Fr. Willy Raymond, C.S.C., offers a reflection on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
Dear friends, we in the Congregation of Holy Cross, along with all Christians, celebrate two major feasts this week: The Exaltation of the Holy Cross and Our Lady of Sorrows. The Exaltation of Holy Cross is an ancient feast marking a double anniversary in Jerusalem when Emperor Constantine in 330 AD erected a round church, called the Anastasis, above the empty grave of Jesus, and a basilica, called the Martyrium. In the square between the two churches, another shrine called the Calvarium, marking the place of the crucifixion. Dedicated in 335 A.D., they were destroyed by the Persians in 614. The two churches were rebuilt by patriarch Modestus of Jerusalem around the year 626 but these were later destroyed by the Muslims in 1009. The present Church of the Holy Sepulchre was rebuilt by the Crusader Knights and dedicated in 1149. Just recently, King Abdullah, the Muslim ruler of Jordan, paid for the renovation of the Holy Sepulchre. Today also commemorates the discovery of the Lord's Cross by the emperor’s mother, St Helena, in 320 A.D.
These two feasts take on special poignancy this year as our world, wounded and hurting, is plagued by a pandemic, by untamed devastating and deadly wildfires, by powerful and numerous storms, by long-simmering racial and political unrest, and the mass migration of desperate people around the globe.
Friends, if we have an ounce of empathy, we must stand with Mary today, and the Beloved Disciple and so many others, at the foot of the cross of Jesus. Lord, we pray for your grace to be steadfast, wise, compassionate, humble, and strong.
The early Christian community witnessed the mysteries of God’s Salvation unfolding in the life of Christ in the Holy Land. Wherever an important Christ event took place, they built a shrine to keep that event alive in the minds and hearts of their communities. Invaders came one after another to destroy these important shrines. Once the invaders were defeated and departed, those Christians would rebuild the shrine even better than before. Go to the Holy Land today and you will see, often in the custody of the Franciscan Friars, many of these shrines dotting the landscape of Palestine and Israel.
There is an important lesson for us today who face these immense physical and spiritual challenges. The lesson is that the Cross of Jesus is Spes Unica, our only hope. And we can be filled with hope only if we approach the Cross with true humility and devotion, knowing that we are not in charge, but it is the Living God whose mysterious plan is at work right now in our own day and at this very hour.
There never was a greater tragedy in all human history than the tragedy of Good Friday. God himself was murdered by sinful and proud humanity. All seemed lost as darkness covered the whole world on that doleful, tragic afternoon. The humility of Mary, the pure maid of Nazareth, ignited the explosion of grace that brought to all humanity the joy and hope of salvation. Mary never lost hope. The poor Christians of the Middle East never lost hope. Nor will we or our families lose hope, no matter what, if we humbly look to the Cross of Jesus for our salvation, peace, consolation and joy. Amen.
Copyright 2020 Fr. WIlly Raymond, C.S.C.
Image: Dietmar Janssen (2017), Pexels
About the Author
Father Willy Raymond, C.S.C. is President of Holy Cross Family Ministries. He entered Holy Cross Fathers in 1964. He earned a Bachelors in Philosophy from Stonehill College in 1967 and a Masters in Theology from the University of Notre Dame in 1971. In addition to English, Father Willy is conversant in French and Spanish. He's a native of Old Town, Maine and one of 12 children. He remains a diehard fan of the Boston Red Sox, even though he has served as Chaplain for the Los Angeles Dodgers.