Archive | September 2015

The Cross

HILL OF CROSSES in Lithuania

Hill of Crosses in Lithuania (If you have time, read about this hill at hillofcrosses.com)

Crucifixes. Whether you only have one that you received as a wedding gift or one over each doorway, the crucifix is a staple of the Catholic home. On September 14th we, as a Church, celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. Some among us may shrug our shoulders. After all, the Church likes to celebrate a lot of different feasts throughout the year. What about this feast is any different?

On many of the Church’s feast days we are mourning the loss of a person but also celebrating their entrance into their heavenly reward. The Church’s feasts are almost always centered around holy persons. There are only a select few that are based on other events or holy artifacts. On this feast, we celebrate the finding of something.

What does this feast offer us spiritually? It offers us the tangibility we long for when we seek God. The crucifix is not just a symbol. The Passion of Jesus is not just a story. This Cross which we exult is the one upon which the gates of heaven were opened, the powers of Hell defeated and the Kingdom of God established on the earth through the Church. His heavenly blood spilled down the bark of this earthly tree. With heaving breaths, He gained painful seconds of life. As He hung upon this Cross, He prayed for souls, He prayed for His persecutors, forgave sins, fulfilled prophecies and bestowed the Church with the gift of His Blessed Mother.

This Cross is not simply wood. It was chosen as an instrument which touched the wounds of the Incarnate God. Its very surface absorbed the blood of Christ into its inner fibers. Upon this Cross of Christ were the world’s sins and hopes nailed. Christ did not turn His face from the world; instead, He entrusted Himself

Found on catholiccompany.com

Found on catholiccompany.com

fully. The Incarnation leads to the Cross which ultimately leads to the Resurrection. Every mystery of the rosary we pray focuses around these truths. Every torture of His Passion was one more soul saved, one more sin forgiven, and one more step to defeating death forever.

Beneath this Cross knelt His Most Sorrowful Mother. Her heart tore deeply with each drop of His Precious Blood that was spilt and each painful breath He took. Like a true mother, she suffered along with her Son yet offered it all to God. With complete surrender, Our Lady looked on as another dagger pierced her heart. Though her suffering had been foreseen by Simeon the prophet, it did not dull her anguish. Yet still, she had two more daggers to bear in the taking down from the Cross and burying of her Son. The love of Our Lady is not a shallow cove but a deep pool of joy and sorrow. In her, the words of St. Paul ring most true, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7)

So, why do we exalt the finding of a Cross? It is not for the sake of having some thing. It is for the sake of someone. It is for our sake that we have the physical relics of the Cross and the replicas in our homes. If there is a crucifix in our home, take time and kneel before it. Fix your gaze upon the downturned head of Jesus. Meditate on each of the wounds inflicted upon Our Lord. Allow yourself to be still in the presence of the crucifix. Speak to the Lord in His Passion and suffering. Offer to him something to alleviate His pain. Offer contrition for your sins. Pray for the salvation of your family. Pray in thanksgiving for the life he has provided.

On this feast, meditate on the Cross of Our Lord. May the words of St. Gemma resound in your heart, “It is not enough to look at the cross, or wear it, we must carry it in the depth of our heart.” Thank Him for the suffering He endured and for the events He has allowed us to venerate through the relics of His Most Sacred Cross. Take your place beneath your family’s crucifix or the one at your church. Give Him five minutes before or after Mass to be with Him, to thank Him, adore Him and praise Him.

(Article can also be found at Radiance + Grace online magazine)

The Treasure Hunt

Watching my kids play outside I can’t help but wonder how their little minds work. They jump, they climb, they make up stories about their cars and planes. Goodness knows their toys have been to more countries in their minds than I will ever visit in my entire lifetime. One of the most special times in our relationship comes when we tell the stories together. Finally, dull old mom gets to help tell the story of a great drag race or plane adventure that takes us all over the world. Of course, I always try to slip in something educational, but there is something wonderful that happens when we are both on the same page. The discovery of a common thread warms my motherly heart.

Though precious, I pray that this bond with my children will grow beyond the stories of toys and bloom into other areas as well, especially the Catholic faith. To be a part of a Church which is so rich in traditions, feast days, customs and teachings the depth of material to cover is amazing. For this journey, I look to St. Helena who shared a unique bond with her son that took her to the most sacred places on earth to recover a great treasure near to both their hearts. The treasure which was most precious to them is one in which the whole world is indebted to them for.

After Constantine’s conversion around 312 A.D. he converted his mother St. Helena. As time passed, Constantine desired to find the relics of Christ’s Passion and build a Christian church on the site. Like a good son, he sent someone he would trust to do the job right—his mother. Though she was nearly eighty years old, St. Helena agreed and journeyed to the Holy Land. The excavation led to the discovery of three crosses buried together.

Septemeber 14th is credited for being the day the True Cross was recovered and thus the Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross was borne. How were they able to identify the True Cross? Many credit St. Helena with bringing forth a woman burdened with an incurable illness and had her lay upon the crosses. The one upon which she was fully cured revealed the True Cross. Others, like St. Ambrose and St. John Chrysostom argue that the cross could most accurately be identified by the sign which hung on Jesus’ cross. The charges were written in three languages and clearly state the to whom the charges were rendered. It is unlikely that another Jesus of Nazareth would have been executed at the same time. Also, the wood Christ was crucified on would have been black pine. (Grzegorz Gorney, Witness to Mystery:Investigations into Christ’s Relics. (Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2013), 95.

After finding the Cross, St. Helena split it into three parts, one to stay in Jerusalem, another to go to Rome and the last went to Constantinople. (Gorney, 80) Upon her return to Rome St. Helena brought numerous relics, among them was half of the titulus (the sign stating the crime), one of the three nails, fragment of the Cross and sacks of earth from Golgotha to be scattered on the chapel’s floor. (Gorney, 84)

A church was commissioned in Rome and is now known as Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. To this day, a person can enter the Chapel of St. Helen built on that soil from Calvary. In the Chapel of the Relics of the Passion are housed six relics. Three fragments of the true Cross, a portion of the titulus, finger of the Apostle Thomas, a nail, two thorns, fragments from the Holy Sepulchre, the column of flagellation and the Bethlehem crib.

St. Helena and Constantine knew something about the human heart even at the beginnings of the church. Humans are tangible people. Relics of such sacredness deserved to be resurrected so that the whole world may come to know that the life of Jesus is more than a story but one that is true and beautiful. On the feast of the Exultation of the Cross let us not get complacent but gaze longingly at the Cross upon which our Savior died for the entire world.

(Article also found at Radiance + Grace Magazine )