vendredi 14 septembre 2012

L'EXALTATION DE LA SAINTE CROIX (FÊTE DE LA CROIX GLORIEUSE)



Vénération de la Sainte-Croix dans les 'Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry'

Exaltation de la Sainte Croix

627

Sous le règne de l'empereur Héraclius Ier, les Perses s'emparèrent de Jérusalem et y enlevèrent la principale partie de la vraie Croix de Notre-Seigneur, que sainte Hélène, mère de l'empereur Constantin, y avait laissée. Héraclius résolut de reconquérir cet objet précieux, nouvelle Arche d'alliance du nouveau peuple de Dieu. Avant de quitter Constantinople, il vint à l'église, les pieds chaussés de noir, en esprit de pénitence; il se prosterna devant l'autel et pria Dieu de seconder son courage; enfin il emporta avec lui une image miraculeuse du Sauveur, décidé à combattre avec elle jusqu'à la mort. Le Ciel aida sensiblement le vaillant empereur, car son armée courut de victoire en victoire; une des conditions du traité de paix fut la reddition de la Croix de Notre-Seigneur dans le même état où elle avait été prise.

Héraclius, à son retour, fut reçu à Constantinople par les acclamations du peuple; on alla au-devant de lui avec des rameaux d'oliviers et des flambeaux, et la vraie Croix fut honorée, à cette occasion, d'un magnifique triomphe. L'empereur lui-même, en action de grâce, voulut retourner à Jérusalem ce bois sacré, qui avait été quatorze ans au pouvoir des barbares. Quand il fut arrivé dans la Cité Sainte, il chargea la relique précieuse sur ses épaules; mais lorsqu'il fut à la porte qui mène au Calvaire, il lui fut impossible d'avancer, à son grand étonnement et à la stupéfaction de tout: "Prenez garde, ô empereur! lui dit alors le patriarche Zacharie; sans doute le vêtement impérial que vous portez n'est pas assez conforme à l'état pauvre et humilié de Jésus portant Sa Croix." Héraclius, touché de ces paroles, quitta ses ornements impériaux, ôta ses chaussures, et, vêtu en pauvre, il put gravir sans difficulté jusqu'au Calvaire et y déposer son glorieux fardeau.

Pour donner plus d'éclat à cette marche triomphale, Dieu permit que plusieurs miracles fussent opérés par la vertu de ce bois sacré: un mort fut ressuscité, quatre paralytiques guéris; dix lépreux recouvrèrent la santé, quinze aveugles la vue; une quantité de possédés furent délivrés du malin esprit, et un nombre considérable de malades trouvèrent une complète guérison. A la suite de ces événements fut instituée la fête de l'Exaltation de la Sainte Croix, pour en perpétuer le souvenir.

Abbé L. Jaud, Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l'année, Tours, Mame, 1950

SOURCE : http://magnificat.ca/cal/fr/saints/exaltation_de_la_sainte_croix.html



Icône russe de l'Exaltation de la Croix.
 (Icône de Iaroslavl par Goury Nikitine, 1680. Galerie Tretiakov, Moscou).

L'EXALTATION DE LA SAINTE CROIX

L'Exaltation de la Sainte Croix est ainsi appelée parce que à pareil jour la foi et la sainte Croix furent singulièrement exaltées. Il faut observer qu'avant la passion de J.-C., le bois de la croix fut un bois méprisé, parce que ces croix étaient faites avec du bois de bas prix ; il ne portait point de fruit tout autant de fois qu'il était planté sur le mont du Calvaire ; c'était un bois ignoble, parce que c'était l’instrument du supplice des larrons ; c'était un bois de ténèbres et sans aucune beauté ; c'était un bois de mort, puisque les hommes y étaient attachés pour mourir; c'était un bois infect, parce qu'il était planté au milieu des cadavres. Mais après la passion, il fut exalté de bien des manières, parce que au lieu d'être vil, il devint précieux ; ce qui a fait dire à saint André : « Salut, croix précieuse, etc. » Sa stérilité fut convertie en fertilité c'est pour cela qu'il est dit au ch. VII des Cantiques : « Je monterai sur le palmier, et j'en cueillerai les fruits. » Son ignominie devint excellence. « La croix, dit saint Augustin, qui était l’instrument de supplice des larrons, a passé sur le front des empereurs. » Ses ténèbres ont été converties en clarté. « La croix et les cicatrices de J.-C., dit saint Chrysostome, seront au jugement plus brillantes que les rayons du soleil. » La mort est devenue une vie sans fin : Ce qui fait dire à l’Eglise : « La source de la mort devint la source de la vie. » Son infection fut changée en odeur suave : Pendant que le roi se reposait, est-il dit au Cantique, le nard dont j'étais parfumé, c'est-à-dire, la Sainte Croix, a répandu son odeur. »

