What is the history behind feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September 14?
Emperor Constantine’s mother, Helena, is credited with having discovered the true cross around 330. She traveled to the Holy Land and uncovered the places associated with Jesus’ life. Legend has it that Helena uncovered three crosses but was not able to detect the true cross until each of them was laid on a leper. Only one of them cured the leper, proving it to be the true cross. A great church was built at the site, and soon various portions of the cross were sent to other churches as relics to be venerated.
The day after the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, September 14, 335, the actual cross was displayed for veneration. Egeria, a women traveler to Jerusalem around the year 386, kept a diary that has survived. She tells of the unique veneration of the wood of the cross that took place on Good Friday, something maintained ritually to this very day.
The Exaltation of the Holy Cross focuses on the gift of love that Jesus manifested by his total gift of self, offered for all. The cross, the ultimate form of capital punishment in its day, has become for us the ultimate symbol of love and triumph over evil and death.
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