The Exaltation of the Cross| Daily Meditation| Daily Quote by S. Padre Pio| Divine Mercy Reflection
Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Early in the fourth century St. Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, went to Jerusalem in search of the holy places of Christ's life. She razed the second-century Temple of Aphrodite, which tradition held was built over the Savior's tomb, and her son built the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher over the tomb. During the excavation, workers found three crosses. Legend has it that the one on which Jesus died was identified when its touch healed a dying woman.
The cross immediately became an object of veneration. At a Good Friday celebration in Jerusalem toward the end of the fourth century, according to an eyewitness, the wood was taken out of its silver container and placed on a table together with the inscription Pilate ordered placed above Jesus' head: Then "all the people pass through one by one; all of them bow down, touching the cross and the inscription, first with their foreheads, then with their eyes; and, after kissing the cross, they move on."
To this day the Eastern Churches, Catholic and Orthodox alike, celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on the September anniversary of the basilica's dedication. The feast entered the Western calendar in the seventh century after Emperor Heraclius recovered the cross from the Persians, who had carried it off in 614, 15 years earlier. According to the story, the emperor intended to carry the cross back into Jerusalem himself, but was unable to move forward until he took off his imperial garb and became a barefoot pilgrim.
The cross is today the universal image of Christian belief. Countless generations of artists have turned it into a thing of beauty to be carried in procession or worn as jewelry. To the eyes of the first Christians, it had no beauty. It stood outside too many city walls, decorated only with decaying corpses, as a threat to anyone who defied Rome's authority—including Christians who refused sacrifice to Roman gods. Although believers spoke of the cross as the instrument of salvation, it seldom appeared in Christian art unless disguised as an anchor or the Chi-Rho until after Constantine's edict of toleration.
"How splendid the cross of Christ! It brings life, not death; light, not darkness; Paradise, not its loss. It is the wood on which the Lord, like a great warrior, was wounded in hands and feet and side, but healed thereby our wounds. A tree has destroyed us, a tree now brought us life" (Theodore of Studios).
“Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.” —St. Rose of Lima
There is a line in the Mass readings for September 14 that grabs my heart every time I read it or hear it proclaimed:
…he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death,
even death on a cross. (Phil 2:8)
September 14 is the day that the Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The line occurs during the Second Reading for the day, and is taken from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.
He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Who is “he?” He is our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Sovereign King of all creation. He is God. But “he” also is the Son of the Father, the Word Incarnate who assumed human nature without losing his divine nature. As a child, I was taught that God becoming a man would be akin to my becoming an ant. Considering my childhood fetish for squishing ants, that analogy was life-changing for me. I don’t think I’ve intentionally squished a single ant since that day.
There’s a similar analogy in the readings for this feast. In the First Reading, the Israelites ungratefully complained to Moses about the way God was caring for them in the desert. To teach them a lesson, God sent a plague of saraph serpents which bit and killed many of the people. Of course, they pleaded for mercy. As a cure, God instructed Moses to make a serpent out of bronze and mount it on a pole. Those bitten needed only to look at it to be saved. The very thing that became the Israelites’ cure was the nuisance they just as well would have destroyed.
Like squishing an ant.
The serpent mounted on the pole was a foreshadowing of our Lord being mounted on the cross. The Scribes and Pharisees saw Jesus as a nuisance—a nasty little thing that bit at them and threatened their status quo—and so they decided to squish him, so to speak, by crucifying him. They, too, were ungrateful for all God had given them.
Our Lord had the power to strike them all dead then and there. Instead, he emptied himself and took the form of a slave. In complete obedience to the Father, he allowed himself to be mocked, scourged, crowned with thorns, beaten, and hung on a cross to die an agonizing death. Like the serpent, the One mounted on the Cross became the means of salvation.
Perhaps we might like to ask ourselves how we respond to the One mounted on the Cross. There are some, sadly, who would prefer to stomp on it and walk away. There are others who don’t understand its significance at all. There are others who understand its significance but ignore it or forget about it. Like an ant crossing the sidewalk or a garden snake slithering away into the tall grass, they pass by and don’t give it much thought.
The One mounted on the Cross is no ant, no serpent, and no mere man. He is the Son of God, the God-Man, the Christ. Let’s not just pass him by. Rather, let’s take a moment—or an hour, or a day—to gaze in love at the instrument of our salvation and to offer him the respect, honor, gratitude, praise, and worship he deserves.
When parents nag kids, we get ignored. When they nag us, we keep answering. Just who is smarter?
Quote by S. Padre Pio:
Always be calm ... and do not fear. Jesus is and always will be totally yours.
Divine Mercy Reflection
Reflections on Notebook Four: 237-262
We continue to the fourth notebook that Saint Faustina filled with reflections and revelations from Jesus. As we enter into this notebook, allow yourself to seek God in the silence. This chapter begins with Saint Faustina revealing that she was experiencing a “dark night” (Diary #1235). She lacked the sensory feelings of closeness to God. By analogy, it would be as if you were in a dark room filled with treasures and someone told you that all the treasures of this room were yours. You could not see them but you trusted the person who spoke about all that was around you. Knowledge of these treasures filled your mind even though the darkness hid them from your eyes.
So it is with God. Saint Faustina loved our Lord with all her heart and with every beat of her heart. She knew His closeness and love. But it appears that she could not sense this through her human senses. This gift of darkness allowed her to enter into a relationship with God on a spiritual level far deeper.
Seek this depth of relationship with God as you read through this chapter. Move beyond a desire to feel close to God and allow yourself to become close to God. He wants to enter your heart on a much deeper level than you ever knew possible. Be open to the newness of a relationship shrouded in darkness and allow the Lord to communicate His Mercy to you on this new level of love.
Reflection 257: The Long Term Plan of God
When you seek to serve our Lord with your whole heart, you may find that He speaks to you about His daily Will. It may not be completely clear, but you may have a sense that He wants this or that from you. God does not typically present you with the entire plan He has for your life all at once. Rather, He offers bits and pieces as needed. Believing what He calls you to do each day requires faith and trust in His gentle voice. The truth is that God does have a perfect plan for your life if you will only listen and respond one step at a time. In the end, from Heaven, this will all make sense and you will see the incredible wisdom of our Lord. However, for now the big and full picture may not be as clear. This is God’s way of drawing you into a relationship of daily dependence and daily surrender. The key is to be faithful each and every day to what you sense our Lord saying. If you do this, little by little, His glorious Will unfolds in your life, and through you His Mercy is bestowed upon the world (See Diary #1300).
What do you sense our Lord calling you to do this day? Whatever it is it may not make perfect sense right now. Trust His gentle Voice and inspirations today and follow His promptings. Do what you hear Him command you. If your sense of His Will seems unusual, speak to another about it so as to make sure it is from Him. But in the end, if you seek to fulfill His daily Will you will discover that the road He takes you down is glorious and achieves His glorious purpose for your life.
Lord, I desire to serve You with all my heart. Give me the grace of an open mind and heart so that I may discern Your gentle Voice calling me into Your perfect Will. My life is Yours, dear Lord, do with me what You will. Jesus, I trust in You.