22 - 31 minutes readMay 3 – Finding of the Holy Cross ~ Dom Prosper Gueranger

Reader Mode Text to speech

May 3 – Finding of the Holy Cross

It was most just that our Divine King should show himself to us with the scepter of his power, to the end that nothing might be wanting to the majesty of his empire. This scepter is the Cross; and Paschal Time was to be the Season for its being offered to him in glad homage. A few weeks back, and the Cross was shown to us as the instrument of our Emmanuel’s humiliation, and as the bed of suffering whereon he died; but has he not, since then, conquered Death? and what is his Cross now but a trophy of his victory? Let it then be brought forth to our gaze; and let every knee bend before this sacred Wood, whereby our Jesus won the honor and praise we now give him!

On the day of his Birth at Bethlehem, we sang these words of the Prophet Isaias: A Child is born unto us, and a Son is given unto us, and his government is upon his shoulder. We have seen him carrying his Cross upon his shoulder, as Isaac carried the wood for his own immolation; but now, it is no longer a heavy burthen. It is shining with a brightness that ravishes the eyes of the Angels; and, after having received the veneration of man as long as the world lasts, it will suddenly appear in the clouds of heaven, near the judge of the living and the dead—a consolation to them that have loved it, but a reproach to such as have treated it with contempt or forgetfulness.

Our Savior did not think the time between his Resurrection and Ascension a fitting one for glorifying the Instrument of his victory. The Cross was not be brought into notice until it had subjected the world to Him whose glory it so eloquently proclaimed. Jesus was three days in the tomb; his Cross is to lie buried unknown to men for three centuries: but it is to have its Resurrection, and the Church celebrates this Resurrection today. Jesus would, in his own good time, add to the joy of Easter by miraculously revealing to us this sacred monument of his love for mankind. He entrusts it to our keeping—it is to be our consolation—as long as this world last: is it not just, that we should love and venerate it?

Never had Satan’s pride met with a humiliation like that of his seeing the instrument of our perdition made the instrument of our salvation. As the Church expresses it in her Preface for Passiontide: “he that overcame mankind by a Tree, was overcome by a Tree.” Thus foiled, he vented his fury upon this saving Wood, which so bitterly reminded him both of the irresistible power of his Conqueror, and of the dignity of man who had been redeemed at so great a price. He would fain have annihilated the Cross; but knowing that this was beyond his power, he endeavored to profane it and hide it from view. He therefore instigated the Jews to bury it. At the foot of Calvary, not far from the Sepulcher, was a deep hole. Into this was the Cross thrown, together with those of the two Thieves, the Nails, the Crown of Thorns, and the Inscription, or Title, written by Pilate. The hole was then filled up with rubbish and earth, and the Senhedrin exulted in the thought of its having effaced the memory of the Nazarene, who could not save himself from the ignominious death of the Cross.

Forty years after this, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans—the instruments of God’s vengeance. The Holy Places were desecrated by the idolators. A small temple to Venus was erected on Calvary, and another to Jupiter over the Holy Sepulcher. By this, the pagans intended derision; whereas, they were perpetuating the knowledge of two spots of most sacred interest. When peace was restored under Constantine, the Christians had but to remove these pagan monuments, and their eyes beheld the holy ground that had been bedewed with the Blood of Jesus—and the glorious Sepulcher. As to the Cross, it was not so easily found. The scepter of our Divine King was to be raised up from its tomb by a royal band. The saintly Empress Helen, Constantine’s Mother, was chosen by heaven to pay to Jesus—and that, too, on the very spot where he had received his greatest humiliations—the honors which are due to him as the King of the world. Before laying the foundations of the Basilica of the Resurrection, this worthy follower of Magdalene and the other holy women of the Sepulcher was anxious to discover the Instrument of our Salvation. The Jews had kept up the tradition of the site where it had been buried: the Empress had the excavations made accordingly. With what holy impatience must she not have watched the works! and with what ecstasy of joy did she not behold the Redeeming Wood, which, though not at first distinguishable, was certainly one of the three Crosses that were found! She addressed a fervent prayer to the Savior, who alone could reveal to her which was the trophy of his victory; the Bishop, Macarius, united his prayers with hers; and their faith was rewarded by a miracle that left them no doubt as to which was the true Cross.

