Posted in FEASTS and SOLEMNITIES, QUOTES on the CROSS of CHRIST, The HOLY CROSS, The MOST HOLY REDEEMER, The REDEMPTION

The Feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross – 3 May

The Feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross

The Liturgical Year
by Abbot Prosper Guéranger OSB (1805-1875)

“It was most just that our Divine King should show Himself to us with the sceptre of His power, to the end, that nothing might be wanting to the majesty of His empire. This sceptre is the Cross; and Paschal Time was to be the Season, for its being offered to Him in glad homage. A few weeks back and the Cross was shown to us, as the instrument of our Emmanuel’s humiliation and as the bed of suffering, whereon He died but, has He not, since then, conquered Death? and what is His Cross now but a trophy of His victory? Let it then be brought forth to our gaze and let every knee bend before this Sacred Wood, whereby our Jesus won the honour and praise we now give Him!

On the day of His Birth at Bethlehem, we sang these words of the Prophet Isaias: A Child is born unto us and a Son is given unto us and His government is upon His Shoulder (Is. ix. 6. The Introit of the Third Mass for Christmas Day). We have seen Him carrying this Cross upon His Shoulder, as Isaac carried the wood for his own immolation but now, it is no longer a heavy burthen. It is shining with a brightness that ravishes the eyes of the Angels and, after having received the veneration of man, as long as the world lasts, it will suddenly appear in the clouds of heaven, near the Judge of the living and the dead, a consolation to them that have loved it but a reproach to such as have treated it with contempt or forgetfulness.

St Helena and St Macarius and the discovery of the True Cross

Our Saviour did not think the time between His Resurrection and Ascensio,n a fitting one for glorifying the Instrument of His Victory. The Cross was not to be brought into notice, until it had subjected the world to Him, Whose glory it so eloquently proclaimed. Jesus was three days in the tomb; His Cross is to lie buried unknown to men, for three centuries but it is to have its Resurrection and the Church celebrates this Resurrection today. Jesus would, in His own good time, add to the joy of Easter by miraculously revealing to us, this Sacred Monument of His love for mankind. He entrusts it to our keeping, it is to be our consolation, as long as this world lasts – is it not just, that we should love and venerate it?

Never had Satan’s pride met with a humiliation like that of his seeing the instrument of our perdition, made the instrument of our salvation. As the Church expresses it in her Preface for Passiontide: “he that overcame mankind by a Tree, was overcome by a Tree.” Thus foiled, he vented his fury upon this saving Wood, which so bitterly reminded him, both of the irresistible power of his Conqueror and of the dignity of man, who had been redeemed at so great a price. He would fain have annihilated the Cross but knowing that this was beyond his power, he endeavoured to profane it and hide it from view. He, therefore, instigated the Jews to bury it. At the foot of Calvary, not far from the Sepulchre, was a deep hole. Into this was the Cross thrown, together with those of the two Thieves, the Nails, the Crown of Thorns and the Inscription, or Title, written by Pilate . The hole was then filled up with rubbish and earth and the Sanhedrim exulted in the thought of its having effaced the memory of the Nazarene, Who could not save Himself from the ignominious death of the Cross.

Forty years after this, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, the instruments of God’s vengeance. The Holy Places were desecrated by the idolaters. A small temple to Venus was erected on Calvary and another to Jupiter over the Holy Sepulchre. By this, the pagans intended derision; whereas, they were perpetuating the knowledge of two spots of most sacred interest. When peace was restored under Constantine, the Christians had but to remove these pagan monuments and their eyes beheld the holy ground that had been bedewed with the Blood of Jesus and the glorious Sepulchre.

As to the Cross, it was not so easily found. The sceptre of our Divine King was to be raised up from its tomb by a royal hand. The saintly Empress Helena, Constantine’s Mother, was chosen by heaven to pay to Jesu, and that, too, on the very spot where He had received His greatest humiliations, the honours which are due to Him as the King of the world. Before laying the foundations of the Basilica of the Resurrection, this worthy follower of Magdalene and the other holy women of the Sepulchre, was anxious to discover the Instrument of our Salvation. The Jews had kept up the tradition of the site where it had been buried, the Empress had the excavations made accordingly. With what holy impatience must she not have watched the works! and with what ecstasy of joy did she not behold the Redeeming Wood, which, though not, at first, distinguishable, was certainly one of the three Crosses that were found! She addressed a fervent prayer to the Saviour, Who alone could reveal to her which was the trophy of His Victory – the Bishop, St Macarius, united his prayers with hers and their faith was rewarded by a miracle, that left them no doubt as to which was the true Cross.

