The Exaltation of the Most Holy Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ is one of the most beautiful feasts of the Church, as a title and as a meaning.
Newsroom (14/09/2021 2:25, Gaudium Press) According to the common language, full of sentimentality, the exalted individual is the one who is easily angered, spilling his bile on others. True exaltation, however, has nothing to do with a bad temper. From the Latin exaltere, it means to become high, to elevate, to rise.
The exaltation of the Holy Cross of Our Lord is therefore the feast by which the Church remembers and proclaims to the eyes of the world that she raises the symbol of Redemption above all things, placing it at its due and supreme height.
The peak of the humiliations suffered by Jesus
This praise takes on even greater grandeur and joy when we consider that the cross, originally, was an instrument of punishment used throughout antiquity, which represented ignominy and shame for the person suffering the penalty of crucifixion.
Therefore, by being nailed to the Cross, Our Lord Jesus Christ suffered tremendous humiliation. This was to say that He died like a bandit, a thief, on a par with the two bandits with whom He was crucified on Golgotha.
In this sense, the Cross represents the culmination of all the scorns and insults that Jesus suffered in His public life, especially in the tragic days of the Passion. These humiliations corresponded to the executioners’ desire to add to the physical torments a moral martyrdom, even more painful.
So, with the crown of thorns, the jester’s tunic, the reed as a scepter, the slaps, etc., they intended to torment the adorable Soul of Our Lord, and not only His most holy Body.
But since it is true that Our Lord’s Cross was the culmination of all the humiliations He suffered, it is also the beginning of all the contempts that until the end of the world Catholics would have to endure in the name of the Son of God.
Because wickedness is never disarmed. It always aims at belittling and putting down authentic Christian morality. Rare, if not non-existent, are the Catholics who have not been humiliated, in one way or another, because of their faithfulness to Jesus Christ. This is bliss because it means being persecuted for the sake of divine justice, against which the wicked continually rise up.
But it must be emphasized that the Cross of Christ, and the crosses we carry for Him, are also symbols of our honor. Honor consists in receiving humiliation with pride, boasting of it.
More: with a spirit of defiance. In the face of those who revile us, we proclaim with even greater pride and jubilation the supreme symbol of our Religion.
This corresponds entirely to the idea of exaltation: to manifest the glory of the Cross, with a haughtiness that crushes the outrages that the adversaries seek to do to Christ.
Our Religion must be defended with a fighting spirit, and therefore, if someone insults the Cross in our presence, we must fight back with fearlessness and bravery. Not as one who guards his own honor, but as one who answers for the infinitely more precious honor of Our Lord Jesus Christ and, in union with His, that of the Blessed Virgin.
High in the towers and the crowns
At the same time, this honor of the God-Man is also claimed by the Church. And, because of this, Catholics have taken the Cross as a sign of distinction, as a symbol of all that is most sacred and holy.
And placing it high above all things was a constant concern of Christian Civilization. Then came the characteristic manifestations of the times of faith: the Cross atop the lofty towers of churches and cathedrals; the Cross atop the crowns of kings and emperors, or adorning the noblest awards of the families of the first aristocracy, or serving as insignia in decorations. And when he wanted to signify the great importance of a document, he began it with a cross.
Finally, in everything that man conceived of as supreme, there was the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, carrying with it the idea that among all the wonders He worked in this world, the most admirable and the most adorable was to have suffered and died on that instrument of shame.
It also brought with it the response to this humiliation, a chivalrous and supernatural response – the exaltation of the Holy Cross!
The Cross glorified within us
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Redeemer of mankind. He had to redeem it by accepting death.
From that moment on, the Cross became the affirmation of the sufferings, the torments, and the difficulties that man accepts in order to carry out God’s designs on him on earth.
Then he faces everything, following Our Lord’s example, to follow the superior divine will. Such is the lesson that the Cross gives us: to embrace pain, sacrifice, holocaust, in an act of man’s fidelity to his own vocation.
Fidelity implies not only a lifelong struggle for the Catholic Religion to win and the Cross of Our Lord to be exalted above all things, but also victory in our inner struggles.
Indeed, we continually fight a battle within our souls, in which virtues and sins are opposed. This antagonism results in friction with the world and internal friction which, at certain moments, can be poignant.
Well, this struggle, we must look it in the face, and always have the audacious initiative to defeat sin. This battle is, in a way, the glorification of the Cross of Our Lord within us.
True joy is in the Cross
Since the beginning of Christianity, men have been baptized in the shadow of the Cross, have married under its protection, have placed it in the best place in their homes, and, at the last moment of their lives, have died looking to it.
In other words, the Cross has marked the Catholic’s entire existence. It is one more expression of the fundamental idea that everyday life on earth was made for suffering and heroism. And he who speaks of heroism, speaks of the Cross.
The true joy in life does not consist in enjoying great or small pleasures, in having abundant food and drink, or any other kind of comfort.
The authentic satisfaction of life is that sense of cleanliness of soul that we possess when we stare our cross in the face and say “yes” to it.
In this way, we act as our Lord Jesus Christ. He gave Himself up because He wanted to, and with courageous step, He carried His Cross to the top of the mountain where He was to be immolated.
Therefore, let us avoid the illusion of the ephemeral and often false joys that worldly amusements, vanities, and temporal successes promise us because they do not constitute the true essence of our existence.
“Man’s life is a constant struggle” (Job 7:1), said the saintly Job. As we have stated, the essence of life is a struggle within and without, accepting suffering head-on and making it our joy. This is truly the exaltation of the Cross in us.
Let us imitate She who loved the Cross the most
The spirit of the Cross, by which we crucifiably conceive all things, by which we strive and overcome, this love of the Cross, this naturalness in suffering characterizes the genuine son of Holy Church and follower of Christ.
To acquire this spirit, we could do nothing better than to beg Our Lady, to ask her to grant us the love that she herself had for the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
What thoughts, cogitations, and prayers did the Corredemptrix have in her hours of solitude and recollection, remembering the gallows where the Lamb of God was sacrificed?
How much she revered that Cross! How much she honored it! And what sublime meditations she made at the foot of the wood, at the very moment when the Savior was dying there!
And to what a high and unimaginable degree did the spirit of suffering – the spirit of the Cross – rise in Her, making Her a shining example for us of a crucified soul!
Then, we must ask Mary, in the name of those solitary meditations of Her before the Cross, in which perhaps She had in view each one of us, that same spirit of the cross.
May She instill in us that respect, that admiration, and that enthusiasm for true suffering, and even more, that heroic desire to suffer, which is the characteristic of the true Catholic.
In a word, let us ask her for the grace of this continuous exaltation of the Holy Cross in us so that we can continuously exalt it outside of us.
Extracted, with adaptations, from the magazine “Dr. Plinio”. Year III. N.30 (Sept., 2000); p.16-20
Compiled by Camille Mittermeier