This feast marks the turn of the Benedictine year when we begin the winter fast and our preparation for Lent and Easter. It is a hinge, just as the cross itself is a hinge. Today, when our processional cross is adorned with bay leaves as a sign of Christ’s victory, we find it easier than during Holy Week to grasp what a great victory was won on the wood of the cross. We no longer see only suffering and death but new life and hope born of Christ’s sacrifice. Can we go further and relate that to our own experience? How often have moments of failure and despair turned out to be a spring-board to something better. That does not mean that we deny or make light of them. Just as Jesus’ honesty on the cross led him to question his Father, so we must be honest in our turn. The prayer wrenched from the heart of our being is a true prayer and one that goes straight to the heart of God. Today we rejoice in Christ’s victory, the transformation of suffering and death, and we claim it for our own:
[Deus] Qui salutem humani generis in ligno crucis constituisti:
ut, unde mors oriebatur, inde vita resurgeret:
et qui in ligno vincebat, in ligno quoque vinceretur. . .
[God] you placed the salvation of the human race
on the wood of the Cross,
so that, where death arose,
life might again spring forth
and the evil one, who conquered on a tree,
might likewise on a tree be conquered . . .
(from the preface for the feast)
Note: if you are interested, I have written about this feast in most years. A search in the sidebar for ‘The Triumph of the Cross’ or ‘The Exaltation of the Cross’ will provide some entries, as will a search of our old blog, ‘Colophon’.