Holy Cross Day 2015

Why is Holy Cross Day on 14th September, not Good Friday? The tradition goes back to the 4th century and the pilgrimage to Jerusalem made by Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine. She went there after her son and his empire had adopted Christianity. She wanted to find and preserve sites associated with Jesus.

One of the sites that was identified for Helena by local people was the area just outside the ancient city wall of Jerusalem that had become traditionally associated with the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus which took place 3 centuries earlier.

Legend has it that Helena discovered part of the wooden cross of Jesus and believed she’d discovered the site of Calvary and the resurrection tomb nearby. She built a chapel on this site, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was dedicated on 13 -14th September 335. On 14th September, as part of the festivities, what was venerated as part of the 'true cross' was held up for worshippers to see. So 14th September became a day for exalting the Cross and celebrating what it symbolizes, a symbol of triumph, a sign of Christ's victory over evil and death, and a reminder of His promise,

"When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself." (John 12:32)
I think it is unlikely that what was found in the 4th century was actually from the cross of Jesus, although it may have been from one of the many wooden posts and crosses used by the Roman for crucifixion. If it was not the 'true cross' I don't think that matters. What does matter to me are 2 things:

  1. There is good historical evidence that Jesus was crucified.
  2. I believe Jesus' death is crucial within God's plan of salvation to reconcile sinful humanity to himself and the resurrection demonstrates that death could not defeat that plan. So it's good to have a feast that, in the light of the Resurrection, celebrates the triumph and victory of the cross. It's harder to do that on Good Friday when the focus is often on Jesus' suffering and death.

Here's a good hymn for today: 

Here is what John's Gospel says about what God did through Christ's cross:
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." (John 3: 16-17)
You can read the whole of the conversation that Jesus had with Nicodemus by clicking on the link above and then using the forward and back arrows. 

Here is today's Church of England Collect for Holy Cross Day:

Almighty God,
who in the passion of your blessed Son
made an instrument of painful death
to be for us the means of life and peace:
grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ
that we may gladly suffer for his sake;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.


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