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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

September 14: The Exultation of the Cross - a brief homily

"Ave Crux, spes unica!"

Today, Holy Mother Church celebrates the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross, a Feast which is, for all intents and purposes, an extension of the great Solemn Feast of the Crucifixion of Our Lord, Good Friday.  Indeed, the magnitude of Good Friday is such that a single day cannot fully encapsulate the totality of that which the Church celebrates, and so today we celebrate the very instrument by which our salvation was won, the Holy Cross of Christ!

The legend of the Cross begins with Adam himself.  It is said that Adam preserved from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil a single seed, which, as he lay dying, he entrusted to his son Seth (whom Eve believed God sent to replace Abel, after his murder at the hands of Cain--cf. Genesis 4:25).  When Adam died, Seth placed the seed in Adam's mouth.  At Adam's burial, the seed sprouted, and from it grew a large tree.  

Years later, the tree was cut down, and its wood was used to construct a bridge.  One day, the Queen of Sheba, as she attempted to cross the bridge, was alerted to the wood's significance by a voice from heaven, telling her that this wood would be used to kill the world's savior.  At once, she began to venerate the wood.  Upon telling King Solomon of this, he ordered the bridge be dismantled and the wood be hidden, so as to ensure that such a terrible fate would not befall the world's savior.

However, the wood was later found, and was fashioned into the Cross on which Jesus was crucified.  The Romans, to prevent the Apostles from procuring and venerating the Cross, hid the cross, and later constructed over it a temple to the goddess Venus.  

There it lay for 300 years, until Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine, discovered it.

And so this Cross came full circle.  The progeny of that tree that plunged humanity into the depths of sin and darkness became the means by which man was redeemed and returned to the light!  The life which Adam destroyed through his disobedience was restored by the death of the "new Adam," Jesus Christ, who was "obedient even unto death, death on a cross!"  

Our salvation rests on the wood of the Cross.  And while so many other kings have for themselves thrones of silver and gold, our great King reigns from a throne of wood--the wood of the Cross, which is the sign, the symbol, and the actuality of our hope of life eternal!

Hail to thee, O Cross, our singular hope!

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