to bury it. At the foot of Calvary, not far from the sepulchre, was a deep hole. Into this was the Cross thrown, together with those of the two thieves, the Nails, the Crown of Thorns, and the Inscription or Title written by Pilate. The hole was then filled up with rubbish and earth, and the Sanhedrim exulted in the thought of its having effaced the memory of the Nazarene, who could not save himself from the ignominious death of the Cross.

Forty years after this, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, the instruments of God’s vengeance. The Holy Places were desecrated by the idolaters. A small temple to Venus was erected on Calvary, and another to Jupiter over the Holy Sepulchre. By this, the pagans intended derision; whereas, they were perpetuating the knowledge of two spots of most sacred interest. When peace was restored under Constantine, the Christians had but to remove these pagan monuments, and their eyes beheld the holy ground that had been bedewed with the Blood of Jesus, and the glorious Sepulchre. As to the Cross, it was not so easily found. The sceptre of our divine King was to be raised up from its tomb by a royal hand. The saintly Empress Helen, Constantine’s mother, was chosen by heaven to pay to Jesus—and that, too, on the very spot where he had received his greatest humiliations—the honours which are due to him as the King of the world. Before laying the foundations of the Basilica of the Resurrection, this worthy follower of Magdalen and the other holy women of the sepulchre was anxious to discover the instrument of our salvation. The Jews had kept up the tradition of the site where it had been buried: the Empress had the excavations made accordingly. With what holy impatience she must have watched the works! and with what ecstasy of joy did she behold the redeeming Wood, which, though not at first distinguishable, was certainly one of the three Crosses that were found! She addressed a fervent prayer to the Saviour, who alone could reveal to her which was the trophy of his victory; the bishop. Macarius, united his prayers with hers; and their faith was rewarded by a miracle that left them no doubt as to which was the true Cross.

The glorious work was accomplished, and the Church was put in possession of the instrument of the world’s Redemption. Both East and West were filled with joy at the news of this precious discovery, which heaven had set on foot, and which gave the last finish to the triumph of Christianity. Christ completed his victory over the pagan world by raising thus his standard-not a figurative one, but his own real standard-his Cross, which, up to that time, had been a stumbling-block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Gentiles; but before which every Christian is henceforth to bend his knee.

Helen placed the holy Cross in the Basilica which had been built by her orders, and which covered both the glorious Sepulchre and the hill of the Crucifixion. Another Church was erected on the site where the Cross had lain concealed for three hundred years, and the faithful are enabled, by long flights of steps, to go down into the deep grotto which had been its tomb. Pilgrims came from every part of the world to visit the hallowed places where our Redemption had been wrought, and to venerate the sacred Wood of the Cross. But God’s merciful providence willed not that the precious pledge of Jesus’ love for mankind should be confined to one sanctuary only, however venerable it might be. Immediately after its discovery, Helen had a very large piece cut from the Cross; and this fragment she destined for Rome, the new Jerusalem. The precious gift was enshrined in the Basilica built by her son Constantine in the Sessorian garden, which was afterwards called the Basilica of Holy-Cross-in-Jerusalem.

By degrees, other places were honoured by the presence of the Wood of the Holy Cross. So far back as the fourth century, we have St Cyril of Jerusalem attesting that many of the pilgrims used to obtain small pieces of it, and thus carried the precious treasure into their respective countries; and St Paulinus of Nola, who lived in the same century, assures us that these many gifts lessened not the size of the original relic. In the sixth century, the holy Queen St Radegonde obtained from the Emperor Justin II a large piece from the fragment that was in the imperial treasury of Constantinople. It was for the reception of this piece of the True Cross into France that Venantius Fortunatus composed the Vexilla Regis,-that beautiful hymn which the Church uses in her Liturgy as often as she celebrates the praise of the Holy Cross. After several times losing and regaining it, Jerusalem was at length for ever deprived of the precious relic. Constantinople was a gainer by Jemsalem’s loss. From Constantinople, especially during the Crusades, many churches of the West procured large pieces. These again supplied other places; until at length the Wood of the Cross was to be found in almost every town of any importance. There is scarcely to be found a Catholic who, some time or other in his life, has not had the happiness of seeing and venerating a portion of this sacred object. How many acts of love and gratitude have not been occasioned by this? And who could fail to recognize. in this successive profusion of our Jesus’ Cross, a plan of divine providence for exciting us to us appreciation of our Redemption, on which rest all our hopes of eternal happiness?

