Vol. XVIII, No. 6
O Crux, ave spes unica! Hail, O Cross, our only hope!
Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross – September 14
On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (or Triumph of the Cross) we honor the Holy Cross by which Christ redeemed the world. The public veneration of the Cross of Christ originated in the fourth century, according to early accounts. The origin of this feast is the miraculous discovery of the cross on September 14, 326, by Saint Helen, mother of Constantine, while she was on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Constantine later built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on the site of her discovery of the cross.
In the Western Church the feast came into prominence in the seventh century — after 629, when the Byzantine emperor Heraclius restored the Holy Cross to Jerusalem, after defeating the Persians who had stolen it.
Christians “exalt” (raise on high) the Cross of Christ as the instrument of our salvation. Our Adoration of the Cross is, thus, adoration of Jesus Christ, the God Man, who suffered and died on this Roman instrument of torture for our redemption from sin and death. The cross represents the One Sacrifice by which Jesus, obedient even unto death, accomplished our salvation. The cross is a symbolic summary of the Passion, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of Christ — all in one image.
The Cross — because of what it represents — is the most potent and universal symbol of the Christian faith. It has inspired both liturgical and private devotions: for example, the Sign of the Cross, which is an invocation of the Holy Trinity; the “little” Sign of the Cross on head, lips, and heart at the reading of the Gospel; praying the Stations (or Way) of the Cross; and the Veneration of the Cross by the faithful on Good Friday by kissing the feet of the image of Our Savior crucified.
Placing a crucifix (the cross with an image of Christ’s body upon it) in churches and homes, in classrooms of Catholic schools and in other Catholic institutions, or wearing this image on our persons, is a constant reminder — and witness — of Christ’s ultimate triumph, His victory over sin and death through His suffering and dying on the Cross.
We remember Our Lord’s words, “He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake shall find it” (Mt 10:38,39).
Meditating on these words we unite ourselves — our souls and bodies — with His obedience and His sacrifice; and we rejoice in this inestimable gift through which we have the hope of salvation and the glory of everlasting life.
Suggestions for family activities
• If possible attend Mass together. Consider taking your family to a church that has especially fine Stations of the Cross. Look at the images and explain their meaning. At each station pray, “We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, for by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.” Have the children kneel before the Blessed Sacrament and say a Hail Mary, an Our Father, and a Glory be.
• Make the evening meal today more festive than ordinary — light candles on the table or use the good dishes. Read one or more of the prayers or Scripture readings for the day before the evening meal. Older children could take turns doing the readings.
• Explain to children the meaning of the Sign of the Cross that we make before meals, and point out how this action is intended to unite every one of us with Jesus’ sacrifice for us — His crucifixion and His resurrection from the dead.
• Begin teaching even the very youngest members of the family to make the Sign of the Cross at the mealtime blessing. (Older brothers and sisters usually will be very glad to help the baby with this.)
• Make a point of mentioning to children how great is God’s love for us. Encourage them to memorize John 3:16. This is a key verse about the triumph of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross, and encourages children to revere and respect God’s word in the Bible.
Give a small reward or privilege to each child who memorizes the verse. Have them recite it for you when they say their bedtime prayers. Two more ideas for this:
1. Have grade-school-age children write the verse in their fanciest writing and illustrate it with a drawing of Jesus on the Cross. Even little people think a lot when they are drawing something. Maybe you could set a crucifix on the table for them to look at when they draw it. (Don’t forget to display the results on the refrigerator — or maybe send it to grandma.)
2. Frost a sheet cake with white icing, and make a large Cross on the cake with red icing, and pipe “John 3:16” on the Cross. Let the children help decorate the cake further with silver dragees or colored sprinkles.
• If there are crucifixes in the children’s rooms, make sure to call attention to it during bedtime prayers. If not, today would be a very good time to get them!
— from Women for Faith & Family web site: wf-f.org/ExaltCross.html
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