O Cross, brighter than all the stars, famed throughout the world, lovely unto men, and of all things the most holy, which alone wast worthy to bear the ransom of the world: O sweet wood, O sweet nails, that bore so sweet a burden, save this congregation this day assembled in Thy praise. Alleluia, alleluia. (Antiphon at the Magnificat for Vespers)
From The Saint Andrew Daily Missal
After the victory gained by Constantine by virtue of the Cross which appeared to him in the skies, and whose sign he reproduced in the Labarum, St. Helena, his mother, went to Jerusalem to try to find the true Cross. At the beginning of the second century, Hadrian had covered Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre under a terrace of 300 feet in length, on which had been erected a statue of Jupiter and a temple of Venus. The Empress razed them to the ground, and, in digging up the soil, they discovered the nails (Alleluia) and the glorious trophy to which we owe “life, salvation and resurrection” (Introit). The miraculous cure of a woman authenticated the sacred tree (Collect).
St. Helen divided into three the precious wood which had been “worthy to bear the King of Heaven” (Alleluia), which had merely been figured by the cross on which the brazen serpent was raised. One part was deposited in Rome in the church which on this account was called Holy Cross in Jerusalem the second in Constantinople and the third in Jerusalem. This last relic having been carried off by the Persians and recovered by Heraclius, this emperor solemnly brought it back to Jerusalem on May 3rd, 628. Covered with gold and precious stones, the Emperor suddenly felt himself held back by an invincible power. At this sight, Zacharias, bishop of Jerusalem, told him to imitate the poverty and humility of Jesus bearing His cross. Heraclius thereupon covered his shoulders with a common cloak and without further hindrance went his way.
Introit – Gal. vi. 14
Nos autem gloriari oportet in cruce Domini nostri Jesu Christi in quo est salus, vita, et resurrectio nostra per quem salvati, et liberati sumus, alleluia, alleluia. * Deus misereatur nostri, et benedicat nobis: illuminet vultum suum super nos, et misereatur nostri.
But it behoves us to glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ: in whom is our salvation, life and resurrection: by whom we are saved, and delivered, alleluia, alleluia. * May God have mercy on us and bless us: may He cause the light of His countenance to shine upon us, and may He have mercy on us.
Deus, qui in praeclara salutiferae Crucis Inventione, passionis tuae miracula suscitasti: concede; ut vitalis ligni pretio, aeternae vitae suffragia consequimur.
O God, who in the glorious Finding of the Cross of salvation didst renew the wonders of Thy passion; grant us by the price of the wood of life to win the palm of eternal life.
Adapted from The Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger
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 Lord’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 burden. 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 today. 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 Passiontide: “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 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 the two spots of most sacred interest. When peace was restored under Constantine, the Christians had but to remove the 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 Helena, 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 St. Mary 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 to 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 initiated, 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.
St. Helena 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 300 years, and the faithful were 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, St. Helena 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 The-Holy-Cross-in-Jerusalem.
How dear 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. 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 Cross Is
The cross is the hope of Christians
the cross is the resurrection of the dead
the cross is the way of the lost
the cross is the saviour of the lost
the cross is the staff of the lame
the cross is the guide of the blind
the cross is the strength of the weak
the cross is the doctor of the sick
the cross is the aim of the priests
the cross is the hope of the hopeless
the cross is the freedom of the slaves
the cross is the power of the kings
the cross is the water of the seeds
the cross is the consolation of the bondsmen
the cross is the source of those who seek water
the cross is the cloth of the naked.
We thank you, Father, for the cross. Amen.