Thought for the Day – 14 September – Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
“Exalt – glorify, extol, praise, acclaim, pay homage to, pay tribute to, revere, reverence, venerate, worship, raise on high”
The one symbol most often identified with Jesus and His Church is the Cross.
Today we celebrate The Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This feast traces its beginning to Jerusalem and the dedication of the church built on the site of Mount Calvary in 335. But the meaning of the Cross is deeper than any city, any celebration, any building. The Cross is a sign of suffering, a sign of human cruelty at its worst. But by Christ’s love shown in the Paschal Mystery, it has become the sign of triumph and victory, the sign of God, who is love itself.
Believers have always looked to the Cross in times of suffering. People in concentration camps, in prisons, in hospitals, in any place of suffering and loneliness, have been known to draw, trace, or form crosses and focus their eyes and hearts on them. The Cross does not explain pain and misery. It does not give us any easy answers. But it does help us to see our lives united with Christ’s.
We often make the Sign of the Cross over ourselves. We make it before prayer to help fix our minds and hearts on God. We make it after prayer, hoping to stay close to God. In trials and temptations, the Cross is a sign of strength and protection. The Cross is the sign of the fullness of life that is ours. At Baptism, too, the Sign of the Cross is used, the priest, parents, and godparents make the sign on the forehead of the child. A sign made on the forehead is a sign of belonging. By the Sign of the Cross in Baptism, Jesus takes us as His own in a unique way. Today, let us look to the Cross often. Let us make the Sign of the Cross and realise we bring our whole selves to God—our minds, souls, bodies, wills, thoughts, hearts—everything we are and will become.
O cross, you are the glorious sign of our victory.
Through your power may we share in the triumph of Christ Jesus.
O Wisdom, what a game you bring to perfection, what a joke you play on my Jesus. You lay bare the King of Glory, making Him a spectacle of abuse. You affix to the trunk of a tree the price of the entire world. You alone weigh and mark out how much value this mystery has in paying the debt for all transgressions From the earth you lift up on the Cross the life of all that He, drawing everything to Himself in His death, (cf Jn 12:32) might make them live.
O wise Love, what a remedy you prepare so that universal ruin be filled. Oh, what a plaster you apply to cure the wound of all. O Love, your counsel is help for those who are lost. You condemn the blameless man to save the miserable culprit. You pour out innocent blood to be able to placate enraged justice and to ransom the motto is relief for those who are miserable. You plead the cause of peace. You heed the importuning mercy. By your prudent counsel you bring help for the anxiety of all through the most gracious will of your clemency. You impose an end to universal misery through the glorious work of your mercy. O Love, what you have devised is the opportunity for salvation for those who are lost.
Behold, O Wisdom, your pantry full of loving-kindness is already open. Ah, look upon me, the culprit, standing outside the door of your charity. Ah, fill the little cloak of my poverty with the blessing of your gentleness. Behold, before you is the empty little cup of my desire.” (cf Ps 37:10) Ah, lay the latch of your fullness open.… Ah, do not treat me according to my sins nor repay me according to my iniquities (Ps 102:10), my Jesus. Ah, just as You have truly been favourable to me with Your blood, so also by virtue of Your precious Cross, make restitution to me for all the wastefulness of my life.
Saint Gertrude the Great of Helfta (1256-1301)
Exercises VII, SC 127