How dear, then, to us should this day be, which blends together the recollection of the holy Cross and the joys of the Resurrection of that Jesus who by the Cross has won the throne to which we shall soon see him ascend! Let us thank our Heavenly Father for his having restored to mankind a treasure so immensely precious as is the Cross. Until the day comes for it to appear with himself in the clouds of heaven, Jesus has entrusted it to his Spouse, as a pledge of his second coming. On that day, he will collect together all the fragments by his divine power; and the Tree of Life will then gladden the elect with its dazzling beauty, and invite them to eternal rest beneath its refreshing shade.

The Liturgy gives us the following history of the great event we are celebrating today:

After the great victory gained over Maxentius by the Emperor Constantine, under the standard of our Lord’s Cross; which had been miraculously shown to him. Helen, his mother, was told in a dream to repair to Jerusalem and search for the true Cross. Upon her arrival, she ordered to be taken down a marble statue of Venus, which had been erected by the Pagans some hundred and eighty years before, in order that all memory of our Lord’s Passion might be obliterated. She did the same service for the place where reposed the Saviour’s crib, as also for the site of the Resurrection: removing from the former an idol of Adonis, and from the latter an idol of Jupiter.

The place where the Cross was supposed to be having been excavated, three crosses were discovered at a great depth below the surface; and with them, though not attached, the Title that had been fastened to our Lord’s Cross. The doubt as to which of the three crosses the title belonged was removed by a miracle. After having prayed to God, Macarius, the bishop of Jerusalem, applied each of the crosses to a woman who was afflicted with a dangerous malady. The first two produced no result; the third was then applied and the woman was restored to perfect health.

The holy Cross being thus found, Helen built a magnificent church in Jerusalem, in which she placed a portion of the Cross, enshrined in a silver case: the remaining part she took to her son Constantine, and it was put in the Church called Holy-Cross in- Jerusalem, which was built on the site of the Sessorian palace. She also took to her son the Nails wherewith the most holy Body of Christ Jesus had been fastened to the Cross. Constantine passed a law that from that time forward a cross should never be used as an instrument of punishment; and thus what hitherto had been an object of reproach and derision became one of veneration and glory.

Both the Eastern and Western Churches abound in liturgical compositions in honour of the holy Cross. We offer our readers a selection from these, beginning with the glorious verses of Venantius Fortunatus:

Vexilla Regis prodeunt;

Fulget Crucis mystérium,

Qua Vita mortem pértulit,

Et morte vitam protulit.

 

Quæ vulnerata lanceæ

Mucrone diro, criminum

Ut nos lavaret sórdibus,

Manávit unda et sánguine.

 

Impléta sunt quæ concinit

David fidéli carmine,

Dicendo natiónibus:

Regnávit a ligno Deus.

 

Arbor decora et fulgida,

Ornata Régis purpura,

Elécta digno stípite

Tam sancta membra tángere.

 

Beáta, cujus bráchiis

Prétium pependit sæculi,

Statera facta córporis,

Tulitque prædam tartari.

 

O Crux, ave, spes única,

Paschále quæ fers gáudium

Piis adáuge grátiam,

Reísque dele crímina.

 

Te, fons salútis, Trínitas,

Collaudet omnis spíritus:

Quibus Crucis victóriam

Largiris, adde præmium. Amen.

The standard of our King comes forth; the mystery of the Cross shines upon us-that Cross on which Life suffered death. and by his Death gave life.

He was pierced with the cruel spear, that by the Water and the Blood which flowed from the wound he might cleanse us from sin.

Here on the Cross was fulfilled the prophecy foretold in David’s truthful words: ‘God hath reigned from the Tree.’

O fair and shining Tree! beautified by the scarlet of the King. and chosen as the noble trunk that was to touch such sacred limbs.

O blessed Tree! on whose arms hung the ransom of the world! It was the balance wherein was placed the Body of Jesus. and thereby hell lost its prey.

Hail, O Cross! our only hope, that bringest us the Paschal joy. Increase the grace of the good and cleanse sinners from their guilt.

May every spirit praise thee, o Holy Trinity, thou fount of salvation! and by the Cross, whereby thou gavest us victory, give us too our recompense. Amen.

