On September 14, in 335, took place the dedication of Constantine’s basilica, which enclosed both Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre. “At this date,” says Etheria, “the cross was discovered. And the anniversary in celebrated with as much solemnity as Easter or the Epiphany.” Such was the origin of the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. “When I shall be raised on high, I shall draw everything unto Me” (Gospel), Jesus had said. It is because the Saviour humbled Himself, being obedient even to the death of the cross, that God exalted Him and gave Him a name above all other names (Epistle). Wherefore we must glory in the cross of Jesus, for He is our life and our salvation (Introit) and He protects His servants against the wiles of their enemies (Offertory, Communion, Postcommunion).
Towards the end of the reign of Phocas, Chosroes, King of Persia, says the reading of the breviary, took Jerusalem, where he put to death several thousand Christians and carried off to Persia the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, which St. Helen had placed on mount Calvary.
Heraclius, the successor of Phocas, had recourse to many fasts and prayers, imploring with great fervour the help of God. He assembled an army and defeated Chosroes. He then insisted on the restitution of the cross of the Lord. Thus the precious relic was recovered after an interval of fourteen years. On his return to Jerusalem, Heraclius carried it on his shoulders in great pomp to the mountain where the Saviour Himself had borne it (A.D. 629).
An extraordinary miracle marked the occasion. Heraclius, who was loaded with ornaments of gold and precious stones, was held back by an invincible force at the entrance gate of mount Calvary and vain were his efforts to enter.
As the Emperor and all those who witnessed the scene were astonished, Zacharias, bishop of Jerusalem, said to him: “Consider, O Emperor, that with these triumphal ornaments you are far from imitating the poverty of Jesus Christ and His humility in bearing His cross.” Heraclius thereupon doffed his splendid garb and walked barefooted with a common cloak on his shoulders to Calvary, where he again deposited the cross. The feast of the Exaltation of the holy Cross on the original spot, the anniversary of which was celebrated on this day, became of great importance.
Let us join, in spirit, the faithful who in the Church of Holy Cross at Rome venerate on this day the relics of the sacred wood exposed for the occasion, so that, having been privileged to adore it on this feast when we rejoice for its exaltation, we may likewise possess for all eternity the salvation and glory the Cross has won for us (Collect, Secret).
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. * 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.
(Introit of Mass, Galatians 6 and Psalm 66:2)
Deus, qui nos hodierna die Exaltationis sanctae Crucis annua solemnitate laetificas: praesta, quaesumus; ut, cujus mysterium in terra cognovimus, ejus redemptionis praemia in caelo mereamur.
O God, who year by year, dost gladden us by the feast of the Exaltation of the holy Cross: we beseech Thee, grant unto us, who on earth have known its mystery, to be found worthy to enjoy the rewards of its redemption in heaven. Through the same Lord. (Collect)
(Epistle : Philippeans ii, 5-11)
Christus factus est pro nobis obediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis. * Propter quod et Deus exaltavit illum, et dedit illi nomen, quod est super omne nomen.
Alleluia, alleluia. * Dulce lignum, dulces clavos, dulcia ferens pondera: quae sola fuisti digna sustinere Regem caelorum, et Dominum. Alleluia.
Christ became obedient for us unto death: even the death of the cross. * Wherefore God also hath exalted Him, and had given Him a name which is above every name.
Alleluia, alleluia. Sweet the wood, sweet the nails, sweet the load that hangs thereon: for thou alone, O holy Cross, wast worthy to bear the King and Lord of heaven. Alleluia. (Phil. 2:8-9 Gradual)
(Gospel : John xii, 31-36)
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.