The Finding of the True Cross (Giandomenico Tiepolo), where Bishop Macarius blesses the sick with the True Cross

The glorious work was accomplished and the Church was put in possession of the instrument of the world’s Redemption. Both East and West were filled with joy at the news of this precious discovery, which Heaven had set on foot and which gave the last finish to the triumph of Christianity. Christ completed His Victory over the Pagan world, by raising thus His Standard, not a figurative one but His own real Standard, His Cross, which, up to that time, had been a stumbling-block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles;but before which every Christian is, henceforth, to bend his knee.

Helena placed the Holy Cross in the Basilica that had been built by her orders and which the same St Macarius, Bishop of Jerusalem oversaw and which covered both the glorious Sepulchre and the hill of the Crucifixion. Another Church was erected on the site, where the Cross had lain concealed for three hundred years and the faithful are enabled, by long flights of steps, to go down into the deep grotto, which had been its tomb. Pilgrims came, from every part of the world, to visit the hallowed places, where our Redemption had been wrought and to venerate the Sacred Wood of the Cross. But God’s merciful providence willed, not that the precious pledge of Jesus’ love for mankind should be confined to one only Sanctuary, however venerable it might be. Immediately after its discovery, Helena had a very large piece cut from the Cross and this fragment she destined for Rome, the new Jerusalem. The precious gift was enshrined in the Basilica built by her son Constantine in the Sessorian garden,and which was afterwards called the Basilica of Holy Cross in Jerusalem.

By degrees, other places were honoured by the presence of the Wood of the Holy Cross. As far back as the 4th Century, we have St Cyril of Jerusalem attesting that many of the Pilgrims used to obtain small pieces of it, and thus carried the precious Treasure into their respective countries and St. Paulinus of Nola, who lived in the same century, assures us that these many gifts lessened not the size of the original Relic. In the 6th century, the holy Queen, St Radegonde, obtained from the Emperor Justin 2nd a large piece from the fragment that was in the imperial treasury of Constantinople . It was for the reception of this piece of the True Cross into France, that St Venantius Fortunatus composed the , that beautiful Hymn which the Church uses in her Liturgy, as often as she celebrates the praises of the Holy Cross.

After several times losing and regaining it, Jerusalem was, at length, forever deprived of the precious Relic. Constantinople was a gainer by Jerusalem’s loss. From Constantinople, especially during the Crusades, many Churches of the West procured large pieces. These again supplied other places; until, at length the Wood of the Cross was to be found in almost every town of any importance.

There is scarcely to be found a Catholic, who, some time or other in his life, has not had the happiness of seeing and venerating a portion of this sacred object. How many acts of love and gratitude have not been occasioned by this? And who could fail to recognise, in this successive profusion of our Jesus’s Cross, a plan of divine providence for exciting us to an appreciation of our Redemption, on which rest all our hopes of eternal happiness?

How dear, then, to us should not this day be, which blends together the recollection of the Holy Cross and the joys of the Resurrection of that Jesus, Who, by the Cross, has won the throne to which we shall soon see Him ascend|! Let us thank our Heavenly Father for His having restored to mankind a treasure so immensely precious as is the Cross. Until the day comes for its appearing, with Himself, in the clouds of heaven, Jesus has intrusted it to His Spouse, as a pledge of His Second Coming. On that day, He, by His divine power, will collect together all the fragments and the Tree of Life will, then, gladden the Elect with its dazzling beauty and invite them to eternal rest beneath its refreshing shade”. – Abbot Prosper Guéranger OSB (1805-1875)

On whose dear arms, so widely flung,
The weight of this world’s ransom hung,
The price of humankind to pay
And spoil the spoiler of his prey
All hail, O Cross, our only hope!

[From the Hymn Vexilla Regis by St Venantius Fortunatus (c 530 – c 609)]

If you would like to read St Macarius life:
https://anastpaul.com/2022/03/10/saint-of-the-day-10-march-saint-macarius-died-c-335/

For the Life of St Venantius go here:
https://anastpaul.com/2019/12/14/saint-of-the-day-14-december-saint-venantius-fortunatus-c-530-c-609/

For the Life of St Radegunde here:
https://anastpaul.com/2021/08/13/saint-of-the-day-13-august-saint-radegunde-c-518-587/

And her life by St Venantius Fortunatus go here:
https://sites.uwm.edu/carlin/venantius-fortunatus-life-of-st-radegund/

Posted in FATHERS of the Church, QUOTES on the CROSS of CHRIST, SAINT of the DAY, The HOLY CROSS

Saint of the Day – 10 March – Saint Macarius (Died c 335)

Saint of the Day – 10 March – Saint Macarius (Died c 335) Bishop of Jerusalem from 312 until his death, Defender of the Faith against Arianism, founder of the True Cross with St Helena, organiser and manager of the building of the Sacred Basilicas, including the Church of the Holy Sepuchre in Jerusalem, paid for by St Constantine the Great, St Helena’s son. Also of great import is the fact that Bishop Macarius was one of the two main authors of the Nicene Creed, that is, of the Creed that we still pronounce in Mass today, professing faith “In one God, the Father Almighty” and “In one Lord, Jesus Christ. .. True God from true God.” Died c 335 of natural causes. Also known as – Macario.

The Roman Martyrology states of him today: “The commemoration of St Macarius, Bishop of Jerusalem, on whose exhortation the holy places were brought to light by Constantine the Great and his mother, St Helena and ennobled with, the construction of the Sacred Basilicas.

The Finding of the True Cross (Giandomenico Tiepolo), where Bishop Macarius blesses the sick with the True Cross

St Athanasius, in one of his orations against Arianism, refers to Macarius as an example of “the honest and simple style of apostolic men.” The date 312 for Macarius’s accession to the Episcopate is found in St Jerome’s version of Eusebius of Caesarea’s Chronicle. And Macarius is listed as one of the Bishops to whom St Alexander of Alexandria wrote warning against Arias.

Macarius accompanied St Helena Augusta, the mother of St Constantine I, in her search in Jerusalem for relics of the Passion of Jesus, including the Sacred Cross on which Jesus was Crucified.

According to Eusebius, he received a long letter from Constantine with reference to the building of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem:
Such is our Saviour’s grace, that no power of language seems adequate to describe the wondrous circumstance to which I am about to refer. For, that the monument of His most holy Passion, so long ago buried beneath the ground, should have remained unknown for so long a series of years, until its reappearance to His servants now set free through the removal of him who was the common enemy of all, is a fact, which truly surpasses all admiration … And as to the columns and marbles, whatever you shall judge, after actual inspection of the plan, to be especially precious and serviceable, be diligent to send information to us in writing, in order that whatever quantity or sort of materials we shall esteem from your letter to be needful, may be procured from every quarter, as required, for it is fitting that the most marvellous place in the world should be worthily decorated.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerysalem

Macarius took part in the Council of Nicaea (325), and two concl;usions as to the part he played there are worth mentioning. The first is that there was a passage of arms between him and his Archbishop, St Eusebius of Caesarea, concerning the rights of their respective Sees. The seventh Canon of the Council — “As custom and ancient tradition show that the Bishop of Ælia [Jerusalem] ought to be honoured, he shall have precedence; without prejudice, however, to the dignity which belongs to the Metropolis” — by its vagueness suggests that it was the result of a drawn battle. The second conclusion, is that Macarius, together with St Eustathius of Antioch, had a good deal to do with the drafting of the Nicene Creed finally adopted by the First Council of Nicæa in 325 and which was introduced into the Mass by St Leander (534-600).

The vigour of his opposition to the Arianists is suggested by the abusive manner in which Arias writes of him in his letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia. Macarius’s name appears first among those of the Bishops of Palestine who subscribed to the Council of Nicæa. Athanasius, in his encyclical letter to the Bishops of Egypt and Libya, places the name of Macarius (who had been long dead at that time) among those Bishops renowned for their orthodoxy. Macarius here at the Council, also appointed Maximus, who afterwards succeeded him, Bishop of Lydia and that the appointment did not take effect because the people of Jerusalem refused to part with Maximus. He also gives another version of the story, to the effect that Macarius himself changed his mind, fearing that, if Maximus was out of the way, an unorthodox Bishop would be appointed to succeed him. The fact that Macarius was then nearing his end would explain the reluctance, whether on his part or that of his flock, to be deprived of Maximus.

After the Council Constantine requested Macarius to search for the sites of the Resurrection and the Passion and the True Cross. It is likely that this is what happened, for excavations were begun very soon after the Council and, completely under the management of Macarius.

The huge mound and stonework with the temple of Venus on the top, which in the time of Hadrian had been piled up over the Holy Sepulchre, were demolished,and “when the original surface of the ground appeared, forthwith, contrary to all expectation, the hallowed monument of our Saviour’s Resurrection was discovered”. On hearing the news Constantine wrote to Macarius giving lavish orders for the erection of a Church on the site. Later on, he wrote another letter “To Macarius and the rest of the Bishops of Palestine” ordering a Church to be built at Mambre, which also had been defiled by a pagan shrine. St Macarius also oversaw and arranged the building of the Churches n the sites of the Nativity and Ascension.

The True Cross with St Helena, right St Barbara, left, St Macarius kneeling, St Andrew far left and another Saint