The Roman Church has the following Responsories and Antiphons in her Office for this feast. They are full of unction, and breathe a fragrance of antiquity:

R. Gloriosum diem sacra veneratur Ecclesia, dum triumphale reseratur lignum: * In quo Redemptor noster mortis vincula rumpens, callidum aspidem superavit. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

V. In ligno pendens nostrae salutis semitam Verbum Patris invenit.

R. In quo Redemptor noster mortis vincula rumpens, callidum aspidem superavit. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

 

R. Haec est arbor dignissima, in paradisi medio situata,

* In qua salutis auctor propria morte mortem omnium superavit. Alleluia, alleluia.

V. Crux praecellenti decore fulgida, quam Helena Constantini mater concupiscenti animo requisivit.

R. In qua salutis auctor propria morte mortem omnium superavit. Alleluia, alleluia.

 

R. Dum sacrum pignus caelitus revelatur, Christi fides roboratur:

* Adsunt prodigia divina in virga Moysi primitus figurata. Alleluia, alleluia.

V. Ad Crucis contactum resurgunt mortui, et Dei magnalia reserantur.

R. Adsunt prodigia divina in virga Moysi primitus figurata. Alleluia, alleluia.

 

Ant. Salva nos * Christe Salvator per virtutem Crucis: qui salvasti Petrum in mari, miserere nobis. Alleluia.

 

Ant. Ecce Crucem Domini, * fugite partes adversae, vicit leo de tribu Juda, radix David. Alleluia.

 

Ant. Super omnia * ligna cedrorum tu sola excelsior. in qua vita mundi pependit, in qua Christus triumphavit, et mors mortem superavit in aeternum. Alleluia.

 

Ant. O Crux * splendidior cunctis astris, mundo celebris, hominibus multum amabilis, sanctior universis: quae sola fuisti digna portare talentum mundi: dulce lignum, dulces clavos, dulcia ferens pondera: salva praesentem catervam in tuis hodie laudibus congregatam. Alleluia, alleluia.

Holy Church celebrates the glorious day whereon was found the triumphant Wood, On which our Redeemer broke the bonds of death, and overcame the crafty serpent, alleluia.
V. Hanging on this Wood, the Word of the Father found the way of our salvation.  On which our Redeemer broke the bonds of death. and overcame the crafty serpent, alleluia.R. This is the noblest of all trees, and is placed in the midst of Paradise:  On it the Author of our salvation vanquished. by his own Death, the death of all men, alleluia.V. It is the Cross, dazzling in its exceeding beauty, which Helen, the mother of Constantine, sought with all the ardour of her soul.  On it the Author of our salvation vanquished, by his own Death, the death of all men, Alleluia.

R. Man’s faith in Christ was strengthened, when the sacred pledge was revealed to him by heaven:  The divine prodigies that were prefigured of old in the rod of Moses, were renewed, alleluia.

V. The dead rose again by the contact of the Cross. and the wondrous works of God were made manifest.  The divine prodigies that were prefigured of old in the rod of Moses, were renewed, alleluia.

Ant. Save us, O Saviour Christ, by the power of the Cross! O thou that didst save Peter on the waters, have mercy on us, alleluia.

Ant. Behold- the Cross of the Lord; flee, O ye his enemies, for the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath conquered, alleluia.

Ant. O Tree loftier than all cedars I whereon hung the Life of the world, and Christ triumphed, and death conquered death for ever, alleluia.

Ant. Hail, O Cross * Brighter than all the stars thy name is honourable upon earth To the eyes of men thou art exceeding lovely Holy art thou among all things that are earthly thy transom made the one worthy balance whereon the price of the world was weighed Sweetest wood and sweetest iron, Sweetest weight is hung on thee O that every one that is here gathered this day to praise thee may find that thou art indeed salvation for him Alleluia, Alleluia.

Our Latin Churches of the Middle Ages are fervent in their hymns in honour of the holy Cross. The first we select is the celebrated sequence of Adam of Saint-Victor:

SEQUENCE

Laudes Cruris attollamus,

Nos qui Cruris exsultamus

Speciali gloria:

Nam in Cruce triumphamus,

Hostem ferum superamus

Vitali victoria.

 

Dulce melos

Tangat coelos;

Dulce lignum

Dulci dignum

Credimus melodia:

Voci vita non discordet;

Cum vox vitam non remordet,

Dulcis est symphonia.