L'Exaltation de la Sainte Croix est célébrée solennellement dans l’Eglise, parce que la foi en reçut une admirable gloire. En effet, l’an du Seigneur 615, Dieu permit que son peuple fût affligé par les mauvais traitements des païens, quand Chosroës, roi des Perses, soumit à sa domination tous les royaumes de la terre. Lorsqu'il vint à Jérusalem, il sortit effrayé du sépulcre du Seigneur, mais pourtant il emporta la partie de la Sainte Croix que sainte Hélène y avait laissée. Or, sa volonté étant de se faire adorer par tous ses sujets comme un dieu : il fit construire une tour d'or et d'argent entremêlés de pierres précieuses, dans laquelle il plaça les imagés du soleil, de la lune et des étoiles. A l’aide de conduits minces et cachés, il faisait tomber la pluie d'en haut comme Dieu, et dans un souterrain, il plaça des chevaux qui traînaient des, chariots en tournant, comme pour ébranler la tour et simuler le tonnerre. Il remit donc le soin de son royaume à son fils, et le profane réside dans un temple de cette nature, où après avoir placé auprès de soi la Croix du Seigneur, il ordonne que tous l’appellent Dieu. D'après ce qu'on lit dans le livre Mitral (Sicardus, c. XLIV) lui-même, Chosroës, résidant sur un trône comme le Père, plaça à sa droite le bois de la Croix au lieu dit Fils, et à sa gauche, un coq, au lieu du Saint-Esprit, et il se fit nommer le Père. Alors l’empereur Héraclius rassembla une armée nombreuse et vint pour livrer bataille au fils de Chosroës auprès du Danube. Les deux princes convinrent de se mesurer seul à seul sur le pont, à la condition que celui qui resterait vainqueur aurait l’empire sans que ni l’une ni l’autre armée n'eût à en souffrir. Il fut encore convenu que celui qui aurait la présomption de quitter les rangs pour porter aide à son prince, aurait les jambes et les bras brisés aussitôt et serait noyé dans le fleuve. Or, Héraclius s'offrit tout entier à Dieu et se recommanda à la Sainte Croix avec toute la dévotion possible. Les deux princes en étant venus aux mains, le Seigneur accorda la victoire à Héraclius, qui soumit l’armée ennemie à son commandement, de telle sorte que tout le peuple de Chosroës embrassa la foi chrétienne et reçut le saint baptême. Or, Chosroës ignorait l’issue de la guerre, car étant généralement haï, personne ne lui en donna connaissance. Mais Héraclius parvint jusqu'à lui et le trouvant assis sur son trône d'or, il lui dit : « Puisque tu as honoré à ta façon le bois de la Sainte Croix, si tu veux recevoir le baptême et la foi de J.-C., tu conserveras la vie et ton royaume, en me donnant quelques otages ; mais si tu rejettes ma proposition, je te frapperai de mon épée et te trancherai la tète. » Chosroës ne voulut pas acquiescer à ces conditions. Héraclius dégaina alors son épée et le décapita sans merci : et comme il avait été roi, il commanda de l’ensevelir. Pour son fils, âgé de dix ans, qu'il trouva avec lui, il le fit baptiser, et le levant (Le parrain retirait lui-même de l’eau la personne qui y avait été plongée par le prêtre quand le baptême se donnait par trois immersions successives.) lui-même des fonts sacrés, il lui laissa le royaume de son père. Il détruisit ensuite la. tour, dont il donna l’argent à son armée pour sa part du butin : mais l’or et les pierreries, il les réserva afin de réparer les églises que le tyran avait détruites. Après quoi il prit la Sainte Croix qu'il reporta à Jérusalem.