The glorious work was accomplished, and the Church was put in possession of the instrument of the world’s Redemption. Both East and West were filled with joy at the news of this precious discovery, which heaven had set on foot, and which gave the last finish to the triumph of Christianity. Christ completed his victory over the Pagan world, by raising thus his Standard—not a figurative one, but his own real Standard—his Cross, which, up to that time, had been a stumbling-block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Gentiles; but before which ever Christian is, henceforth, to bend his knee.

Helen placed the Holy Cross in the Basilica that had been built by her orders, and which covered both the glorious Sepulcher and the hill of the Crucifixion. Another Church was erected on the site, where the Cross had lain concealed for three hundred years, and the Faithful are enabled, by long flights of steps, to go down into the deep grotto which had been its tomb. Pilgrims came from every part of the world to visit the hallowed places where our Redemption had been wrought, and to venerate the sacred Wood of the Cross. But God’s merciful providence willed not that the precious pledge of Jesus’ love for mankind should be confined to one only Sanctuary, however venerable it might be. Immediately after its discovery, Helen had a very large piece cut from the Cross; and this fragment she destined for Rome, the new Jerusalem. The precious gift was enshrined in the Basilica built by her son Constantine in the Sessorian garden, and which was afterwards called the Basilica of Holy-Cross-in-Jerusalem., other places were honored by the presence of the Wood of the Holy Cross. So far back as the 4th Century, we have St. Cyril of Jerusalem attesting that many of the Pilgrims used to obtain small pieces of it, and thus carried the precious Treasure into their respective countries; and St. Paulinus of Nola, who lived in the same Century, assures us that these many gifts lessened not the size of the original Relic. In the 6th Century, the holy Queen, St. Redegonde, obtained from the Emperor Justin 2nd a large piece from the fragment that was in the imperial treasury of Constantinople. It was for the reception of this piece of the True Cross into France that Vanantius Fortunatus composed the Vexilla Regis,—that beautiful Hymn which the Church uses in her Liturgy, as often as she celebrates the praises of the Holy Cross. After several times losing and regaining it, Jerusalem was, at length, forever deprived of the precious Relic. Constantinople was a gainer by Jerusalem’s loss. From Constantinople, especially during the Crusades, many Churches of the West procured large pieces. These again supplied other places; until, at length the Wood of the Cross was to be found in almost every town of any importance. There is scarcely to be a found a Catholic, some time or other in his life, has not had the happiness of seeing and venerating a portion of this sacred object. How many acts of love and gratitude have not been occasioned by this? And who could fail to recognize, in this successive profusion of our Jesus’ Cross, a plan of divine providence for exciting us to an appreciation of our Redemption, on which rest all our hopes of eternal happiness?

How dear, then, to us should not this day be, which blends together the recollection of the Holy Cross and the joys of the Resurrection of that Jesus who, by the Cross, has won the throne to which we shall soon see him ascend! Let us thank our Heavenly Father for his having restored to mankind a treasure so immensely precious as is the Cross. Until the day comes for its appearing, with himself, in the clouds of heaven, Jesus has entrusted it to his Spouse as a pledge of his second Coming. On that day, he, by his divine power, will collect together all the fragments; and the Tree of Life will then gladden the Elect with its dazzling beauty, and invite them to eternal rest beneath its refreshing shade.

The Liturgy gives us the following history of the great event we are celebrating today.

