This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ September 2017 newsletter.
Today is the feast of the Triumph (or Exaltation) of the Holy Cross. This feast commemorates the finding of the true Cross by St. Helena in 326.
The History of the True Cross
To give you some background of this feast, St. Helena, a convert to Christianity and the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, hoping to find the very Cross on which Jesus was hung. She succeeded; the identity of the true Cross was confirmed by a miraculous healing of a terminally ill woman.
St. Helena had a church built on the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, known as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Constantine dedicated this church on Sept. 13-14 in 335. Even today, the Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem, or the Via Dolorosa, end at this very spot.
The true Cross was considered a most valuable treasure of the Church, and the feast honoring the Triumph of the Holy Cross has continually been celebrated until this day.
Reflections on the Triumph of the Cross
Why is this important? As I travel and speak in many places, I see the ravages of sin in the lives of so many, but I also see the incredible healing power of God when there is repentance. I meet many people who stumbled in the darkness, but have emerged into the light. And I find myself bowing down to the power and the triumph of the Cross.
During each Lent and Easter season, we worship Christ in a particular way as our Savior, who died for us on that Cross, that we might receive mercy and live forever with Him. But we need to more closely unite ourselves to the power of the Cross in all seasons. As the challenges of life face us—many times in major ways—I think the Cross, and the love and mercy that flow through every wound of Christ on that Cross, need to be part of our lives in a more tangible and frequent way. We need to learn how to unite our pain and suffering and with the only suffering that can heal and set us free. God allows our sin, its consequences, and the trials we bear because of the sin of others, to be united to His saving Cross for our healing and restoration. This is all a part of His great mercy.
A few years ago, I had an experience I have never forgotten. Some of you may have heard me tell this story: I was in a local drugstore on a hot summer day and took my purchases to the counter. A lovely young woman was serving at the cash register. As she took my items, she glanced at me, and my crucifix caught her attention. Leaning across the counter, she held my crucifix in the palm of her hand.
“Who is that guy on that bar?” she said. A bit startled, I paused, and quickly realized she was seriously asking me that question. I said, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, who died for your sins and mine, so that we could live forever with Him.” “Oh!” She quietly reacted and then said, “You know I think my grandfather had one of those.” She smiled at me and went on to the next customer. It was a quick exchange, but although she was clearly clueless about Jesus, she had seen a crucifix before—her grandfather’s.
Since then, I have never missed a week that I don’t think about that young woman and the generation she represents. She came from a family that had some Christian background, but something either did not get passed on, or the message did not penetrate. This I do know: Wherever I am, I will ask God for the opportunity to speak of His love and mercy toward us, and when I cannot speak, I will pray to be a quiet sign by my kindness and mercy. I will ask God for myself and for all of us, that we remember to venerate the cross as often as we can, and that we hold it high in our conversation, our actions, and our relationships. Some say we live in a post-Christian era, and it certainly seems that we do in many ways. Therefore, how important it is that each of us be a sign of a merciful Savior! The power will come from the Cross we venerate!
We need to hold up the Cross of Christ before our own eyes—daily! Then, we need to hold up the cross for others, by our thoughts, words, and actions. We need to worship, adore, thank, and plead with Him for mercy for ourselves and for those who have strayed. We need to let the power of the Cross genuinely invade our lives and change us. A relationship with Jesus and the power of His Cross is never static!
May today be a day on which each of us takes time to thank Jesus for His unspeakable love, even to death. Let us pray that we may, according to His will and grace, follow in His footsteps for our loved ones and for the generations to come. Let us encounter Christ in a new or deeper way—through the power, the mercy, the love of Jesus on the Cross! May the Cross of Jesus triumph in your life and the life of your loved ones.