The Exaltation of the Holy Cross: September 14th

O adorable Cross, our glory and our love here on earth, save us on the day when thou shalt appear in the heavens, when the Son of Man, seated in his majesty, is to judge the world! – Dom Gueranger in The Liturgical Year

Early in the fourth century St. Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, went to Jerusalem in search of the holy places of Christ’s life. She razed the second-century Temple of Aphrodite, which tradition held was built over the Savior’s tomb, and her son built the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher over the tomb. During the excavation, workers found three crosses. Legend has it that the one on which Jesus died was identified when its touch healed a dying woman.

The cross immediately became an object of veneration. At a Good Friday celebration in Jerusalem toward the end of the fourth century, according to an eyewitness, the wood was taken out of its silver container and placed on a table together with the inscription Pilate ordered placed above Jesus’ head: Then “all the people pass through one by one; all of them bow down, touching the cross and the inscription, first with their foreheads, then with their eyes; and, after kissing the cross, they move on.”

To this day the Eastern Churches, Catholic and Orthodox alike, celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on the September anniversary of the basilica’s dedication. The feast entered the Western calendar in the seventh century after Emperor Heraclius recovered the cross from the Persians, who had carried it off in 614, 15 years earlier. According to the story, the emperor intended to carry the cross back into Jerusalem himself, but was unable to move forward until he took off his imperial garb and became a barefoot pilgrim.



At the Mass for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Pope Francis said the mystery of the Cross is a great mystery for mankind, a mystery that can only be approached in prayer and in tears.

In his homily, the Pope said that it is in the mystery of the Cross that we find the story of mankind and the story of God, synthesised by the Fathers of the Church in the comparison between the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, in Paradise, and the tree of the Cross:

“The one tree has wrought so much evil, the other tree has brought us to salvation, to health. This is the course of the humanity’s story: a journey to find Jesus Christ the Redeemer, who gives His life for love. God, in fact, has not sent the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. This tree of the Cross save us, all of us, from the consequences of that other tree, where self-sufficiency, arrogance, the pride of us wanting to know all things according to our own mentality, according to our own criteria, and also according to that presumption of being and becoming the only judges of the world. This is the story of mankind: from one tree to the other.”

In the Cross there is the “story of God,” the Pope continued, because we can say that God has a story.” In fact, “He has chosen to take up our story and to journey with us,” becoming man, assuming the condition of a slave and making Himself obedient even to death on a Cross:

“God takes this course for love! There’s no other explanation: love alone does this. Today we look upon the Cross, the story of mankind and the story of God. We look upon this Cross, where you can try that honey of aloe, that bitter honey, that bitter sweetness of the sacrifice of Jesus. But this mystery is so great, and we cannot by ourselves look well upon this mystery, not so much to understand – yes, to understand – but to feel deeply the salvation of this mystery. First of all the mystery of the Cross. It can only be understood, a little bit, by kneeling, in prayer, but also through tears: they are the tears that bring us close to this mystery.”

“Without weeping, heartfelt weeping,” Pope Francis emphasized, we can never understand this mystery. It is “the cry of the penitent, the cry of the brother and the sister who are looking upon so much human misery” and looking on Jesus, but “kneeling and weeping” and “never alone, never alone!”

“In order to enter into this mystery, which is not a labyrinth but resembles one a little bit, we need the Mother, the mother’s hand. That she, Mary, will make us understand how great and humble this mystery is; how sweet as honey and how bitter as aloe. That she will be the one who accompanies us on this journey, which no one can take if not ourselves. Each one of us must take it! With the mother, weeping and on our knees.”

About Gertrude

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium.
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20 Responses to The Exaltation of the Holy Cross: September 14th

  1. johnhenrycn says:

    I’m cheered by the reminder that I was baptised this day 61 years ago. Wondering whether relics of the True Cross still exist is an interesting exercise – a beneficial and spiritual one in fact – as is the veneration of relics in general; but pace our agnostic friends (and please, let no one bore us with the wisecrack that enough cruciferous artefacts have been found to rebuild Noah’s ark), it’s not something to distract us from the main thing, namely the ontological meaning of the Cross and of Our Lord’s death upon it.


  2. Amelia Fatima says:

    As a follower of Christ, CROSS is my FLAG and FAITH is my weapon.


  3. golden chersonnese says:

    I’ve found a very lovely Palestrina’s O crux, ave for the 61st of your baptism, JH (so much for Toad’s loverly bunch of coconuts!). These Romanians are pretty good, I must say. I hope you are pleased:

    O crux, ave, spes unica!
    Auge piis justitiam,
    Reisque dona veniam.

    (Hail, O Cross, sole hope!
    Increase virtue in the faithful,
    And give forgiveness for sins.)


  4. johnhenrycn says:

    God bless, GC. An elementary understanding of our Catholic faith (I’m thinking of a children’s picture book authored by Louis LaRavoire Morrow, D.D. with an imprimatur and nihil nobstat, the year I was illegitimately conceived and five years before I committed to Catholicism) every word of which calls me to God – says that


  5. johnhenrycn says:

    God bless, GC. An elementary understanding of our Catholic faith – I’m thinking here of a children’s picture book: My Catholic Faith, by Louis LaRavoire Morrow, D.D. , Bishop of Krishnagar, with imprimatur and nihil nobstat in 1949, the year when I was illegitimately conceived and five years before I committed to Catholicism – every word of which book calls me to God – says that you’re on the money, as always.
    It’s not my fault that my original attempt at this comment was published and truncated before I’d finished it 😉


  6. johnhenrycn says:

    …nor is it my fault that Amazon – if you go to my link – says My Catholic Faith was published in 1941. It was published in 1949. I stand to be corrected, but don’t do so unless you’re sure 🙂


  7. golden chersonnese says:

    An elementary understanding of our Catholic faith

    JH, astonishing, as I thought that exactly as I was listening to it. That’s basically it, isn’t it? The rest is background, explanation, filling out and colouring in..

