Ave Crux Spes Unica – Hail Oh Cross, Our Only Hope! The hope of the Cross is to know that things are never hopeless. If we deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Him – (Matthew 16:24), then even in our darkest hour, our deepest despair, our greatest suffering, Christ’s Presence will comfort and strengthen us. Through the Saviour’s Cross (Passion and a Death), sorrow has been turned into hope… and, one day, everlasting joy (Resurrrection). Our own ‘crosses’, both great, sometimes unbearably great, and small (little daily trials, difficulties, penances, etc.) if offered out of love for God, with patience and faith, are turned into treasures stored up in Heaven awaiting us – (Matthew 6:20). “And if I shall go, and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will take you to myself; that where I am, you also may be” – (John 14:3). Man”s suffering has been swallowed up in the victory of Christ’s Redeeming Sacrifice on the Cross.
St Helena knew the incomparable value of the Holy Cross. Her real, historical, and enlightened search for the True Cross on which had hung the Saviour of the World, can be seen as an image of our own search (and acceptance) of the Cross in our lives. When we reject obedience to Christ and the Church’s teaching; when we shun sacrifice or the fulfillment of our daily duty; when we seek selfish pleasures at the cost of others; or when, faced with heresy, we cowardly avoid defending the Truth, turn from the defence of the unborn, the persecuted, etc. in order to make our lives easier, less complicated….. in all of these cases, we are tossing aside our cross.
Let us pray for the courage and fortitude of St Helena to seek with unfailing faith and hope the True Cross. Let us pray for a greater love for the Cross of Christ, and therefore, love for the daily ‘crosses’, we encounter in our own lives. May we learn to embrace both the crosses we are ‘given’ (the unavoidable ones), and those numerous crosses we are ‘offered’. May we see them for what they really are: priceless ‘gifts’ placed along our pilgrimage on Earth. If borne out of love for God, in atonement for our sins and those of others, this instrument of death becomes an instrument of life – life everlasting.
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” – (1 Corinthians 1:18).
From 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.
Magnificat Antiphonal from 1st Vespers
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.
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.
Introit: Galatians 6:14 & Psalm 66:2
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.
Epistle: Philippians 2, 5-11
Gospel: John 3, 1-15
Refreshed with food from heaven, and quickened with the spiritual cup, we beseech Thee, O almighty God, to save from the craft of the evil one, those whom Thou hast bidden to triumph by the wood of the holy Cross of Thy Son, that chosen instrument of justice, for the salvation of the world.