This feast is a yearly commemoration of the erection, at Jerusalem, by Constantine the Great, and his mother, Saint Helena, of the cross on which Christ died. This took place under the Emperor Heraclius, by whom the holy cross, which Khosroo, King of Persia, had carried into his own conntry, was, after fourteen years, recovered, brought back to Jerusalem, and borne by the emperor himself to the hill of Calvary, whither it had been borne by the Saviour. Upon this occasion a miracle occurred. As Heraclins was about to carry the cross to the proper place on his shoulders, out of veneration for it, he found that while wearing the imperial dress he could not move it, until, by the advice of the patriarch Zachary, he laid aside his royal ornaments, dressed himself plainly, took off his shoes, and in such manner made himself like the humble Saviour. Introit of the Mass:
"But it behooves us to glory in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, in Whom is our salvation, life, and resurrection."
Prayer: O God, Who on this day givest us joy by the annual solemnity of the exaltation of the holy cross, grant, we beseech Thee, that we may deserve the reward of His redemption in heaven Whose mystery we have known upon earth. through the same Lord Jesus Christ, etc. Amen.
Epistle: Philemon 2:5-11 Brethren: Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but emptied, Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also hath exalted Him, and hath given Him a name which is above all names, that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.
Gospel: John 12:31-36 At that time Jesus said to the multitudes of the Jews: Now is the judgment of the world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to Myself. (Now this He said, signifying what death He should die.) The multitude answered Him: We have heard out of the law, that Christ abideth forever; and how sayest Thou: The Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man? Jesus therefore said to them: Yet a little while the light is among you. Walk whilst you have the light, that the darkness overtake you not. And he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. Whilst you have the light, believe in the light that you may be the children of light.
Instruction on the Devotion of the Way of the Cross
What is the Holy Way of the Cross?
It is a devotional exercise by which we meditate upon the passion and death of Jesus, and particularly upon His last way of sorrows, from the house of Pilate to Mount Calvary. Tradition testifies that after Christ's ascension the Christians living in Jerusalem were accustomed particularly to venerate the holy places which had been sanctified by the passion of the divine Redeemer. But after Jerusalem fell into the hands of the infidels, so that it became dangerous, and often impossible, to pass over the ground which Our Lord had trod, the children of Saint Francis of Assisi began to erect in their churches the fourteen stations of the Way of the Cross, by meditating on which the faithful might, in spirit, accompany the pilgrims to Jerusalem on the way to Calvary, dwelling in thought on what Christ had suffered for men. Station here means a place to pause, a resting-point for meditation. This devotion has been examined and approved by many Popes, enriched with indulgences, and earnestly recommended to Christians. It may be found in any prayer-book. No exercise is more profitable to our souls than this. What can bring before us the love of God and the abominableness and frightfulness of sin in a more vivid manner than the sufferings of the God-man? How can we any longer indulge in hate when we hear Jesus pray for His enemies? How can we give ourselves up to sensuality and lust when we see the divine Saviour scourged, crowned with thorns, and hanging on the cross? How can we murmur at our trials when we think that Jesus innocent takes up the cross for us guilty? In truth, we should see our coldness and indifference disappear, as ice melts in the heat, we should grow more and more zealous in the way of virtue, if we would but rightly meditate upon the passion of Christ.