I have often been told I have a very vivid imagination. This may be true. So often with our faith we have to use our imaginations to try and visualize the scenes we read about in the Scriptures. For me the Cross has always been a difficult one.
I like to imagine it as a bridge between Heaven and earth. Think of it laid flat stretching out between two worlds. It is through having the courage to walk across this bridge that we reach the safety of the other side. But in between us is this cavernous gaping ravine. Sometimes we seem to be able to skip across it and at other times we crawl gripping the sides too terrified to look down. But maybe that’s the point, the trick is not to look down or to look back but to keep going forward, step by step, clinging to the body of our Lord Jesus Christ as we inch our way along. Knowing that it was he who gladly laid down on the bridge so that we could gain entry into his kingdom.
Today, we celebrate the Exaltation or Triumph of the Cross. A feast that stems from Christ’s passion but which was prompted by the finding of the one true Cross by Saint Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine.
Tradition has it that Helena in her later years had a desire to go to Jerusalem. While she was there she undertook to rid the Holy Sepulchre of the mound of earth that surrounded it, and to destroy the remains of a pagan temple to Aphrodite that had been built there. It was known that the crosses had been hidden in a ditch or well and covered over with stones, so that no one would be able to steal them. Helena felt in her heart that she would discover the whereabouts of the Cross.
There was one man, interestingly named Judas, who touched by divine inspiration, pointed out to the excavators where the crosses could be found. This led to his conversion and he is honored by the name St Cyriacus.
On the discovery of the three crosses, not knowing which one had been Our Lord’s, St Macarius, bishop of the city, had them carried to the bedside of a worthy woman who was at the point of death. When she was touched by the true Cross she was healed. Helena, who also wanted to check the authenticity of the true Cross, had a man who had died and been buried brought to her. Upon being touched by the true cCross he awakened from the dead.
There is another possibility: that when the excavators found the three crosses they were able to identify the true Cross because it still had on the sign Pilate had had nailed to it with the description “Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews”.
The Cross is the sign and hope of our redemption. It is important to have a symbol of this hanging in our homes. This feast gives us a wonderful opportunity to talk to our children about the Cross and how we are all called to carry our crosses if we want to follow Jesus. The idea that our pain and suffering can be used by Christ is alien to some, but this is an important part of our Christian faith, and we need to teach our children to bravely shoulder their cross, and with Christ at their side to step out in faith.
To celebrate this feast day maybe it would be a good idea to place a crucifix on the dinner table or place it where it can be seen; and to gather around it after dinner to say family prayers. Get the children involved in baking a cross shaped cake which everyone can enjoy at tea-time.