Feast of the exaltation of the Cross

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Feast of the exaltation of the Cross
Feast of the exaltation of the Cross, which commemorates the discovery of Jesus' cross by St. Helen.


First Reading

Numbers 21,4-9

They left Mount Hor by the road to the Sea of Suph, to skirt round Edom. On the way the people lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses, 'Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in the desert? For there is neither food nor water here; we are sick of this meagre diet.' At this, God sent fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel. The people came and said to Moses, 'We have sinned by speaking against Yahweh and against you. Intercede for us with Yahweh to save us from these serpents.' Moses interceded for the people, and Yahweh replied, 'Make a fiery serpent and raise it as a standard. Anyone who is bitten and looks at it will survive.' Moses then made a serpent out of bronze and raised it as a standard, and anyone who was bitten by a serpent and looked at the bronze serpent survived.

Second Reading

Philippians 2,6-11

Who, being in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped. But he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are; and being in every way like a human being, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross. And for this God raised him high, and gave him the name which is above all other names; so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus and that every tongue should acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Reading of the Gospel

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Yesterday I was buried with Christ,
today I rise with you who are risen.
With you I was crucified;
remember me, Lord, in your kingdom.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

John 3,13-17

No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Son of man; as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For this is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. For God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Yesterday I was buried with Christ,
today I rise with you who are risen.
With you I was crucified;
remember me, Lord, in your kingdom.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Homily

This feast is celebrated both in the East and the West. In the Latin Church it is called "Exaltation of the Cross". In the Byzantine Church, enriched in the title as " Universal exaltation of the precious and life giving cross", the celebration is compared to Easter. September 14 remembers the day of the dedication of the basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, which had been renovated by Constantine and consecrated on this day in 335. The celebration also commemorated the discovery of the wood of Jesus' Cross by empress Helen and bishop Makarios. In the Byzantine celebration the priest lifts up the cross and shows it to the four cardinal points as to indicate the universality of salvation. The Church, in showing everyone the holy Cross, exalts the unspeakable love of Jesus for the whole humanity. In the preface of the Mass the liturgy sings: "On the tree of the cross you, O God, have established the salvation of humanity, so that from where death arose life might rise." On that wood love for oneself was defeated once and for all and divine love for others triumphs definitively. On the cross the love of Jesus reaches its climax. As the apostle Paul writes in the hymn of the Letter to the Philippians, Jesus began his way to the cross from when he "did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but" - because of love - "he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave;" and because of love "he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." The Father himself was moved by such great love by the Son and "gave him the name that is above every name." On the cross, life and death confront each other in one last definitive battle; a battle which is fought in Jesus' very body. Jesus dies: but with him love for oneself dies. Everyone under and at the side of his cross, loudly said to him: "Save yourself." Jesus carried till the end the burden of the sins of human beings. He, who came to save others, did not want to save himself, as he himself said; the Son of Man " came not to be served but to serve" (Mt 20:28). Dying in this way, Jesus exalts love. And we can finally find someone who loves others more than himself; one who is ready to give his entire life, to the point of losing it, for each of us.