True story: the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, St. Helena, went to Jerusalem in search of the actual places in Jesus’ life. In the process, she had the Temple of Aphrodite torn down because it was said that it had been built over Jesus’ tomb. As they were tearing it down, three crosses were found. How were they to know which one had held the Savior? It is said that it was identified when it was the one which immediately healed a dying woman. Constantine then built the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre on that spot, and it was dedicated on September 14. This date and the cross itself have been venerated ever since the 4th century.
We all know what a cross is, what THE Cross is, and yet its very familiarity can obscure the profound meaning because we have never actually seen a cross in its original use: as a terrible instrument of torturous execution used by a cruel and barbaric “government” to control people and maintain power. People – many people – died horribly and publicly throughout the Roman Empire on crosses so that others would get the message to “stay in line” and not go against the system. Nothing to “exalt” there.
Today, we don’t celebrate crucifixion. We celebrate ONE CROSS of ONE PERSON who suffered and died a horrible and public execution FOR US. This particular Cross is therefore the place and instrument of Jesus’ triumph over sin and death FOR US. It is the celebration of our own salvation, which we can never forget came through the obedient suffering and death of Jesus. Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, emptied himself and became one humbled, persecuted, and condemned FOR US. Crucified. FOR US.
When we make the Sign of the Cross over ourselves today, let’s make a point to recall that our ability to live in grace comes from the Cross, our very existence today comes from the Cross, our hope in eternal salvation comes from the Cross. Everything we do today that is good and true and beautiful is possible because of Jesus’ death on the Cross. FOR US.
We adore You, O Christ, and we bless you, because by Your Cross You have redeemed the world.
Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including Father Rob), and four grandchildren. She is President of the local community of Secular Discalced Carmelites and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 30 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE, and as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio. Currently, she serves the Church by writing and speaking, and by collaborating with various parishes and to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is www.KathrynTherese.com
Feature Image Credit: Gime Salvatelli, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/16859-sacrificio