The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Photography © by Carmelite Sister of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles


Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)

But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” (Mark 10:38)

“I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” (John 12:32)


 Feast Day and Background

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is celebrated each September 14 on the liturgical calendar. From the ORDO for the feast day:

“This feast celebrates a double anniversary. In Jerusalem, Constantine erected a round church, the Anastasis, above the empty grave of Jesus, and a basilica, the Matryrium; in the square between the two churches, a shrine, Calvarium, marking the place of crucifixion. Dedicated in 335, they were destroyed by the Persians in 614. The two churches were rebuilt by Patriarch Modestus of Jerusalem c. 626, but were later destroyed by the Muslims in 1009. The present church of the Holy Sepulcher, rebuilt by the Crusaders, was dedicated in 1149. Today also commemorates the discovery of the Lord’s cross by the empress, St. Helena (Aug. 18), in 320.”

Essay from St. Thomas Aquinas on the Cross

From a conference by Saint Thomas Aquinas, priest (Collatio 6 super Credo in Deum)

The cross exemplifies every virtue

Why did the Son of God have to suffer for us? There was a great need, and it can be considered in a twofold way: in the first place, as a remedy for sin, and secondly, as an example of how to act.

It is a remedy, for, in the face of all the evils which we incur on account of our sins, we have found relief through the passion of Christ. Yet, it is no less an example, for the passion of Christ completely suffices to fashion our lives. Whoever wishes to live perfectly should do nothing but disdain what Christ disdained on the cross and desire what he desired, for the cross exemplifies every virtue.

If you seek the example of love: Greater love than this no man has, than to lay down his life for his friends. Such a man was Christ on the cross. And if he gave his life for us, then it should not be difficult to bear whatever hardships arise for his sake.

If you seek patience, you will find no better example than the cross. Great patience occurs in two ways: either when one patiently suffers much, or when one suffers things which one is able to avoid and yet does not avoid. Christ endured much on the cross, and did so patiently, because when he suffered he did not threaten; he was led like a sheep to the slaughter and he did not open his mouth. Therefore Christ’s patience on the cross was great. In patience let us run for the prize set before us, looking upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith who, for the joy set before him, bore his cross and despised the shame.

If you seek an example of humility, look upon the crucified one, for God wished to be judged by Pontius Pilate and to die.

If you seek an example of obedience, follow him who became obedient to the Father even unto death. For just as by the disobedience of one man, namely, Adam, many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one man, many were made righteous.

If you seek an example of despising earthly things, follow him who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Upon the cross he was stripped, mocked, spat upon, struck, crowned with thorns, and given only vinegar and gall to drink.

Do not be attached, therefore, to clothing and riches, because they divided my garments among themselves. Nor to honors, for he experienced harsh words and scourgings. Nor to greatness of rank, for weaving a crown of thorns they placed it on my head. Nor to anything delightful, for in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

Other Quotes Across the Years from Saints About the Holy Cross

“Who is Christ if not the Word of God: in the beginning was the Word, and the Words was with God, and the Word was God? This Word of God was made flesh and dwelt among us. He had no power of himself to die for us: he had to take from us our mortal flesh. This was the way in which, though immortal, he was able to die; the way in which he chose to give life to mortal men: he would first share with us, and then enable us to share with him. Of ourselves we had no power to live, nor did he of himself have the power to die.

“In other words, he performed the most wonderful exchange with us. Through us, he died; through him, we shall live.” (St. Augustine of Hippo, d. 430, emphasis added)

~ ~ ~

“It is not the finest wood that feeds the fire of Divine love, but the wood of the Cross.” (St. Ignatius of Loyola, d. 1556)

~ ~ ~

“The crosses with which our path through life is strewn associate us with Jesus in the mystery of His crucifixion.”  (St. John Eudes, d. 1680)

~ ~ ~

“The road is narrow. He who wishes to travel it more easily must cast off all things and use the cross as his cane. In other words, he must be truly resolved to suffer willingly for the love of God in all things.” (St. John of the Cross, d. 1591)

~ ~ ~

“‘Bear your share of the hardship which the Gospel entails’ writes Paul to Timothy in today’s Second Reading (2 Timothy 1: 8). This is no idle exhortation to endurance. No, it is an invitation to enter more deeply into the Christian vocation which belongs to us all by Baptism. There is no evil to be faced that Christ does not face with us. There is no enemy that Christ has not already conquered. There is no cross to bear that Christ has not already borne for us, and does not now bear with us. And on the far side of every cross we find the newness of life in the Holy Spirit, that new life which will reach its fulfillment in the resurrection. This is our faith. This is our witness before the world.” (St. John Paul II, Homily given in Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Sunday, 8 October 1995)

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“The cross is the school of love.” (St. Maximilian Kolbe, d. 1941 in Auschwitz)

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“In the heart of Jesus, which was pierced, the kingdom of heaven and the land of earth are bound together. Here is for us the source of life. This heart is the heart of the Triune Divinity, and the center of all human hearts… It draws us to itself with secret power, it conceals us in itself in the Father’s bosom and floods us with the Holy Spirit. This heart, it beats for us in a small tabernacle where it remains mysteriously hidden in that still, white host.” (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross — Edith Stein, d. 1942 in Auschwitz)

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“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 1:18)

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“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (St. Paul, Galatians 2:20)

Into the deep…


Into the Deep by Deacon Mike Bickerstaff is a regular feature of the The Integrated Catholic Life™.

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About the Author

Deacon Mike Bickerstaff Editor-In-Chief, ICL

Deacon Michael Bickerstaff is the Editor in chief and co-founder of the The Integrated Catholic Life.™ A Catholic Deacon of the Roman Rite for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Deacon Bickerstaff is assigned to St. Peter Chanel Catholic Church where he is the Director of Adult Education and Evangelization.

He is a co-founder of the successful annual Atlanta Catholic Business Conference; the Chaplain of the Atlanta Chapter of the Woodstock Theological Center’s Business Conference; and Chaplain of the St. Peter Chanel Faith at Work Business Association and co-founder and Chaplain of the Marriages Are Covenants Ministry, both of which serve as models for similar parish-based ministries.

He and his wife have two married children and three grandchildren.

NB: The views I express on this site are my own. I am not an official spokesman for either my parish or diocese.

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