Quand en descendant du Mont des Oliviers, il voulut entrer, sur son cheval et revêtu de ses ornements impériaux, par la porte sous laquelle J.-C. avait passé en allant au supplice, tout à coup les pierres de la porte descendirent et se fermèrent comme un mur ou comme une paroi. Tout le monde en était dans la stupeur, quand un ange du Seigneur, tenant une crois dans ses mains, apparut au-dessus de la porte et dit : « Lorsque le roi des cieux entrait par cette porte en allant au lieu de sa passion, ce n'était pas avec un appareil royal ; mais il est entré monté sur un pauvre !ne, pour laisser à ses adorateurs un exemple d'humilité. » Après avoir dit ces mots, l’ange disparut. Alors l’empereur, tout couvert de larmes, ôta lui-même sa chaussure, et se dépouilla de ses vêtements jusqu'à sa chemise, et prenant la croix du Seigneur, il la porta avec humilité jusqu'à la porte. Aussitôt la dureté de la pierre fut sensible à l’ordre du ciel, et à l’instant la porte se releva et laissa l’entrée libre. Or, l’odeur extraordinairement suave avait cessé d'émaner de la Sainte Croix à partir du jour et de l’instant où elle avait été enlevée de Jérusalem pour être transportée à travers toute l’étendue de la terre, dans la Perse, à la cour de Chosroës; elle se fit sentir de nouveau, et enivra tout le monde d'une admirable suavité. Alors (47) le roi, dans la ferveur de sa dévotion, adressa les hommages suivants à la Croix : « O croix plus brillante que chacun des astres, célèbre au monde, digne de l’amour des hommes, plus sainte que tout, qui seule avez été digne de porter la rançon de l’univers ; bois aimable, clous précieux, doux glaive, douce lance, qui portez un doux fardeau, sauvez cette assemblée réunie aujourd'hui pour chanter vos louanges, et marquée du signe de votre étendard (c'est l’Antienne de Magnificat des premières vêpres de la fête.). » C'est ainsi que cette précieuse Croix est remise en son lieu, et les anciens miracles se renouvellent. Plusieurs morts sont rendus à la vie, quatre paralytiques sont guéris, dix lépreux sont purifiés, quinze aveugles reçoivent la vue, les démons sont mis en fuite, et plusieurs sont délivrés de diverses maladies. Alors l’empereur fit réparer les églises qu'il combla en outre de présents dignes d'un monarque; après quoi, il revint dans ses propres états. Ces faits sont rapportés autrement dans les chroniques. On y dit que Chosroës dominait sur toute la terre, et qu'ayant pris Jérusalem avec le patriarche Zacharie et le bois de la Croix, Héraclius voulait faire la paix avec lui. Chosroës jura qu'il ne conclurait la paix avec les Romains s'ils reniaient le crucifix et s'ils adoraient le soleil. Mais Héraclius enflammé de zèle leva une armée contre lui, défit les Perses dans plusieurs batailles et força Chosroës de fuir jusqu'à Clésyphonte. Enfin, Chosroës, malade de la dyssenterie, voulut faire couronner roi son fils Médasas. A cette nouvelle, Syroïs, son aîné, fit alliance avec Héraclius, et s'étant mis avec les nobles à la poursuite de son père, il le jeta dans les chaînes, où après l’avoir sustenté de pain de douleur et d'eau d'affliction, il le fit enfin périr à coups de flèches. Dans la suite, il fit rendre à Héraclius tous les prisonniers avec le patriarche et le bois de la croix. Héraclius porta d'abord à Jérusalem le précieux bois de la croix qu'il transporta dans la suite à Constantinople. C'est ce qu'on lit dans une quantité de chroniques. — Voici d'après l’Histoire tripartite (Lib. II, ch. XVII.) comment s'exprime la Sybille des païens au sujet du bois de la croix : « O bois trois fois heureux sur lequel Dieu a été étendu! » Ce qui peut s'entendre peut-être de la vie de la nature, de la grâce et de la gloire qui vient de la croix.

