During Lent and especially in Holy Week we were encouraged to meditate on the passion and Death of Jesus which led to his resurrection. Today we celebrate the central symbol of Christianity, the Cross.
It was during the fourth century that Saint Helena, mother of Constantine went to Jerusalem in search of the Holy places. When the pagan temple built over the site of Jesus tomb was pulled down three crosses were found. Legend has it that one on which Jesus died was identified when its touch healed a dying woman. Both Catholic and Orthodox celebrate the Exaltation of the Cross on the September anniversary of the dedication of the new basilica built by Helen’s son, Constantine, of the site of Jesus death and resurrection.
From an instrument to torture and death the cross has been for us all a sign of victory and life. We have in the first reading at Mass today people, bitten by the serpents, gazing on the image of the bronze serpent and being healed, being brought back to life. We need to gaze on Christ crucified, to be healed.
When we were doing some work on the inside beams of the church here in Canterbury, a few years ago we moved the crucifix from the side to hang over the main altar of the church. We can gaze at Christ who died and rose for us. One of the responses to the the acclamation after the consecration is
“Save us, Saviour of the World, for by your cross and resurrection you have set us free.”
Here are words from Theodore of Studios:
“How splendid the Cross of Christ! It brings life, not death; light, not darkness; Paradise, not its loss. It is the wood on which the Lord, like a great warrior, was wounded in hands and feet and side, but healed thereby our wounds. A tree has destroyed us, a tree now brought us life.”