Ave Crux Spes Unica!

A.M.D.G.
J.M.J.
A.T.C.

Laudetur Iesus Christus!
Nunc et in aeternum! Amen.

Saint Helena

Saint Helena, the mother of Constantine and discoverer of the True Cross of Our Lord.

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Roodmas)

Today is actually one of my favorite feast days.  You know, besides the obvious ones (I love Triduum, Christmas Midnight Mass, all Marian feast days, Michaelmas (which is coming up at the end of the month), Saint Aloysius’ day (21 June), and a few others).  I love any feast day associated with the Passion of the Lord.

I meant to make a Way of the Cross today but I got busy (bad excuse, I know) with work and other odds and ends so it kinda fell by the way side.

Over the past few years I have developed a devotion to the Crucifed Lord.  I always have a crucifix on me, be it the one on the Rosary in my pocket or the one around my neck.  I have one near my bed and one on my dresser that I often look at as I am putting on my makeup and doing my hair in the morning.  Some girls have a picture of their boyfriend or fiance on their dresser, I have a crucifix.  It’s how I roll.  There’s no stopping a girl in love.  Especially a girl in love with the Divine Bridegroom.  He’s good at what He does.  He always knows how to take care of me/us.  I know I can bring anything to Him and He will take care of it in the way He sees fit.

I always liked the story of how the True Cross was found.  How Saint Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, went to Jerusalem and found the remnants of three crosses.  When she was trying to determine which one was the True Cross, she took bits off each and had them brought to a sick person.  When the part of the True Cross was touched to the man, he was healed whereas when the other two pieces touched him, nothing happened.

At Mass, the first reading immediately caught my attention:

With their patience worn out by the journey,
the people complained against God and Moses,
“Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert,
where there is no food or water?
We are disgusted with this wretched food!”

In punishment the LORD sent among the people saraph serpents,
which bit the people so that many of them died.
Then the people came to Moses and said,
“We have sinned in complaining against the LORD and you.
Pray the LORD to take the serpents from us.”
So Moses prayed for the people, and the LORD said to Moses,
“Make a saraph and mount it on a pole,
and if any who have been bitten look at it, they will live.”
Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole,
and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent
looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.
(Numbers 21:4b-9)

The Israelites were being total ingrates and obviously not very trusting in the Lord’s providence.  Pah.  How often do we not trust in Him?  How often are we not grateful for what He does for us?  How much are we prone to complain when things do not go as we would want them?

Here they are in the middle of the desert, where other people would have died of starvation and dehydration, and the Lord gives them water and manna.  He gives them figurative “bread from heaven” and they caterwaul that they are “disgusted with this wretched food”?  A bit of a foreshadowing of Christ giving us His own Body … literally Panis Angelicus … the bread of the angels.

Can’t say I blame God for being a bit on the offended side.  So He send serpents among them to bite them and kill some.  He is creative with his chastisements.

Only when they see some of their people dropping dead from snake bite do they come to Moses telling him that they have sinned against God by their complaining.  They then ask him to ask the Lord to take the serpents away from them.

So the Lord has Moses make a serpent and mount it on a pole promising that those who look on it will be healed.

Does anyone else catch the parallel here?

Let’s start at the beginning … well, soon after.  How did Man fall?

Because Eve was tempted by the Evil One who took the form of a serpent in a tree.  The serpent told Eve that the Lord had not told the fullness of the truth and that if she and Adam ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil that they would be like gods.

Man’s downfall was because of a serpent in a tree and its lies.

The Lord saves His people from the poison of the serpents by having Moses mount a serpent on a pole (could be seen as a parallel to the tree) and have them look at it.  When they looked on the serpent (the very creature that contributed to the downfall of their first parents), they were healed.

And now why this reading is so appropriate for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross: Christ offered Himself on the Tree/Cross as expiation for all of our sins.  The tree from which man picked his downfall became the tree from which man would derive the Lord’s mercy, love, peace, and grace.  Because of the fruit from the first tree, man saw his nakedness and shame.  Through the Christ’s vulnerability/nakedness (they typically crucified persons nude as far as I know) being nailed to the Tree, man realized His true dignity that, as the second reading today says and so many know all-so-well by heart,

God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be save through Him.
(Saint John 3:16-17)

It’s feast days like this that make me wish my parish had a crucifix over the altar instead of the ressures-ifix (Resurrected Christ cross).  So often we don’t like to look at the crucifix.  We find it a “downer,” as just “one step to our salvation.”

But people, all your focusing on Easter Sunday causes you to forget one thing:

No Good Friday = No Easter Sunday.

In order to experience the true joy of the Resurrection, we have to experience the Passion and Death of Christ.

I remember once when I was working at the parish, I was determined to talk the pastor into getting a double-sided altar crucifix so that when he offers Mass (he’s a versus populum kinda priest), he would have a crucifix on which to look and such and the same with the people.  Remember, the sacrifice on the altar is the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross to the Father.

At the TLM (HAPPY FIFTH ANNIVERSARY OF SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM BTW), the priest faces ad orientem (more like  … ad Deum … facing God) and with a crucifix over him.  It’s a reminder that the Sacrifice of the Mass is the Sacrifice of the Cross.

Needless to say, I wasn’t successful in my endeavor.  But don’t you see what I mean?  With an altar crucifix, the priest, the altar boys, the people are reminded that the Sacrifice of the Mass is a unification with the Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary.

The crucifix is the ultimate sign of hope and love.  Hence my title: Ave Crux spes unica! “Hail to the Cross, our only hope!”  If we bring everything and ourselves to Christ on the Cross, He will take care of us.  He wants us to give us all of our pains and sorrows, all of our worries and fears, and all of our joy and happiness, and all of our mundane moments.

While I am gradually learning to rely more and more completely on the Providence of God, there are still some things that hurt me in one way or another.  I bring it to the Cross (and my Infant of Prague, of course).

Besides the things I have brought up ad nauseam over the past few months, there are other things that weigh heavy on my heart.  They are things that have driven me to feel tears stinging my eyes as kneel in prayer at church.  These are the things that I also need to bring to the Cross.

If we only trusted Him more.  If only we really put our lives in His hands completely.  I must attest to how very liberating it can be to do that.  It also ticks off the Evil One so that’s always nice.  He doesn’t want any of us to trust in the Lord and His Providential Love.  He wants us to despair and doubt.

The Cross is the ultimate way (aside from the Resurrection: Christ’s triumph over death) to “stick it to the Devil.”  In the Crucified Lord, we see perfect and complete love, self-sacrifice, and humility.  The Evil One hates that.  He only knows hatred, selfishness and pride.  That’s what he wants to spread.  That’s why he hates crucifixes because they stand for everything he hates.

Prayer Before the Crucifix/Prayer to Our Crucified Lord

Look down upon me, good and gentle Jesus,
while before Your face I humbly kneel and,
with burning soul,
pray and beseech You
to fix deep in my heart lively sentiments
of faith, hope and charity;
true contrition for my sins,
and a firm purpose of amendment.
While I contemplate,
with great love and tender pity,
Your five most precious wounds,
pondering over them within me
and calling to mind the words which David,
Your prophet, said of You, my Jesus:
“They have pierced My hands and My feet,
they have numbered all My bones.”
Amen.

Alternative version:

Behold, O good and sweetest Jesus,
I cast myself upon my knees in Thy sight,
and with the most fervent desire of my soul
I pray and beseech Thee
to impress upon my heart
lively sentiments of faith,
hope and charity,
with true repentance for my sins
and a most firm desire of amendment.
Whilst with deep affection and grief of soul
I consider within myself
and mentally contemplate
Thy five most precious wounds,
having before mine eyes that which David,
the prophet, long ago spoke concerning Thee,
“They have pierced My hands and My feet,
they have numbered all My bones.”

Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi, quia per sanctam crucem tuam, redemisti mundum!

We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You, because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world!

I would write more but my eyes are getting heavy.  Time to curl up and go to dreamland.

Have a nice night!

-Allie

About Ms. Allie

I am a Catholic young woman who works as a Theology teacher at a Catholic high school in the Archdiocese of the Detroit. In Spring of 2015, I graduated with an MA in Theology with a concentration in Systematic Theology. My MA thesis was titled: "Mary as Woman of the Eucharist in the Theology of Pope Saint John Paul II." I also hold a BA in Theology (with a dabbling in Philosophy) and is a member of Theta Alpha Kappa (θΑΚ), the National Theology/Religious Studies Honor Society. Prayers are appreciated.
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