This ancient ecumenical feast, celebrated by Christian churches throughout the world, originated in Jerusalem at the place where Jesus died and rose again. A great church called the Anastasis ( Resurrection) or the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built by the Emperor Constantine, was dedicated there on September 13, 325 AD, It’s one of Christianity’s holiest places.
Liturgies celebrated in this church, especially its Holy Week liturgy, influenced churches throughout the world. Devotional practices like the Stations of the Cross grew up around this church. Christian pilgrims brought relics and memories from here to every part of the world. Christian mystics were drawn to this church and this feast.
Pilgrims today visit the church and the tomb of Jesus, recently renovated after sixteen centuries of wars, earthquakes, fires and natural disasters. They venerate the rock of Calvary where Jesus died on a cross. The building today is smaller and shabbier than the resplendent church Constantine built, because the original structure was largely destroyed in the 1009 by the mad Moslem caliph al-Hakim. Half of the church was hastily rebuilt by the Crusaders; the present building still bears the scars of time.
Scars of a divided Christendom can also be seen here. Various Christian groups, representing churches of the east and the west, claim age-old rights and warily guard their separate responsibilities. One understands here why Jesus prayed that ” All may be one.”
Seventeenth century Enlightenment scholars expressed doubts about the authenticity of Jesus’ tomb and the place where he died, Calvary. Is this really it? Alternative spots were proposed, but scientific opinion today favors this site as the place where Jesus suffered, died and was buried.
For more on its history, see here.
And a video here.
Readings for the Triumph of the Cross
“Do not forget the works of the Lord!” (Psalm 78, Responsorial Psalm) We remember his great works here. How can we forget them.
The Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross (September 14) originated in Jerusalem, the city where Jesus died and rose again. An immense throng of Christians gathered on September 13, 335 A.D. to dedicate a church built by the Emperor Constantine over the empty tomb of Jesus and the place where he was crucified– Golgotha.
The resplendent church, one of the world’s largest, was called the Anastasis (Resurrection), or the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. From then on, Christian pilgrims from all over the world flocked there to see where Jesus was buried and where he died.
Until the Moslem conquest in the 7th century, vast crowds of bishops, priests, monks, men and women from all over the Roman empire continued to come annually to celebrate the feast, which went on for 8 days. It was Holy Week and Easter in September. One visitor, Egeria, a widely-traveled 4th century nun, said the celebration recalled the Church’s dedication, but also the day when “the Cross of the Lord was found here.”
Many Christian denominations continue to celebrate the Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross on September 14th.
Visitors to Jerusalem’s Old City today see a smaller, shabby successor to Constantine’s great church, which was largely destroyed in 1009 AD by the insane Moslem caliph al-Hakim and was only half rebuilt in the 11th century by the Crusaders. Today the church bears the scars of sixteen centuries of wars, earthquakes, fires, and natural disasters.
The scars of a divided Christendom also appear in the church, where various Christian groups, upholding age-old rights, warily guard their own turf. Visitors have to wonder: Does this place proclaim the great mystery that unfolded here?
Like our reaction to the sacraments, we ask Is This All There Is? It takes time to discover the Cross and its triumph.