 

Servi Crucis Crucem laudent,

Per quam Crucem sibi gaudent

Vitae dari munera.

Dicant omnes, et dicant singuli:

 

Ave salus totius saeculi,

Arbor salutifera!

O quam felix, quam praeclara

 

Fuit hsec salutis ara

Rubens Agni sanguine,

Agni sine macula,

Qui mundavit saecula

 

Ab antiquo crimine!

Haec est scala peccatorum,

Per quam Christus, rex coelorum,

Ad se trahit omnia;

Forma cujus hoc ostendit

Quae terrarum comprehendit

 

Quatuor confinia.

Non sunt nova sacramenta,

Nee recenter est inventa

Crucis haec religio:

Ista dulces aquas fecit

Per hanc silex aquas jecit

Moysis officio.

 

Nulla salus est in domo,

Nisi Cruce munit homo

Superliminaria:

Neque sensit gladium,

Nec amisit filium

Quisquis egit talia.

 

Ligna legens in Sarepta

Spem salutis est adepta

Pauper muliercula:

Sine lignis fidei

Nec lecythus olei

Valet, nec farinula.

 

In Scripturis

Sub figuris

Ista latent,

Sed jam patent

Crucis beneficia;

Reges credunt,

Hostes cedunt;

Sola Cruce,

Christo duce,

Unus fugat millia.

 

Roma naves universas

In profundum vidit mersas

Una cum Maxentio:

Fusi Thraces, csesi Persae,

Sed et partis dux adversae

Victus ab Heraclio.

 

Ista suos fortiores Semper facit et victores; Morbos sanat et languores,

Reprimit daemonia;

Dat captivis libertatem,

Vitas confert novitatem:

Ad antiquam dignitatem

 

Crux reduxit omnia.

O Crux, lignum triumphale,

Vera mundi salus, vale!

Inter ligna nullum tale

Fronde, flore, germine;

Medicina Christiana,

Salva sanos, segros sana:

Quod non valet vis humana

Fit in tuo nomine.

 

Assistentes Crucis laudi, Consecrator Crucis, audi, Atque servos tuae Crucis Post hanc vitam, verse lucis

Transfer ad palatia; Quos tonnento vis servire, Fac tormenta non sentire; Sed quum dies erit irae, Confer nobis et largire Sempiterna gaudia.

Let us proclaim the praises of the Cross, we who have so special a reason to exult in it; for it is in the Cross that we triumph, and gain the victory of life over our fierce enemy.

Let our sweet melodies reach the heavens, for our faith tells us that this sweet Wood is worthy of sweet songs. Oh! let not our life be out of tune with our voice. When our voice is not a reproach to the life we lead, then is our music sweet.

Let the servants of the Cross praise the Cross, whereby they have been blessed with the gifts of life. Let each and all thus sing: Hail, thou saving Tree, thou salvation of the world!

Oh how honoured and how grand was this altar of salvation, that was crimsoned with the Blood of the spotless Lamb, who purified the world from its old iniquity!

This is the ladder of sinners, whereby Christ. the King of heaven, draws all things to himself. Its very shape shows that it takes in the four parts of the earth.

The Cross is not a new mystery, nor does the honour that is paid it date from modern times. It was the Cross that made the bitter waters sweet; it was with the Cross that Moses struck the rock. and made the waters flow.

There was no protection in the house of him who marked not the door-posts with the Cross. But he that so marked them neither felt the destroying sword. nor lost his first-born son.

The poor woman of Sarephta found her salvation whilst picking sticks. Without the Wood of faith, there is nor oil nor meal.

These were blessings of the Cross, hidden under scriptural figures, but now made manifest to the world. Kings have embraced the faith, and enemies are put to flight. With the Cross alone, under the leader Christ, one man routs a thousand.

Rome beheld Maxentius and all his fleet drowned in the deep. The Thracians were dispersed, the Persians slaughtered, and the leader of the hostile troops vanquished.

The Cross ever gives courage and victory to its soldiers; cure all disease and sickness; check, the devil; sets captives free; gives newness of life; restores all things to their former dignity.

Hail, O Cross, triumphant Wood, the world’s true salvation! No tree can yield such shade or flower or fruit as thine. O Medicine of Christian life! keep the healthy strong, and give health to the sick. What man cannot, of his own strength, he can do in thy name.

