Friday, September 14, 2018

The Exultation of the Holy Cross

This feast day in the Catholic Church commemorates three things:

  1. The public presentation of the actual wood of the cross on which Jesus died, which had been saved by his faithful followers in a secret special place
  2. The dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the tomb in which Jesus was placed after He died
  3. Christ's victory over death by His crucifixion and resurrection
To people without faith in Jesus Christ, this may seem to be a very strange commemoration, sort of like putting on public display the electrocution gurney table of a person who was electrocuted under the death penalty. But if this person were innocent, if this person had been promoting peace, justice, and mercy, if this person were the Son of God, and if this person's suffering and death had redeemed the whole world, the gurney table, upon which this person had laid before being executed, would perhaps be kept in a very special place and venerated.

In our days, recalling how Jesus died, we may be singing the hymn "Life High the Cross," in which the verses read: "O Lord, once lifted on the glorious tree, as thou hast promised, draw the world to thee. So shall our song of triumph ever be: praised to the crucified for victory." It is important to remember the crucifix--with the figure of Jesus on it--urges us to recall the charity and love with which He lived and which motivated Him to do good to and for others. In order to sanctify and redeem humanity, God became human. The way that Jesus had to die, with all the suffering He endured, was all a part of the divine plan.

When Daughters of Charity profess our vows in the community, we receive a crucifix to wear as a symbol that the charity of Jesus Christ always urges us to do good. Lay women in the International Association of Charity (commonly known as the Ladies of Charity) also receive a crucifix as a sign of their consecration and motivation. Perhaps you also wear a crucifix or cross as a sign of being Christian.

To see or to wear a cross is not a romantic or sweet thing. Rather, it is a symbol of redemptive suffering, a difficult effort that tries to make hard things better. Almost every Catholic church has a crucifix displayed within. I remember being in a church in Italy and seeing a crucifix with a very different artistic expression. It was a clear glass disc about four feet in diameter with the two hemispheres of the world etched on it. Superimposed on it was a wooden figured of the crucified Christ, His arms outstretched, embracing the whole world. It was evident that this expression was trying to say that Jesus embraced the suffering of the whole world. He is part of it. He suffers with it. He knows the world, loves the world, and redeems the world by His suffering.

In your personal good works for others, some encouragement may be needed so that you might persevere through some sufferings, inconveniences, or contradictions. They are your crosses. St. Vincent de Paul had a few thoughts on our crosses:
  • "The sufferings of our Lord gave fecundity to His words and your crosses will also give it to the holy seed you plant in hearts." (Life Long Maxims, p. 77)
  • "Oh, how blessed are those who lovingly bear their cross, walking in their footsteps of such a Master." (Life Long Maxims, p. 79)
  • "The cross on which you now find yourself is the best place for you in this world." (Life Long Maxims, p. 82)
  • Our Lord deals with you as He did the saints whom He led to holiness and glory by various tribulations... May it please His divine goodness that, while He multiples your crosses, He may increase your graces to bear them courageously. I shall not fail to offer you often to God for that intention." (Life Long Maxims, p. 84)
And St. Louise de Marillac offers these words concerning the cross:
  • "The greatest honor you can receive is to follow Jesus carrying His cross." (Life Long Maxims, p. 89)
  • "When sufferings come, we must love them and carry them to the foot of the crucifix." (Life Long Maxims, p. 91)
  • "I compassionate all your pain. They are a mark of the love our Lord has for you, having chosen you to honor Him in His sufferings." (Life Long Maxims, p. 91)
  • "We should offer our sufferings for the needs of the people." (Life Long Maxims, p. 93)
So that we might benefit from our own crosses, be they easy or difficult to carry, DynamicCatholic offers "The Prayer Process." This helps us to examine our crosses in six simple steps.
  1. Begin with a short personal dialogue with God about what you are most grateful for.
  2. Visit the times in the past 24 hours where you were or were not the best version of yourself. Talk to God about these situations and what you learned from them. In other words, examine the crosses in your life and how you reacted to them.
  3. Look at significant moments, people, or events in the past 24 hours and identify something you experienced. Were your feelings positive, negative, or neutral? Explore what God might be trying to say to you in that moment, person, or event.
  4. Ask God to forgive you for any wrong you may have committed and to fill you with peace.
  5. Speak to God about how He is inviting you to change your life.
  6. Lift up to God anyone you feel called to pray for, asking God to bless and guide them. End by praying the Our Father.
May you find this reading helpful to see how the crosses in your life are redemptive for others and yourself. "Life high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim, 'til all the world proclaim His sacred name."

Written by Sister Elizabeth Racko, D.C.

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