Tag Archives: Triumph of the Cross

The Triumph of the Cross: September 14

 

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Pilgims enteing the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem

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.

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Tomb of Jesus

Calvary

Calvary

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.”

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Egyptian Coptic Christians

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

 

 

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“Do not forget the works of the Lord!” (Psalm 78, Responsorial Psalm) We remember his great works here. How can we forget them.

Teach Us To Number Our Days Aright

Learning takes place day by day. It never stops. That’s true about faith as well. We’re learning each day, which is why our church calendar is so important.

John Chrysostom, one of this month’s saints, complained that people of his time didn’t know much about the church’s calendar; they were hardly aware of it: “Many people today just about know the names of the feasts we celebrate in church. They know hardly anything about their history and meaning…What a shame.”

Chrysostom knew the feasts of our Lord and his saints, seasons like Lent and Advent, teach us how to live and what to hope for as Christians. They’re an on-going school; they “teach us to number our days aright and gain wisdom of heart.”

This month of September is a good example, with a parade of interesting saints, like Gregory the Great, John Chrysostom himself, Peter Claver, Matthew, the tax collector, Cornelius and Cyprian, Vincent De Paul, Jerome. All important teachers of faith.

We have two big feasts of Mary, the mother of Jesus, this month, her birth on September 8th and her sorrows on September 15, right after the great feast of the Triumph of the Cross on September 14.

I like the way the Feast of our Mother of Sorrows, September 15th, follows the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. Mary’s greatest sorrow was when she stood beneath the cross of her Son, but sorrow was there over the whole span of her life. She teaches that bearing the cross of Jesus is not the same as sharing his physical sufferings. Her patient waiting, her struggle to understand God’s plan, her experience of faith’s darkness reveal the mystery of the cross takes many forms.

This month we begin many programs in religious education. Don’t forget the Church calendar; it’s  a great teacher. Like a good teacher, it knows we are forgetful listeners. It will be back again next year.