O thou that madest the Cross thus sacred, hear the prayers of them that celebrate the praises of thy Cross. We are ‘the servants- of thy Cross-Oh! take us, after this life, to the courts of true light. Grant that we who honour the instrument of thy sufferings, may escape the sufferings of hell: and when the day of thy wrath comes, give us to enjoy eternal bliss.  Amen.



The following hymn is taken from the ancient Roman French Breviaries for this feast:

HYMN

Salve Crux sancta, salve

mundi gloria,

Vera spes nostra, vera ferens

gaudia,

Signum salutis, salus in

periculis,

Vitale lignum Vitam portans omnium.

Te adorandam, te Crucem

vivificam,

In te redempti, dulce decus saeculi,

Semper laudamus, tibi semper canimus,

Per lignum servi, per te lignum liberi. Originale crimen necans in Cruce,

Nos a privatis, Christe, munda maculis,

Humilitatem miseratus fragilem,

Per Crucem sanctam lapsis

dona veniam.

Protege, salva, benedic, salvifica

Populum cunctum Cruris

per signaculum,

Morbos averte corporis et animae;

Hoc contra signum nullum

stet periculum.

Sit Deo Patri laus in Cruce Filii,

Sit coaequalis laus Sancto

Spiritui, Civibus summis gaudium

sit Angelis,

Honor in mundo sit Crucis

Inventio. Amen.

Hail, holy Cross! Hail, thou the world’s glory! our true hope, that bringest us true joy, the standard of salvation, our protection in danger, the living Tree, that bearest him who is the life of all !

o sweet glory of the world ! we who were redeemed on thee, tire not in praising and hymning thee as the adorable and life giving Cross. We were made slaves by a tree; by thee, O Tree, were we made freedmen.

Thou. O Christ, didst slay original sin on thy Cross: by thy holy Cross, cleanse us from our own guilty stains, have pity on our human frailty, and grant pardon to them that have fallen.

By the sign of the Cross. protect, save, bless, sanctify thy whole people; avert from them every malady of body and mind; let no danger prevail against this sign.

Praise to God the Father from the Cross of his Son ! praise coequal be to the Holy Ghost I May the Finding of the Cross be a joy to the angel citizens of heaven, and a glory to the world! Amen.


From the liturgical compositions produced by the Greek Church in honour of the holy Cross. we select the following Canon, or hymn. It was written by St Theodore the Studite:

HYMN

Dies, laetitiae est, Christi resuscitatione mors evanuit, vitae splendor exstitit; Adam resurgens cum gaudio choreas ducit; propterea jubilemus victricia carmina concinentes.

 

Advenit dies adorandi pretiosam Crucem; adeste omnes: jaciens enim Resurrectionis Christi lucidos radios, nunc prostat; eam proinde spirituali gaudio pleni amplectamur et exosculemur.

 

Appareto, O immensa Domini Crux, ostende mihi nunc divinam faciem venustatis tuae. Dignare adoratorem, ut praeconia tua decantet. Nam ut cum re animata tecum loquor, teque amplector.

 

Laudes consona voce decantent ccelum et terra, quia omnibus Crux beatissima proposita est; in qua Christus suo corpore fixus immolatus est; ipsam laetis mentibus osculemur.

 

Olim divinus Moyses praefiguravit Crucem tuam, traducens populum Israeliticum per mare rubrum, virga aquis divisis; canticum exitus celebrandi gratia tibi, Christe Deus, decantans.

 

Quam olim Moyses manibus praefigurabat Crucem tuam nunc osculantes, Amalec spiritalem in fugam vertimus, Domine, per quam etiam salvati sumus.

 

Hodie gaudium existit in coelo et terra, quia Crucis signum mundo illucescit, Crux ter beata; quae proposita gratiam perennem stillat.

 

Quid tibi Christe retribuemus, quod copiam nobis fecisti venerandam Crucem tuam adorandi, in qua sanctissimus tuus sanguis effusus est, cui etiam caro tua clavis est affixa? Quam osculantes gratias tibi persolvimus.

 

Hodie choreas cum laetitia ducunt Angelorum ordines ob Crucis tuse adorationem ; in illa enim daemonum catervas vulnerasti, Christe, humano genere servato.