Post insignem victoriam quam Constantinus imperator, divinitus accepto signo Dominicæ Crucis, Maxentio reportavit, Helena Constantini mater in somnis admonita, conquirendæ Crucis studio Jerosolymam venit, ubi marmoream Veneris statuam in Crucis loco a Gentibus collocatam, ad tollendam Christi Domini Passionis memoriam, post centum circiter octoginta annos, evertendam curavit. Quod item fecit ad Præsepe Salvatoris, et in loco Adonidis, hinc Jovis sublato simulacro. After the great victory gained over Maxentius by the Emperor Constantine, under the standard of our Lord’s Cross, which had been miraculously shown to him—Helen, his mother, was told in a dream to repair to Jerusalem and search for the true Cross. Upon her arrival, she ordered to be taken down a marble statue of Venus, which had been erected by the Pagans, some hundred and eighty years before, in order that all memory of our Lord’s Passion might be obliterated. She did the same for the place where there reposed the Savior’s Crib, as also for the site of the Resurrection; removing from the former an idol of Adonis, and from the latter an idol of Jupiter.
Itaque loco Crucis purgato, alte defossæ tres cruces erutæ sunt, repertusque scorsum ab illis Crucis Dominicæ titulus: qui cum ex tribus cui affixus fuisset, non appareret, eam dubitationem sustulit miraculum. Nam Macarius Hierosolymorum episcopus, factis Deo precibus, singulas cruces cuidam fœminæ gravi morbo laboranti admovit; cui cum reliquæ nihil profuissent, adhibita tertia Crux statim eam sanavit. The place, where the Cross was supposed to be, having been excavated, three crosses were discovered at a great depth below the surface; and with them, though not attached, the Title that had been fastened to our Lord’s Cross. The doubt as to which of the three Crosses the Title belonged to was removed by a miracle. After having prayed to God, Macarius, the Bishop of Jerusalem, applied each of the Crosses to a woman, who was afflicted with a dangerous malady. The first two produced no result; the third was then applied, and the woman was restored to perfect health.
Helena, salutari Cruce inventa, magnificentissimam ibi exstruxit Ecclesiam, in qua partem Crucis reliquit thecis argenteis inclusam, partem Constantino filio detulit: quæ Romæ reposita fuit in Ecclesia sanctæ Crucis in Jerusalem, ædificata in ædibus Sessorianis. Clavos etiam attulit filio, quibus sanctissimum Jesu Christi corpus fixum fuerat. Quo ex tempore Constantinus legem sancivit, ne crux ad supplicium cuiquam adhiberetur: ita res quæ antea hominibus probro ad ludibrio fuerat, venerationi et gloriæ esse cœpit. The Holy Cross being thus found, Helen built a magnificent Church in Jerusalem, in which she placed a portion of the Cross, enshrined in a silver case; the remaining part she took to her son Constantine, and it was put in the Church called Holy-Cross-in-Jerusalem, which was built on the site of the Sessorian palace. She also took to her son the Nails, wherewith the most holy Body of Christ Jesus had been fastened to the Cross. Constantine passed a law, that from that time forward, a cross should never be used as an instrument of punishment; and thus, what hitherto had been an object of reproach and derision, became one of veneration and glory.

Both the Eastern and Western Churches abound in Liturgical compositions in honor of the Holy Cross. We offer our readers a selection from these, beginning with the glorious verses of Venantius Fortunatus.

Vexilla Regis prodeunt;
Fulget Crucis mysterium,
Qua Vita mortem pertulit,
Et morte vitam protulit.
The Standard of our King comes forth: the mystery of the Cross shines upon us—that Cross on which Life suffered death, and by his Death gave life.
Quæ vulnerata lanceæ
Mucrone diro, criminum
Ut nos lavaret sordibus,
Manavit unda et sanguine.
He was pierced with the cruel Spear, that, by the Water and the Blood, which flowed from the wound, he might cleanse us from sin.
Impleta sunt quæ concinit
David fideli carmine,
Dicendo nationibus:
Regnavit a ligno Deus.
Here, on the Cross was fulfilled the prophecy foretold in David’s truthful words: “God hath reigned from the Tree.”
Arbor decora et fulgida,
Ornata Regis purpura,
Electa digno stipite
Tam sancta membra tangere.
O fair and shining Tree! beautified by the scarlet of the King, and chosen as the noble trunk that was to touch such sacred limbs.
Beata cujus brachiis
Pretium pependit sæculi,
Statera facta corporis,
Tulitque prædam tartari.
O blessed Tree! on whose arms hung the ransom of the world! It was the balance, wherein was placed the Body of Jesus, and thereby hell lost its prey.
O Crux, ave, spes unica,
Paschale quæ fers gaudium,
Piis adauge gratiam,
Reisque dele crimina,
Hail, O Cross! our only hope, that bringest us the Paschal joy. Increase to the good their grace, and cleanse sinners from their guilt.
Te, fons salutis Trinitas,
Collaudet omnis spiritus.
Quibus Crucis victoriam
Largiris, adde præmium.
May every spirit praise thee, O Holy Trinity, thou Font of salvation! and by the Cross, whereby thou gavest us victory, give us, too, our recompense. Amen.

