Triumph of the Holy Cross

Triumph of the Holy Cross

Our Fr. Thomas Davis offers a teaching on the Feast of Holy Cross which we celebrate in the monastery on September 14: The Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross has always been a significant feast.  First, it embodies ancient Christian reverence for the Holy Cross of Christ.  One of my favorite prayers is the well-known Ave Crux Spes Unica (Hail O Cross, our Only Hope – the usual English translation).  This beautiful ejaculatory prayer embodies the total mystery of the Cross of Christ. It is found in that ancient hymn of Venantius Fortunatus, the Vexilla Regis, although scholars have determined that it is an addition not attributed to him. This Feast itself commemorates the return of the Holy Cross to Jerusalem in 629 after it has been seized by the Persians and carried off.  614 is an important date for many monasteries in the Holy Land. It marks the invasion of the Persians who both martyred many monks due to their Christian Faith and carried off the Holy Cross. This Feast links martyrdom and the Cross; the Cross always triumphs over death.

Secondly, tradition sees this Feast as orienting our monastic focus towards the great Solemnity of Easter. It is the beginning of the monastic fast that leads into the Lenten fast. St. Benedict in Chapter 41 of his Rule speaks of the “Ides of September” as opening the journey to Easter.  Why St. Benedict chose the “Ides of September” is not clear. The reason could have to do with an ancient church calendar or with this Holy Feast. In any case, the deaths of these ancient monks (whose relics are still venerated in some Holy Land monasteries) bonded with the Triumph of the Cross illustrates a teaching of a saintly Patriarch of Jerusalem, Sophronius. When the Cross and its meaning is brought to our minds, who will not crucify oneself. For a true devotion for the Holy Cross needs to be expressed daily in the way we live that is, in our actions: a behavior that manifests the life of Christ. 

The day after this Feast of the Holy Cross is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.  St. Cyril of Jerusalem made a statement to this effect:  It is through Mary that the precious cross is honored and worshipped throughout the Christian world.

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