 

Alter paradisus effecta est Ecclesia, quae ut prius, vivificum lignum possidet, nimirum Crucem tuam, Domine; ex cujus contactu immortalitatis participes efficimur.

 

Impletur Psalmistae oraculum. Ecce enim adoramus immaculatorum pedum tuorum scabellum, Crucem tuam venerandam, desideratissimum illud lignum.

 

Lignum, quod in panem tuum missum vidit Jeremias,Crucem scilicet tuam, O misericors, osculantes, celebramus vincula tua, et sepulturam, lanceam et clavos.

 

Hac die odorem halant unguenta ex divinis myrotheciis, Crux nimirum vitali unguento delibuta. Odoremur ccelestem, quam halat, auram ; eamque cum fide adoremus in saecula.

 

Adesto Helisaee, die palam, quidnam lignum illud, quod in aquam demisisti. Crux Christi, qua ex profundo interius extracti sumus : eam adoremus fideliter in saecula.

 

Jacob olini praefigurans Crucem tuam, Christe, adorabat fastigium divinae virgae Joseph, praevidens earn esse regni sceptrum tremendum, quam nunc fideliter in saecula adoramus.

 

Magnus propheta Daniel missus quondam in lacum leonum, manibus crucis in speciem expansis, incolumis ex faucibus bestiarum evasit, benedicens Christum Deum in saecula.

 

In hymnis exsultent omnia ligna sylvae intuentia hodierno die ejusdem nominis lignum Crucis oseulis et amplexibus honorari, cujus Christus caput exaltavit, ut vaticinatur divinus David.

 

Qui in ligno mortuus fueram, lignum vitae te, Crux Christum ferens, reperi. Custodia mea insuperabilis valida adversus daemones virtus, te hodie adorans, clamo: Sanctifica me gloria tua.

 

Laetare, exsulta, Ecclesia Dei, quae ter, beatum sanctissimae Crucis lignum hodie adoras, cui, tamquam ministri, Angelorum ordines etiam cum timore assistunt.

This is a day of joy! At Christ’s Resurrection death disappeared, and life was seen in all its splendour. Adam, who rises again, exults with joy. Let us, therefore, rejoice and sing our hymn of triumph.

The day for the adoration of the precious Cross has arrived. Come, all. ye faithful I It is exposed before us, and it sends forth the bright rays of Christ’s Resurrection. Filled. therefore. with spiritual joy, let us embrace and kiss it.

O Cross of my Lord. thy glory is immense! Show me now the divine face of thy beauty. Vouchsafe that I who venerate thee may sing thy praises, speak with thee as though thou wert a living thing, and I embrace thee.

Let heaven and earth unite in singing its praise, for the most holy Cross is shown to all, the Cross on which Christ was fastened and sacrificed. Let us joyfully approach and kiss it.

The saintly Moses of old prefigured thy Cross, O Christ, when, dividing the waters with his rod, he led the Israelite people through the Red Sea, and sang a canticle of praise to thee in celebration of the going forth from Egypt.

Thy Cross, O Lord, which we kiss to-day, was prefigured by Moses, when he stretched forth his arms; by it, we put our spiritual Amalec to flight; by it also we are saved.

Today there is joy in heaven and on earth, because there shines upon the world the sign of the thrice blessed Cross. Its sight is a source of unceasing grace to us.

What return shall we make to thee, O Christ, for thy having permitted us to adore thy venerable Cross, on which thy most· holy Blood was shed, and to which thy Flesh was fastened with nails? We kiss it and give thee thanks.

The angelic hosts exult with joy because of the adoration of thy Cross; for on it, O Christ, thou didst wound the demon troop and save mankind.

The Church has been made a second Paradise, which, like the first, possesses a Tree of Life thy Cross, O Lord-by whose contact we are made immortal.

The prophecy of the Psalmist is fulfilled: for lo! we adore the footstool of thy divine feet, thy venerable Cross, the much loved Wood.

The Wood which Jeremias saw put in thy bread is thy Cross, O merciful Redeemer! We kiss it, and honour thy chains, and tomb, and spear, and nails.

On this day a sweet odour is exhaled from the thurible of heaven-the Cross, perfumed with a life-giving ointment. Let us inhale this fragrance of heaven; let us ever venerate it with faith.

Tell us, O Eliseus! what is the wood thou didst put in the water? It is the Cross of Christ, which drew us from the depths of spiritual death. Let us ever venerate it with faith.