The Roman Church has the following Responsories and Antiphons in her Office for this Feast. They are full of unction, and breathe a fragrance of antiquity.

℟. Gloriosum diem sacra veneratur Ecclesia, dum triumphale reseratur lignum, * In quo Redemptor noster, mortis vincula rumpens, callidum aspidem superavit, alleluia. ℟. Holy Church celebrates the glorious day whereon was found the triumphant Wood, * On which our Redeemer broke the bonds of death, and overcame the crafty serpent, alleluia.
℣. In ligno pendens nostræ salutis semitam Verbum Patris invenit. * In quo Redemptor noster, mortis vincula rumpens, callidum aspidem superavit, alleluia. ℣. Hanging on this Wood, the Word of the Father found the way of our salvation. * On which our Redeemer broke the bonds of death, and overcame the crafty serpent, alleluia.
℟. Hæc est arbor disnissima, in paradisi medio situata, * In qua salutis auctor propria morte mortem omnium superavit, alleluia. ℟. This is the noblest of all trees, and is placed in the midst of Paradise: * On it, the Author of our salvation vanquished, by his own Death, the death of all men, alleluia.
℣. Crux præcellenti decore fulgida, quam Helena Constantini mater concupiscenti animo requisivit. * In quo salutis auctor propria morte mortem omnium superavit, alleluia. ℣. It is the Cross, dazzling in its exceeding beauty, which Helen, the mother of Constantine, sought after with all the ardor of her soul. * On it, the Author of our salvation vanquished, by his own Death, the death of all men, alleluia.
℟. Dum sacrum pignus cœlitus revelatur, Christi fides roboratur; * Adaunt prodigia divina in virga Moysi primitus figurata, alleluia. ℟. Man’s faith in Christ was strengthened, when the sacred pledge was revealed to him by heaven: * The divine prodigies that, of old, were prefigured in the rod of Moses, were renewed, alleluia.
℣. Ad Crucis contactum resurgunt mortui, et Dei magnalia reserantur. * Adsunt prodigia divina in virga Moysi primitus figurata, alleluia. ℣. The dead rose again by the contact of the Cross, and the wondrous works of God were made manifest. * The divine prodigies that, of old, were prefigured in the rod of Moses, were renewed, alleluia.
Ant. Salva nos, Christe Salvator, per vitutem Crucis; qui salvasti Petrum in mari, miserere nobis, alleluia. Ant. Save us, O Savior Christ, by the power of the Cross! O thou that didst save Peter on the waters, have mercy on us, alleluia.
Ant. Ecce Crucem Domini, fugite partes adversæ; vicit leo de tribu Juda, radix David, alleluia. Ant. Behold the Cross of the Lord! flee, O ye his enemies, for the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath conquered, alleluia.
Ant. Super omnia ligna cedrorum tu sola excelsior, in qua Vita mundi pependit, in qua Christus triumphavit, et mors mortem superavit in æternum, alleluia. Ant. O Tree, loftier than all cedars! whereon hung the Life of the world, and Christ triumphed, and Death conquered death for ever, alleluia.
Ant. O Crux splendidior cunctis astris, mundo celebris, hominibus multum amabilis, sanctior universis; quæ sola fuisti digna portare talentum mundi: dulce lignum, dulces clavos, dulcia ferens pondera: salva præsentem, catervam, in tuis hodie laudibus congregatam. Allelia, alleluia. Ant. O Cross! brighter than all stars, honored throughout the world, beloved by men, holiest of holy things that alone wast worthy to bear the ransom of the world! O sweet Wood! O sweet Nails! that bore so sweet a Weight!—save the people assembled here, this day, to sing thy praise! Alleluia, alleluia.

Our Latin Churches of the Middle Ages are fervent in their Hymns in honor of the Holy Cross. The first we select is the celebrated Sequence of Adam of Saint-Victor.

