“So they took Jesus, and carrying the Cross Himself, He went out to what is called ‘the Place of the Skull’ – in Hebrew, Golgotha. There, they crucified Him..”
– Jn. 19:16b-17
It might seem a bizarre thing – at least, at first sight – to celebrate the finding of the True Cross, and to exalt it. Exalt the Cross? Why do that? After all, the Cross was the symbol of the failure of Jesus, the means of His tormented suffering and eventually His death. Why would we celebrate that? Simply, because the Cross is not a symbol of death, but the means of life. It is the Key which unlocks Heaven.
The Catechism tells us –
“Christ’s death is both the Paschal sacrifice that accomplishes the definitive redemption of men, through ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’, and the sacrifice of the New Covenant, which restores man to communion with God by reconciling him to God through the ‘blood of the covenant, which was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, para.613)
The Crucifixion of Christ, then, is the means of our redemption. And this is why we celebrate the exaltation of the Holy Cross – upon it was lifted up the Redeemer of all mankind. And in being lifted up, He draws all of us to Himself.
In the Divine Mercy devotion, we see the Image of the Merciful Jesus, the streams of light representing the Blood and Water which flowed from His side when His Heart was pierced by the lance; and it was whilst upon the Holy Cross that this Sacred Heart was so pierced. For us who adore the Divine Mercy, it is a reminder that the very core of this devotion is the Crucified One – this same Jesus who appears out of the darkness in the Image as the True Light, it is the same Jesus Who was crucified, and Who is now risen again.
The Cross reminds us of something else; the words of the Lord that if we are to follow Him worthily and be His disciples, then we too must carry our crosses in life, in order to follow Him more perfectly. Most often, the crosses we are asked to bear are the ones He has prepared for our personal sanctification.
When we are in the midst of sufferings of one kind or another, it is easy to ask the Lord to heal us, to remove our sufferings; and while He certainly has the power to do so, this might not be part of His divine plan for us. Often, it is through our sufferings of whatever kind, that we realise our nothingness and our utter dependence on Him alone. And in that moment, we must decide whether or not we really trust in Him. When we do trust in Him, we can let go of all things other than Him, even life itself, knowing that He loves us and desires our greater good. He loves us so infinitely, in fact, that He allowed Himself to be crucified for our salvation upon that Holy Cross which, today, we venerate.