Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, Sunday 14 September 2014
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert even so must the Son of Man be lifted up that those who believe in Him may have life everlasting.” Jn. 3:14
Today’s feastday, The Exaltation of the Holy Cross, has a dual significance: first, there is the votive commemoration of the historical finding of the True Cross by St. Helen in 320 AD, and the return of the Cross to Mt Calvary by Heraclius, Emperor of the East, who after defeating King Chosroes (who had taken the Cross from Jerusalem) had carried the Cross himself to the Basilica on Mt. Calvary in 629 A D; second, there is the mystery of our redemption which is symbolized by Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross. It is this latter significance which is the most important one for us today.
The Cross Proves Our Love
The Cross of Jesus was the supreme proof of the love which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had for His creatures. In like manner our carrying of our crosses should be the finest proof of our love for God. St. John of the Cross says that the reason why so few reach the heights of perfection is that they are not willing to carry their cross. Therefore, God allows them to remain in the state of mediocrity. We should will to do more to show our love and gratitude for Jesus, who died on the cross for us, by carrying our crosses with generosity. “God loveth the cheerful giver.” II Cor. 9:7
The Glory of the Cross
Before Christ died on the Cross, the cross was an ignominious and despised object of punishment for the Jews. It was invented by the Romans to persecute its enemies. After Christ’s death on the Cross, it was a sign of His suffering and love for us. St. Paul would tell of its glory: “For the Jews ask for signs and Greeks look for wisdom; but we for our part preach a crucified Christ—to the Jews indeed a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called both Jews and Greeks, the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” I Cor. 1:22-5 The Cross of Jesus Christ is the glory of our redemption. It is the trophy of the Jesus’ victory over death and sin. It is the sign of our salvation. It is Christ’s glory! For this He came into the world: “Sacrifice and oblation, thou wouldst not, then said I behold I come.” Heb. 10:5 Bishop Sheen said: “Jesus Christ was the only one born to die.” Jesus told us of His glory the night before he died: “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.” Jn. 13:31-2 The glory of the Cross is that Jesus conquers death and sin with His sacrifice on the Cross out of obedience to His Father and His infinite love for man.
The Cross is the Tree of Life
By Jesus’ death on the Cross all men will be drawn to him as He said: “And I if be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself.” Jn.12:32 This lifting up of all men to Christ will bring life to all souls. When the Israelites were punished by God with the bite of serpents, God prescribed to Moses to have the Jews mount a brazen serpent on a pole and their health would be restored. So too the brazen serpent is a figure of Christ who will restore spiritual health to all those who come to Him on the tree of the Cross. From the tree of the Cross there comes life unlike the tree of good and evil in the Garden of Eden which brought death to Adam and Eve for transgressing God’s command.
“unto death, even to the death of the Cross.” (Phil. 2:8)
Fr. Gabriel, OCD tells us in his book of meditations, Divine Intimacy, comments that we need to imitate Jesus so that we will become like Him even unto death: “… we must follow Him in His Passion, prepared to share in it by stirring up in ourselves, according to St. Paul’s exhortation (Today’s Epistle: Phil. 2:5-11), His sentiments of humility and total immolation which will bring us like Him and with Him “unto death, even to the death of the Cross.” (Phil. 2:8) Fr. Gabriel, p. 392 Because of Jesus’ “...obedience unto death of the Cross. Therefore God also has exalted him and has bestowed upon him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven, on earth and under the earth.” Phil. 2:8-10
“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself.” John 12:32
In today’s Gospel, John 12:31-36, Cornelius a Lapide in his Commentary on the Gospel of St. John tells us: “ If I be lifted up, Latin, exaltatus, …. Most commentators say that it means, ‘If I be lifted up on the cross, i.e., if I be lifted on the cross, i. e. if I be crucified on high on a cross.’… Christ alludes to what He said in John 3:14-5: ‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him may not perish; but may have life everlasting.’ Morally, Christ teaches us here that the cross is not to be dreaded, but desired, because the cross alone exalts.