Laudes Crucis attollamus,
Nos qui Crucis exsultamus
Speciali gloria:
Nam in Cruce triumphamus,
Hostem ferum superamus
Vitali Victoria.
Let us proclaim the praises of the Cross—we who have so special a reason to exult in it; for it is in the Cross that we triumph, and gain the victory of life over our fierce enemy.
Dulce melos
Tangat cœlos;
Dulce lignum
Dulci dignum
Credimus melodia:
Voci vita non discordet;
Cum vox vitam non remordet,
Dulcis est symphonia.
Let our sweet melodies reach the heavens, for our faith tells us that this sweet Wood is worthy of sweet songs. Oh! let not our life be out of tune with our voice. When our voice is not a reproach to the life we lead, then is our Music sweet.
Servi Crucis Crucem laudent,
Per quam Crucem sibi gaudent
Vitæ dari munera.
Dicant omnes, et dicant singuli:
Ave salus totius sæculi,
Arbor salutifera!
Let the servants of the Cross praise the Cross, whereby they have been blessed with the gifts of Life. Let each and all thus sing: Hail, thou saving Tree—thou salvation of the world!
O quam felix, quam præclara
Fuit hæc salutis ara
Rubens Agni sanguine,
Agni sine macula,
Qui mundavit sæcula
Ab antiquo erimine!
O how honored and how grand was this Altar of salvation, that was crimsoned with the Blood of the spotless Lamb, who purified the world from its old antiquity!
Hæc est scala peccatorum,
Per quam Christus, rex cœlorum,
Ad se trahit omnia;
Forma cujus hoc ostendit
Quæ terrarum comprehendit
Quatuor confinia.
This is the Ladder of sinners, whereby Christ, heaven’s King, draws all things to himself. Its very shape shows that it takes in the four parts of the earth.
Non sunt nova sacramenta,
Nec recenter est inventa
Crucis hæc religio:
Ista dulces aquas fecit;
Per hanc silex aquas jecit
Moysis officio.
The Cross is not a new mystery, nor does the honor that is paid it date from modern times. It was the Cross that made the bitter waters sweet; it was with the Cross that Moses struck the rock, and made the waters flow.
Nulla salus est in domo,
Nisi Cruce munit homo
Neque sensit gladium,
Nec amisit filium
Quisquis egit talia.
There was no protection in the house of him who marked not the door-posts with the Cross. But he that so marked them, neither felt the destroying sword, nor lost his first-born son.
Ligna legens in Sarepta
Spem salutis est adepta
Pauper muliercula:
Sine lignis fidei
Nec lecythus olei
Valet, nec farinula.
The poor woman of Sarephta found her salvation whilst picking sticks. Without the Wood of faith, there is nor oil nor meal.
In Scripturis
Sub figuris
Ista latent,
Sed jam patent
Crucis beneficia;
Reges credunt,
Hostes cedunt;
Sola Cruce,
Christo duce,
Unus fugat millia.
These were blessings of the Cross, hidden under Scriptural figures, but now made manifest to the world. Kings have embraced the faith, and enemies are put to flight. With the Cross alone, under the leader Christ, one man routs a thousand.
Roma naves universas
In profundum vidit mersas
Una cum Maxentio:
Fusi Thraces, cæsi Persæ,
Sed et partis dux adversæ
Victus ab Heraclio.
Rome beheld Maxentius and all his fleet drowned in the deep. The Thracians were dispersed, the Persians slaughtered, and the leader of the hostile troops vanquished.
Ista suos fortiores
Semper facit et victores;
Morbos sanat et languores,
Reprimit dæmonia;
Dat captivis libertatem,
Vitæ confert novitatem:
Ad antiquam dignitatem
Crux reduxit omnia.
The Cross ever gives courage and victory to its soldiers; cures all disease and sickness; checks the devil; sets captives free; gives newness of life; restores all things to their former dignity.
O Crux, lignum triumphale,
Vera mundi salus, vale!
Inter ligna nullum tale
Fronde, flore, germine;
Medicina Christiana,
Salve sanos, ægros sana:
Quod non valet vis humana
Fit in tuo nomine.
Hail, O Cross, triumphant Wood, the world’s true salvation! No tree can yield such shade or flower or fruit as thine. O Medicine of Christian life! keep the healthy strong, and give health to the sick. What man cannot of his own strength, he can do in thy name.
Assistentes Crucia laudi
Consecrator Crucis, audi,
Atque servos tuæ Crucis
Post hanc vitam, veræ lucis
Transfer ad palatia;
Quos tormento vis servire,
Fac tormenta non sentire;
Sed quum dies erit iræ,
Confer nobis et largire
Sempiterna gaudia.
O thou that madest the Cross thus sacred, hear the prayers of them that celebrate the praises of thy Cross. We are the servants of thy Cross—oh! take us, after this life, to the courts of true light. Grant that we who honor the instrument of thy sufferings, may escape the sufferings of hell: and when the day of thy wrath comes, give us to enjoy eternal bliss. Amen.

