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The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross
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  • Feast Day: September 14th

The Catholic Church celebrates “The Exaltation of the Holy Cross” on September 14th.  In Latin it was called “Exaltatio Sanctae Crucis” which means “Raising Aloft of the Holy Cross”.   According to tradition the True Cross was discovered in 326 by St. Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great while on a pilgrimage she made to Jerusalem.  Immediately the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built on the site of the discovery.  The church was dedicated nine years later with a portion of the Cross placed inside it.  St. Helena found three crosses at the time, and not knowing which one was the Cross of Christ, she summoned a dying woman.  The first and second cross did nothing, but the third cross healed the sick woman immediately.  

The date of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross marks the date of the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 335.  The actual consecration of the church was on September 13th, with a two-day festival, but the actual True Cross was brought inside the Church on September 14th.  The Clergy and faithful then came before the True Cross in prayer and to venerate it.  

In Roman Catholic liturgical observances, red vestments are worn at Mass conducted on this day.  Until 1969, the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of the Calendar week AFTER the one in which the 14th of September falls, was designated as one of the year’s four sets of Ember Days by the Church.  

To this day, the universal image of Christian belief is the Cross.  The True Cross of Christ, when discovered by St. Helena, healed a dying woman.  It is carried in processions, carried to the Altar at the beginning of Mass, worn as Christian jewelry, and is hung as a humble reminder in Christian homes.  To the eyes of the early Christians, it had no beauty – only a reminder of decaying corpses for those that defied Rome’s authority.  Today it has been universally accepted as a symbol of our Savior’s unconditional love for us.