On Monday we celebrate a feast with the rather grand title of ‘The Exaltation of the Holy Cross’. This is one of the oldest feasts in the calendar but for now I don’t want to go into its history so much as its meaning and relevance for us today.
The cross is central to the Christian message. We know from contemporary accounts that crucifixion was a particularly brutal form of execution. But also we believe that the second person of the Trinity became man and died for our salvation in this brutal way. Monday’s feast focuses on the wonderful fact that this barbaric instrument of torture has been transformed by the power of God into the means of eternal life.
Perhaps we’ve become too used to the schmaltz of ‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’ for us not to have to do a little rethinking and repraying about this feast. The hymns of Venantius Fortunatus are useful correctives. What comes across in them is not a lament for the dead Jesus but a celebration of the death-conquering Christ.
The feast can be summed up in the words of the Liturgy: ‘Lord by your cross and resurrection, you have set us free, you are the Saviour of the world’. P.D.