The following Hymn is taken from the ancient Roman-French Breviaries for this Feast.

Salve Crux sancta, salve mundi gloria,
Vera spes nostra, vera ferens gaudia,
Signum salutis, salus in periculis,
Vitale lignum Vitam portans omnium.
Hail, Holy Cross! Hail, thou the world’s glory!—our true hope, that bringest us true joy—the standard of salvation—our protection in danger—the living Tree, that bearest Him who is the Life of all!
Te adorandam, te Crucem vivificam,
In te redempti, dulce decus sæculi,
Semper laudamus, tibi semper canimus,
Per lignum servi, per te lignum liberi.
O sweet charm of life! we, who were redeemed on thee, tire not in praising and hymning thee as the adorable and life-giving Cross. We were made slaves by a tree; by thee, O Tree, were we made freedmen.
Originale crimen necans in Cruce,
Nos a privatis, Christe, munda maculis,
Humilitatem miseratus fragilem,
Per Crucem sanctam lapsis dona veniam.
Thou, O Christ, didst slay original sin on thy Cross: by thy holy Cross, cleanse us from our own guilty stains, have pity on our human frailty, and grant pardon to them that have fallen.
Protege, salva, benedic, salvifica
Populum cunctum Crucis per signaculum,
Morbos averte corporis et animæ;
Hoc contra signum nullum stet periculum.
By the sign of the Cross, protect, save, bless, sanctify thy whole people; avert from them every malady of body and mind; let no danger prevail against this sign.
Sit Deo Patri laus in Cruce Filii,
Sit coæqualis laus Sancto Spiritui,
Civibus summis gaudium sit Angelis,
Honor in mundo sit Crucis
Inventio. Amen.
Praise to God the Father from the Cross of his Son! praise co-equal be to the Holy Ghost! May the Finding of the Cross be a joy to the Angel-Citizens of heaven, and a glory to the world! Amen.

From the Liturgical compositions produced by the Greek Church in honor of the Holy Cross, we select the following Canon, or Hymn. It was written by St. Theodore the Studite.

