Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The Bible readings are excellent materials for reflecting on the mystery of the Holy Cross, the most potent and universal symbol of the Christian faith.
In the Gospel, preceding what is perhaps the most famous verse from the Bible, John 3:16, is the reference to Jesus having to be lifted up to the cross so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life. While a price has to be paid for us to be redeemed from our sins, God so loved the world that He paid on our behalf the price of the life of His only son.
In Philippians 2:6-11, St Paul contemplated the mystery of the Holy Cross from the perspective of Jesus, and how beautifully he expressed it too:
"Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself,taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death,even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted himand bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess thatJesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Apart from the readings today, there is a hymn about the Holy Cross I particularly like – Vexilla Regis written by Venantius Fortunatus (530-609):
Abroad the Regal Banners fly,
Now shines the Cross's mystery;
Upon it Life did death endure,
And yet by death did life procure.
Who, wounded with a direful spear,
Did, purposely to wash us clear
From stain of sin, pour out a flood
Of precious Water mixed with Blood.
That which the Prophet-King of old
Hath in mysterious verse foretold,
Is now accomplished, whilst we see
God ruling nations from a Tree.
O lovely and reflugent Tree,
Adorned with purpled majesty;
Culled from a worthy stock, to bear
Those Limbs which sanctified were.
Blest Tree, whose happy branches bore
The wealth that did the world restore;
The beam that did that Body weigh
Which raised up hell's expected prey.
Hail, Cross, of hopes the most sublime!
Now in this mournful Passion time,
Improve religious souls in grace,
The sins of criminals efface.
Blest Trinity, salvation's spring,
May every soul Thy praises sing;
To those Thou grantest conquest by
The holy Cross, rewards apply. Amen.
The old hymn, beautifully translated from Latin, is so moving and inspiring. Here is a link to a YouTube video of the song sung in Latin: