The Holy Cross of Jesus
“(Jesus) emptied Himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are: and being as all men are, He was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross.” Philippians 2:7, 8
Within the Catholic Church, there are many different traditions and customs which are adopted as part of the cycle of prayer and the Liturgical Year. Each month has a special prayer focus and for the month of September the Church concentrates its attention on Our Lady of Sorrows and the Holy Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ. On 14th September each year, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is a key feast and celebration. As Christians, we are to personally glory in the Cross, for through it, our sins are forgiven and we have received such a wonderful Saviour. Through the Cross, God is glorified as His saving work for all people has been accomplished through it and Jesus’ sacrifice upon it. We have been given, by God’s grace, the free gift of eternal life because Jesus chose to lay His life down for us. (Cf. John 15:12,13).
The two are inseparably linked together for it was as Jesus was dying on the Cross, that our Lady experienced such a sword of pain which pierced her own heart and soul. As Jesus suffered in His Passion and Death, our Blessed Lady suffered in her own soul and heart every pain and wound which Jesus did. It was at the Cross that Jesus gave another special parting gift to us – He chose to give His own Mother to us to be our Mother too. Mary is our Spiritual Mother and she is also the Mother of the Church. During September, we remember Mary’s seven sorrows – statues of her under this title of Our Lady of Sorrows have seven swords painfully piercing her tender, loving and Immaculate Heart for all those times during her life with Jesus that she suffered terrible sorrow. They are: 1) The Prophecy of Jesus’ rejection and suffering by Simeon; 2)The Escape into Egypt; 3) The Loss of Jesus in the Temple; 4) The meeting of Jesus carrying the Cross to Calvary; 5) The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus on the Cross; 6) The removal of Jesus’ Body from the Cross; 7)The burial of Jesus’ Body in the Tomb. She cares deeply for all God’s children and Our Lady understands the pains and sorrows of this life which we can sometimes feel and experience as she herself experienced all the emotions known to all people.
The Holy Cross of Jesus is now the principal symbol of Christianity. Up until around the 3rd Century, the cross was still regarded as a symbol of great shame and disgrace, as convicted criminals were crucified upon the cross. The main symbols up to the time were of Jesus the Good Shepherd pictured with the stray lamb being carried across His shoulders or the Fish. The Fish symbol was adopted as a secret sign passed from each Christian to another because up until the time when the Roman Emperor Constantine embraced Christianity as the empirical religion in the 3rd Century, it was illegal to be a Christian and if you were discovered to be or confessed faith in Christ it carried the penalty of death. Constantine adopted the sign of the Cross as the main symbol of Christianity and so the sign and symbol continued from the early days until now.
The Cross is the altar upon which the very first celebration of the Mass was presented and offered. Jesus willingly shed all His Precious Blood on it for our healing and salvation. On the Cross Jesus reconciled us to our loving Heavenly Father. It was not a tragic event in which Jesus had no control. He dominated every part of the Passion and knew all that would happen to Him, for He willed it and freely chose to endure all that He did in his sufferings and Death so we could be set free and become the sons and daughters of God the Father we were meant to be before the awful fall in the Garden of Eden.
Here, Eve, and then Adam disobeyed God when sin, death and destruction entered our world, so Jesus, by choosing to become our sacrifice which He offered to the Father and choosing to suffer death brought us eternal life when He was raised triumphantly to life again on Easter Sunday. When Jesus was fully and gloriously resurrected, the Cross became a symbol of triumph and victory!
The Cross is central to our faith as Catholic Christians. The Cross is found in every Christian church and Chapel. The Crucifix, a Cross with the image of the Body of Jesus upon it is found in every Catholic Church. We pray the Stations of the Cross every Lent and every Friday as we remember Jesus’ sufferings and Death. We make the sign of the Cross before we begin our day as we wake up and end our day before we go to sleep; before we pray, before we eat and after we eat. It reminds us of the Blessed Trinity of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It reminds us that Jesus came down from Heaven from the Father the earth to die on the cross to rise again and to give us the gift of the Holy Spirit when He ascended bodily back into Heaven. It reminds us of the Cross on which Jesus died for our redemption. It reminds us that God loves us and cares for us. Let us pause and remember Jesus and His wonderful love and say thank you to Him next time we see a cross, crucifix or when we make the Sign of the Cross over ourselves.
Our prayer this week:
Loving Father, We thank you for Your great Love, in sending Your Son Jesus Christ to us to be our Saviour. Thank you for His perfect life, His deep strong love for us and His sufferings and death on the Cross. Thank you that He rose again and He sent us the gift of your Holy Spirit to be our Friend and Guide. Thank You for being our strength in times of struggle and sorrow and may the prayers of Our Lady of Sorrows help us in all our difficulties. We ask this in the Name of Jesus Your Son. Amen.