Dies lætitiæ est, Christi resuscitatione mors evanuit, vitæ splendor exstitit; Adam resurgens cum gaudio choreas ducit; propterea jubilemus victricia cormina concinentes. This is a day of joy! At Christ’s Resurrection, death disappeared, and life was seen in all its splendor. Adam, who rises again, exults with joy. Let us, therefore, rejoice and sing our hymn of triumph.
Advenit dies adorandi pretiosam Crucem; adeste omnes: jaciens enim Resurrectionis Christi lucidos radios, nunc prostat; eam proinde spirituali gaudio pleni amplectamur et exosculemur. The day for the adoration of the precious Cross has arrived. Come, all ye Faithful! It is exposed before us, and it sends forth the bright rays of Christ’s Resurrection. Filled, therefore, with spiritual joy, let us embrace and kiss it.
Appareto, o ommensa Domini Crux, ostende mihi nunc divinam faciem venustatis tuæ. Dignare adoratorem, ut præconia tua decantet. Nam ut cum re animata tecum loquor, teque amplector. O Cross of my Lord, thy glory is immense! Show me now the divine face of thy beauty. Vouchsafe that I, who venerate thee, may sing thy praises. I speak with thee as though thou wert a living thing, and I embrace thee.
Laudes consona voce decantent cœlum et terra, quia omnibus Crux beatissima proposita est; in qua Christus suo corpore fixus immolatus est; ipsam lætis mentibus osculemur. Let heaven and earth unite in singing its praise, for the most holy Cross is shown to all—the Cross on which Christ was fastened and sacrificed. Let us joyfully approach and kiss it.
Olim divinus Moyses præfiguravit Crucem tuam, traducens populum Israeliticum per mare rubrum, virga aquis divis; canticum exitus celebrandi gratia tibi, Christe Deus, decantans. The saintly Moses of old prefigured thy Cross, O Christ, when, dividing the waters with his rod, he led the Israelite people through the Red Sea, and sang a canticle of praise to thee in celebration of the going forth from Egypt.
Quam olim Moyses manibus præfigurabat Crucem tuam nunc osculantes, Amalec spiritalem in fugam vertimus, Domine, per quam etiam salvati sumus. Thy Cross, O Lord, which we kiss today, was prefigured by Moses, when he stretched forth his arms; by it, we put our spiritual Amalec to flight; by it, also, we are saved.
Hodie gaudium existit in cœlo et terra, quia Crucis signum mundo illuscescit, Crux ter beata; quæ proposita gratiam perennem stillat. Today, there is joy in heaven and on earth, because there shines upon the world the sign of the thrice blessed Cross. Its sight is a source of unceasing grace to us.
Quid tibi Christe retribuemus, quod copiam nobis fecisti venerandam Crucem tuam adorandi, in qua sanctissimus tuus santuis effusus est, cui etiam caro tua clavis est affixa? Quam osculantes gratias tibi persolvimus. What return shall we make to thee, O Christ, for thy having permitted us to adore thy venerable Cross, on which thy most holy Blood was shed, and to which thy Flesh was fastened with nails? We kiss it, and give thee thanks.
Hodie choreas cum lætitia ducunt Angelorum ordines ob Crucis tuæ adorationem; in illa enim dæmonum catervas vulnerasti, Christe, humano genere servato. The Angelic hosts exult with joy, because of the adoration of thy Cross; for on it, O Christ, thou woundedst the demon troop and savedst mankind.
Alter paradisus effecta est Ecclesia, quæ ut prius, vivificum lignum possidet, nimirum Crucem tuam, Domine; ex cujus contactu immortalitatis participes efficimur. The Church has been made a second Paradise, which, like the first, possesses a a Tree of Life—thy Cross, O Lord—by whose contact, we are made immortal.
Impletur Psalmistæ oraculum. Ecce enim adoramus immaculatorum pedum tuorum scabellum, Crucem tuam venerandum, desiderastissimum illud lignum. The prophecy of the Psalmist is fulfilled: for lo! we adore the footstool of thy divine feet—thy venerable Cross, the much loved Wood.
Lignum, quod in panem tuum missum vidit Jeremias, Crucem scilicet tuam, o misericors, osculantes celebramus vincula tu, et sepulturam, lanceam et clavos. The Wood, which Jeremias saw put in thy bread, is thy Cross, O merciful Redeemer! We kiss it, and honor thy Chains, and Tomb, and Spear, and Nails.
Hac die odorem halant unguenta ex divinis myrotheciis, Crux nimirum vitali unguento delibuta. Odoremur cœlestem, quam halat, auram; eamque cum fide adoremus in sæcula. On this day, a sweet fragrance is exhaled from the thurible of heaven—the Cross, perfumed with a life-giving ointment. Let us inhale its heavenly wafted breeze; let us ever venerate it with faith.
Adesto Helisæe, dic palam, quidnam lignum illud, quod in aquam demisisti. Crux Christi, qua ex profundo interius extracti sumus: eam adoremus fideliter in sæcula. Tell us, O Eliseus! what is the Wood thou didst put in the water? It is the Cross of Christ, which drew us from the depths of spiritual death. Let us ever venerate it with faith.
Jacob olim præfigurans Crucem tuam, Christe, adorabat fastigium divinæ virgæ Joseph, prævidens eam esse regni sceptrum tremendum, quam nunc fideliter in sæcula adoramus. Jacob, of old, prefigured thy Cross, O Christ, when he adored the top of Joseph’s mysterious rod. He foresaw that it was to be the venerable scepter of thy kingdom. Let us now adore it, with ever faithful hearts.
Magnus propheta Daniel missus quondam in lacum leonum, manibus crucis in speciem expansis, incolumis ex faucibus bestiarum evasit, benedicens Christum Deum in sæcula. The great prophet Daniel, when cast into the lion’s den, stretched forth his hands in the form of a Cross; he was saved from the jaws of the wild beasts, and for ever blessed Christ our Lord.
In hymnis exsultent omnia ligna sylvæ intuentia hodierno die ejusdem nominis lignum Crucis osculis et amplexibus honorari, cujus Christus caput exaltavit, ut vaticinatur divinus David. Let all the trees of the forest sing a glad hymn, for on this day, they behold one of themselves, the Tree of the Cross, being honored with kisses and embraces. This is the Tree whose head was lifted up by Christ, as David foretold.
Qui in ligno mortuus fueram, lignum vitæ te, Crux Christum ferens, reperi. Custodia mea insuperabilis valida adversus dæmones virtus, te hodie adorans, clamo: Sanctifica me gloria tua. I, whose death was caused by a tree, have found thee, O Tree of Life, O Cross that bearest Christ! Thou art my invincible defense, my power protecting me against Satan. I venerate thee this day, and exclaim: “Sanctify me by thy glory!”
Lætare, exsulta, Ecclesia Dei, quæ ter, beatum sanctissimæ Crucis lignum hodie adoras, cui, tamquam ministri, Angelorum ordines etiam cum timore assistunt. Rejoice and be glad, O Church of God, that adorest, this day, the thrice blessed Wood of the most Holy Cross, round which the very Angels stand ministering in awe.

