The Feast of the Exultation of the Cross is one of a cycle of twelve great feasts celebrated in the liturgical cycle of the early Church. Legendary stories of the discovery of the true Cross in the 4th century and the patronage of Saint Helena, mother of Constantine, are often told in relation to this feast. More important is the tribute offered here to the Cross as the instrument of our salvation. The entrance antiphon for Mass on the feast declares, “We should glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom is our salvation, our life and resurrection, through which we are saved.”
This day is an important feast for Redemptoristines, my community of contemplative monastic women in the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer. September 14 is also the anniversary of our foundress’ death in 1755. The Venerable Maria Celeste Crostarosa (1696-1755) made of “her will an echo of Christ’s will.” (Florilegium 64. Colloquies II, 7 (11)) She was united with him on the cross in many trials endured throughout her life. Therefore, it was apropos that she should die on the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross and be united with her Beloved in heaven as she was on earth.
Jesus invited his disciples, Celeste, and us as well with these words, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) Celeste responded, “Oh with what love I embraced the cross, loved it, desired it and took pleasure in it — all for your love.” She continues, “Likewise those who love bind themselves to the cross … savor the true and solid sweetness of God and the true peace found therein.” (Florilegium 118. Rules. Love of the Cross, 9r-9v (188-189))
Cynthia S.S. Crysdale in her book Embracing Travail: Retriving the Cross Today (NY: Continuum, 1999) suggests that in order to unite ourselves with the cross of Christ and his suffering we must correctly identify the real suffering in our lives. This is not the suffering created by our ego needs but rather the suffering necessary for transformation, that transformation of the false-self which enables us to attain the promised freedom of the children of God.
For consideration in prayer:
May the Holy Spirit guide us in this meditation of love, this exaltation of the Cross of Christ.