    Help me if you can think of another religious tradition where those are the headlines. I can’t.

    (Sorry that Amazon won’t give a sneak-peek of that catechism you mention. Do you have a copy in your collection, JH?)

    Would you mind another favourite? Adoramus Te by Théodore Dubois (1837 – 1924), a director of the Paris Conservatoire, no less.


  8. johnhenrycn says:

    Hi, GC. May I nominate you as musical director of CP&S?

    Yes, I possess a copy of Bishop Morrow’s My Catholic Faith; but the virtue of humility (blush) prevented me from saying so – not to mention the fact that my copy, although superb, is a mere facsimile of the original, which I now see, from the Amazon link, is on offer at $987.65 USD.


  9. golden chersonnese says:

    USD 987.65, johnhenry? Not exactly the penny catechism, is it? Goodness.

    JH, the musical offerings were purely for you on the 61st of your baptism, which marvellously occurred on the Feast of Holy Cross . You did quite well there.

    Actually, you’ve given me an idea. Henceforth I too shall commemorate my own baptism with that of my twin sister, which was exactly 2 weeks after our births. Somthing to look forward to after getting a year older. We’re capricorns. by the way (just in case you were wondering), and thus possessed of a goatish personality, or so I’m told.

    I feel sometimes you put me to shame, me a cradle Catholic, JH, with your obviously sincere and strong devotion; so thanks for that.


  10. johnhenrycn says:

    You are too kind, Golden Chersonese, but to celebrate your good opinion of me, I’ve opened a
    small bottle of wine that has my name written all over it.


  11. johnhenrycn says:

    On a more serious note, GC, speaking of baptisms, births and related things, I don’t understand why people, especially Catholics and others committed to Right to Life, don’t celebrate their days of conception as much as, or even more than, the days when they were born; perhaps because their parents can’t remember or are too shy to speak of it? I can’t say for sure when my son was brought into existence, but my daughter is well aware why Christmas is a doubly special day in her life 😉


  12. Toad says:

    Come now, JH. Most of us would only go half way on that.


  13. johnhenrycn says:

    “Not exactly the Penny Catechism, is it?”
    GC, I shall add that very clever off-the-cuff witticism to my commonplace book for future use. Do others here keep such? A Catholic hero of mine, A.N. Gilbey kept one. His practise was to write down whole paragraphs, not just bon mots, which to my mind defeats the whole purpose of commonplace books. The shortest one in his reads:

    “See with even mind,
    Each thing in its kind,
    Here perfection find,
    And be content.”

    Sounds like something our dear Toad would say, no?
    Which reminds me: On a recent thread about St Edmund’s College, there is a lovely photo of a concealed (private) altar. Monsignor Gilbey – formerly Chaplain of Fisher House, Cambridge, until he resigned rather than accepting women undergraduates – had a private chapel concealed in a (large) cupboard at the Travellers Club (Pall Mall) – the executive of which were not given to Popery – where he lived, to which he climbed by the backsatirs to celebrate the Tridentine Mass every day.


  14. johnhenrycn says:

    …by the backstairs…”, I meant to say – not by the backsatirs – or by the backsatyrs, as Toad would have been quick to waggishly correct me (even though he has no knowledge of why that quip is funny when used in reference to Msgr Gilbey) if he was half as brilliantly inventive as Golden.


  15. ginnyfree says:

    I second the nomination! Keep the beautiful music coming! Praise God. Thank you very much. God bless. Ginnyfree.


  16. ginnyfree says:

    I’m one of the lucky ones. I have several third class relics of the True Cross – pieces of lines touched to the Holy Wood! They are extremely precious to me. God bless. Ginnyfree.


  17. Tom Fisher says:

    For people who are interested in the book JH mentions above, online versions are here:

    and here:

    Anyone deeply interested in converts seeks an exposition of the Catholic Faith which not only defines each article of the Creed and each doctrine of the Church, but which also gives an explanation and a reason for the doctrine. Such an ideal is beautifully satisfied in a Catechism written by one of our zealous missionary Bishops, Most Reverend Louis L. R. Morrow, S.T.D., Bishop of Krishnagar.

    This is not the kind of Catechism that can be carried in one’s pocket, for it containes 415 pages. But once it is read, it can be carried both in the head and in the heart. The presentation is such as to satisfy the mentality of both children and adults, and is even not beyond an excellent review for those who have studied both Dogmatic and Moral Theology

    + Fulton J. Sheen


  18. Tom Fisher says:

    I just tried to post some links about the book JH mentioned… they might have gone to moderation?

    [GC: Quite so, Mr Fisher, it went into the spam bin for some reason. I have rescued it for you.

    You’re welcome.]


  19. Tom Fisher says:

    Many thanks G.C! 🙂


  20. Tom Fisher says:

    *Or Mrs Peninsula if you prefer to be formal


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