Christ Crucified is the power and wisdom of God. Thus spoke thine Apostle, O Jesus! and we are witnesses of the truth of his words. The Synagogue thought to dishonor thee by nailing thee to a Cross, for it was written in the Law: Cursed is he, that hangeth on a tree. But, lo! this gibbet, this Tree of infamy, is become the trophy of thy grandest glory! Far from dimming the splendor of thy Resurrection, the Cross enhances the brilliancy of thy magnificent triumph. Thou wast attached to the Wood—thou tookest on thyself the curse that was due to us; thou wast crucified between two thieves; thou wast reputed as an impostor, and thine enemies insulted thee in thine agony on this bed of suffering. Hadst thou been but man, O Son of David! all this would have disgraced thy name and memory; the Cross would have been the ruin of thy past glory—but thou art the Son of God, and it is the Cross that proves it. The whole world venerates thy Cross. It was the Cross that brought the world into submission to thee. The honors that are now paid it, more than make amends for the insults that were once offered it. Men are not wont to venerate a Cross; but if they do, it is the Cross on which their God died. Oh! blessed be he that hung upon the Tree! And do thou, dearest Crucified Jesus! in return for the homage we pay to thy Cross, fulfill the promise thou madest us: And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things unto myself.

That thou mightest the more effectually draw us, thou this day permittedst us to find the very Wood, whereon thou stretchedst forth thy divine arms to embrace us. Thou deignedst to give us this holy instrument of thy victory, and which is to shine near thee in the heavens on the day of judgment; thou mercifully confidest it to our keeping, in order that we might thence derive a salutary fear of Divine Justice, which demanded thy death on this Wood, so to atone for our sins. Thou also gavest us this most precious relic, that it might excite us to a devoted love for thee, O Divine Victim! who, that we might be blessed, didst take upon thyself the maledictions due to our sins. The whole world is offering thee, today, its fervent thanks for so inestimable a gift. Thy Cross, by being divided into countless fragments, is in all places, consecrating and protecting, by its presence, every country of the Christian world.

Oh! that we had St. Helen’s spirit, dear Jesus, and knew, as she did the breadth, and length, and height, and depth of the mystery of thy Cross. Her love of the mystery made her so earnest in her search for the Cross. And how sublime is the spectacle offered to us by this holy Empress! She adorns thy glorious Sepulcher; she unburies thy Cross from its grave—who was there, that ever proclaimed with such solemnity as this, the Paschal Mystery? The Sepulcher cries out to us: “He is risen: He is not here!” The Cross exclaims: “I held him captive but for a few passing hours: He is not here! He is resplendent in the glory of his Resurrection!” O Cross! O Sepulcher! how brief was the period of his humiliation, and how grand the kingdom he won by you! We will adore, in you where his feet stood, making you the instruments of our Redemption, and thereby endearing you ever to our respectful love. Glory, then, be to thee, O Cross! dear object of this day’s festival! Continue to protect this world, where our Jesus has left thee. Be its shield against Satan. Keep up within us the twofold remembrance, which will support us in all our crosses—the remembrance of Sacrifice united with Triumph; for it is by thee, O Cross! that Christ conquers, and reigns, and commands. Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat.


This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)