Jacob prefigured thy Cross of old, O Christ, when he adored the top of Joseph’s mysterious rod. He foresaw that it was to be the venerable sceptre of thy kingdom. Let us now adore it with ever faithful hearts.

The great prophet Daniel, when cast into the lions’ den, stretched forth his hands in the form of a Cross; he was saved from the jaws of the wild beasts, and forever blessed Christ our God.

Let all the trees of the forest sing a glad hymn, for on this day they beheld one of themselves, the Tree of the Cross, being honoured with kisses and embraces. This is the Tree whose head was lifted up by Christ, as holy David foretold.

I, whose death was caused by a tree, have found thee, O Tree of Life, O Cross that bearest Christ’ Thou art my invincible defence, my power protecting me against Satan. I venerate thee this day, and exclaim: ‘Sanctify me by thy glory”

Rejoice and be glad, O Church of God, that adorest this day the thrice blessed Wood of the most holy Cross, round which the very angels stand ministering in awe.



Christ Crucified is the power and wisdom of God
. (I Cor. 1:24) Thus spoke thine Apostle, O Jesus! and we are witnesses of the truth of his words. The Synagogue thought to dishonour thee by nailing thee to a Cross, for it was written in the Law: Cursed is he that hangeth on a tree. (Deut. 21:23) But, lo! this gibbet, this tree of infamy, is become the trophy of thy grandest glory! Far from dimming the splendour of thy Resurrection, the Cross enhances the brilliance of thy magnificent triumph. Thou wast attached to the Wood-thou tookest on thyself the curse that was due to us, thou wast crucified between two thieves; thou wast reputed as an impostor, and thine enemies insulted thee ill- thine agony on this bed of suffering. Hadst thou been but man, O Son of David! all this would have disgraced thy name and memory; the Cross would have been the ruin of thy past glory: but thou art the Son of God, and it is the Cross that proves it. The whole world venerates thy Cross. It was the Cross that brought the world into submission to thee. The honours that are now paid it more than make amends for the insults that were once offered it. Men are not wont to venerate a cross; but if they do, it is the Cross on which their God died. Oh! blessed be he that hung upon the Tree! And do thou, dearest crucified Jesus! in return for the homage we pay to thy Cross, fulfil the promise thou madest us: And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things unto myself. (John 12:32)

That thou mightest the more effectually draw us, thou this day permittedst us to find the very Wood, whereon thou didststretch forth thy divine arms to embrace us. Thou hast deigned to give us this holy instrument of thy victory which is to shine near .thee in the heavens on the day of judgement; thou hast mercifully confided it to our keeping, in order that we might thence derive a salutary fear of divine Justice, which demanded thy death on this Wood in atonement for our sins. Thou also gavest us this most precious relic, that it might excite us to a devoted love for thee, o divine Victim! who, that we might be blessed, didst take upon thyself the maledictions due to our sins. The whole world is offering thee to-day its fervent thanks for so inestimable a gift. Thy Cross, by being divided into countless fragments, is in all places, consecrating and protecting by its· presence every country of the Christian world.

Oh! that we had St Helen’s spirit, dear Jesus, and knew, as she did, the breadth, and length, and height, and depth of the mystery of thy Cross. (Eph. 3:18) Her love of the mystery made her so earnest in her search for the Cross. And how sublime is the spectacle offered to us by this holy Empress! She adorns thy glorious Sepulchre; she raises thy Cross from its grave; who was there, that ever proclaimed with such solemnity as this, the Paschal Mystery? The Sepulchre cries out to us: “He is risen: he is not here!” The Cross exclaims: “I held him captive but for a few passing hours: he is not here! He is resplendent in the glory of his Resurrection!” O Cross! O Sepulchre! how brief was the period of his humiliation, and how grand the kingdom he won by you! We will adore in you the place where his feet stood. (Ps 131:7) making you the instruments of our Redemption. and thereby endearing you to our respectful love for ever. Glory, then, be to thee, O Cross! dear object of this day’s festival! Continue to protect this world where our Jesus has left thee. Be its shield against Satan. Help us to remember that union of sacrifice and triumph which will support us in all our crosses, for it is by thee, O Cross! that Christ conquers, and reigns, and commands.

CHRISTUS VINCIT, CHRISTUS REGNAT, CHRISTUS IMPERAT.


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