‘All things,’ that is soul and body, say St. Augustine and Bede. But Rupertus says that all things means heaven and earth, men, angels and devils, ‘for I will bring it about that every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth (Phil. 2:10).
“Thirdly, and more simply, all things means ‘all men of all nations who will believe in Me, that is all races of men, says St. Augustine. Hence S. Cyril, Chrysostom, and Theophylactus instead of all things have the reading ‘all men’, but all things is more emphatic as if to say: ‘All the spoils of the devil, that is, all the choicest things of the world which are the nations of the whole world that believe in Me.’
“I will draw. That is, ‘I will withdraw from the devil against his will, so that I may effectively draw and sweetly allure them to Myself, not against their own will, but willingly, and make them My brethren; nay more, My children, that as I am the Son of God by nature, so they may be the sons of God by adoption.”
“…Hear St. Leo (serm. 8 de Passione), treating this whole passage elegantly and tenderly. ‘O Wondrous power of the cross! O ineffable glory of the passion, wherein is seen the tribunal of the Lord, the judgment of the world and the power of the Crucified! For Thou didst draw, O Lord, all things unto Thee. And when Thou didst stretch forth Thine hands all the day to an unbelieving and obstinate people, the whole world felt the force of Thine acknowledged Majesty. Thou didst draw all things to Thyself; O Lord, when in execration of the sin of the Jews all the elements pronounced one and the same sentence, when the luminaries of the heaven were obscured, and day was turned into night, the earth also was shaken with strange quaking, and the whole creation refused its aid to the service of the wicked.’ He then develops this idea of Christ drawing all things even more forcefully: ‘Thou hast drawn all things to Thee, O Lord, for when the veil of the temple was rent, the holy of holies was withdrawn from the unworthy high priests, in order that the figure might be changed into Truth, prophecy into manifestation, and the law into the gospel. Thou, O Lord, didst draw all things to Thee, in order that that which was kept hid in one temple of Judea, by shadows and outward signs, the devotion of all nations might everywhere celebrate by a full and manifest sacrament. For now there is a more illustrious order of Levites, a higher dignity of elders, and a more sacred unction of priests. Because Thy cross is the fount of all blessings, the source of all graces, through which believers obtain strength out of weakness, glory out of shame, and life out of death.” A Lapide, p. 492-4
The Sign of the Cross
We should truly love the Cross! The Church teaches us this when we sign ourselves with the Cross. The sign of the cross symbolizes our two greatest mysteries, the Blessed Trinity and the Redemption. In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, we bless ourselves with the sign of the Cross which is the symbol of our Redemption by the Incarnate Son of God. Jesus showed His great love for us by His sacrifice on the Cross: “Greater love than this no man hath than to lay down his life for his friends.” Jn. 15:13 The sign the Cross is very simple, but how much wisdom and truth it contains. No wonder the Devil fears the Cross and the sign of the Cross. It is the sign that puts him to flight! Use it often especially in times of temptation.
Suffering for Christ
As Jesus Christ suffered and died for us on the Cross, so we should be willing to suffer and die for him. This is how we prove our love! Jesus told us that if we want to be His disciples and enter heaven, then we need to carry our daily crosses: “If anyone will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Lk. 9:23 St. Pio said that if we could see the value of suffering (carrying our crosses), we would beg for more suffering. Let us not wake up when it is too late and be sorry that we did not carry our crosses better in imitation of our beloved Saviour Jesus Christ who suffered and died for us on the Cross.
How to attend Holy Mass
“The Holy Mass is a prayer itself, even the highest prayer that exists. It is the sacrifice, dedicated by our Redeemer at the Cross, and repeated every day on the altar. If you wish to hear Mass, as it should be heard, you must follow with eye, heart, and mouth all that happens at the altar. Further, you must pray with the Priest the holy words said by him in the Name of Christ and which Christ says by him. You have to associate your heart with the holy feelings which are contained in these words, and in this manner you ought to follow all that happens at the altar. When acting in this way, you have prayed Holy Mass.”