Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Lift High the Cross!

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Triumph of the Cross.

The feast actually commemorates two different celebrations.

First, we celebrate the finding of the True Cross by Saint Helena (mother of Constantine) in the year 320.

We also celebrate the return of the True Cross to Jerusalem in the year 627. It had been stolen by the Persians some six years earlier, and its return was, naturally, a cause of great jubilation.

At my parish Church, two huge opposing stained glass windows depict both events. The second one is my depicts a story well worth remembering as we recall the divinely humble obedience Christ showed on the Cross we celebrate today.

It seems that, after the return of the True Cross, the Emperor Heraclius, wearing his kingly robes and regal crown, tried to carry the Cross into the temple. Instead of accomplishing this, he found himself utterly paralyzed. Seeing this, the Jerusalem Patriarch Macharios urged the Emperor to humble himself as Christ had done, by removing his imperial vesture. Heraclius did this (the window shows the Emperor in green underclothes, his royal garments piled on nearby steps) and entered the Temple with ease.

According to one account, "all the faithful desired to see the Cross of the Lord and to venerate it." The Patriarch Macharios "took the Cross onto a raised platform and lifted it on high, `exalting' it, for all to see. The people fell to their knees, bowing down before the Cross and crying out repeatedly: `Lord have mercy!'"

Since that time, the feast has been observed by the Church "in all parts of the world, for which reason it is called the `Universal Exaltation.'"

We adore Thee O Christ and we bless Thee,
Because by Thy Holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world!