September 12, 2021 – The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Sept. 12, 2021 – The Exaltation of the Holy Cross


Tuesday, September 14 is the Feast of the Exaltation (or the Triumph) of the Holy Cross.  This Feast Day was initially inspired by three historical events.  The first event being The Finding of Christ’s Cross in Jerusalem by St. Helena (the mother of the Emperor Constantine).  The classic story goes something like this:

“Helena went to Jerusalem to seek the sepulcher of Christ. When the empress beheld the place where the Savior suffered, she immediately ordered the idolatrous temple, which had been erected there, to be destroyed, and the very earth on which it stood to be removed. When the tomb, was uncovered, three crosses were seen buried near there, along with a tablet of Pilate, on which he had inscribed, that the crucified Christ was the king of the Jews. All were certain that one of these crosses was that of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that the other two were those of the thieves who were crucified with Him. Since, however, it was doubtful which [of the three] was true, they brought each of the crosses to an ill woman who was now at the point of death. The first two crosses were touched to her, but she continued in her dying state; but when the third, which was the True Cross, touched her, she was immediately healed, and recovered her former strength. In this manner then was the genuine Cross discovered.”

 The second historical event was some years later, also on this date, when the churches were built by Helena’s son, Emperor Constantine, over Mount Calvary, and the tomb of Christ (now one structure together known as “the Church of the Holy Sepulchre”) were dedicated.

The third event in the 600s was the recovery of the Cross and its return to Jerusalem by the Byzantine Christian Emperor Heraclius after it had been stolen when a Persian army attacked Jerusalem.  (In later battles over Jerusalem the true Cross was, unfortunately, lost.  However, portions and slivers of the true Cross remain.)

Unlike Good Friday, which is dedicated to the Passion of Christ and the event of the Crucifixion, this feast day celebrates the Cross itself, as the sign of salvation. It is a day when we look at the Cross itself, formerly a sign of shameful defeat, now the sign of our glorious victory.  There are words of some of our old English hymns I’m reminded of that help us reflect on the meaning of the Cross on this day.

First the opening line of the English hymn by Isaac Watts:

“When I survey the wond’rous Cross

On which the Prince of Glory dy’d,
My richest Gain I count but Loss,
And pour Contempt on all my Pride.”

Also, of some lines from the old Methodist Hymn, “The Old Rugged Cross”:

On a hill far away, stood an old rugged Cross

The emblem of suff’ring and shame

And I love that old Cross where the dearest and best

For a world of lost sinners was slain


In the old rugged Cross, stain’d with blood so divine

A wondrous beauty I see

For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died

To pardon and sanctify me



Fr. Kevin