Un juif étant entré dans l’église de Sainte-Sophie à Constantinople, y aperçut une image de J.-C. Voyant qu'il était seul, il saisit une épée, s'approche et frappe l’image à la gorge. Tout aussitôt il en jaillit du sang et la figure ainsi que la tête du juif en furent couvertes. Celui-ci effrayé saisit l’image, la jeta dans un puits et prit la fuite. Un chrétien le rencontra et lui dit : « D'où viens-tu, juif? tu as tué un homme. » Le juif répondit : « C'est faux. » « Tu as certainement commis un homicide, reprit le chrétien, puisque tu portes des taches de sang. » Le juif répondit : « Véritablement le Dieu des chrétiens est grand, et sa foi se trouve confirmée par tous les moyens : car ce n'est pas un homme que j'ai tué, mais l’image du Christ; et aussitôt le sang a jailli de sa gorge. » Alors le juif conduisit cet homme au puits d'où ils retirèrent la sainte image. On rapporte que la blessure faite au gosier de J.-C. est encore visible aujourd'hui. Le juif se convertit de suite à la foi (Denys le Chartr., Sermon I de l’Exaltation de la Sainte Croix.). — Dans la ville de Bérith, en Syrie, un chrétien était logé dans une maison, moyennant une pension annuelle : il avait attaché pieusement une image de N.-S. en croix à la tête de son lit et ne manquait pas d'y faire ses prières. L'année étant expirée, il loua une autre maison, et oublia d'emporter son image. Or, un juif loua la maison quittée par le chrétien et un jour il invita à dîner un homme de sa tribu. Pendant le repas, celui qui avait été invité vint à examiner l’appartement et aperçut l’image attachée à la muraille; alors frémissant de colère contre son hôte, il lui adresse des menaces parce qu'il ose garder une image de J.-C. de Nazareth. Or, l’autre juif, qui n'avait pas vu cette image, affirmait par tous les serments possibles qu'il ne savait pas de quelle image il voulait parler. Le juif faisant alors comme s'il était apaisé dit adieu à son hôte et alla trouver le chef de sa nation et accusa l’autre de ce qu'il avait vu. Les juifs, s'étant donc réunis, vont à la maison et après avoir vu l’image, ils accablent le locataire des plus durs outrages, le jettent à demi mort hors de la synagogue, et foulant aux pieds l’image, ils renouvelèrent sur elle tous les opprobres de la passion du Seigneur. Mais quand ils eurent percé le côté avec une lance, le sang et l’eau en sortirent en abondance et un vase qu'on mit pour les recevoir en fut rempli. Les juifs stupéfaits portèrent ce sang dans les synagogues et tous les malades qui en furent oints étaient aussitôt guéris. Alors les juifs racontèrent toutes les circonstances de ces faits à l’évêque du pays et reçurent tous ensemble le baptême et la foi de J.-C. Or, l’évêque conserva ce sang dans des ampoules de cristal et de verre. Il fit venir ensuite le chrétien et lui: demanda quel était l’artiste qui avait exécuté une si belle image. Le chrétien répondit : « C'est Nicodème qui l’a faite, et en mourant, il la laissa à Gamaliel, Gamaliel à Zachée, Zachée à Jacques et Jacques à Simon. Elle est restée à Jérusalem jusqu'à la destruction de la ville ; elle fut transportée dans la suite par les fidèles au royaume d'Agrippa ; de là dans ma patrie par mes parents, et elle m’est échue par droit d'héritage.» Cela arriva l’an du Seigneur 750 (Saint Athanase, De imag. Salv. D. N. J. C., 7e Conc. oecum., act. IV; — Vincent de B., l. XXIV, c. CVII. - Sigebert, Chron. an 764; — Hélinand, an 764). Alors tous les juifs changèrent leurs synagogues en églises ; et à partir de cette époque, ce fut la coutume de consacrer les églises, car auparavant on ne consacrait que les autels. C'est à cause de ce miracle que l’Église ordonna de faire au 5 des calendes de décembre, d'autres disent, au 5 des ides de novembre, la mémoire de la,Passion du Seigneur. De là encore, à Rome; on consacra en l’honneur du Sauveur une église où se conserve une ampoule de ce sang, et la fête en est solennelle.

Chez les infidèles, la vertu extraordinaire de la croix fut aussi attestée en toutes sortes de circonstances. En effet, saint Grégoire raconte au IIIe livre de ses Dialogues (ch. III) que, André, évêque de Fondi, ayant permis qu'une religieuse demeurât avec lui, l’antique ennemi commença à imprimer dans les yeux de son âme la beauté de cette femme, en sorte qu'il pensait dans le lit à des choses affreuses. Or, un jour, un juif venu à Rome, voyant qu'il se faisait tard, et n'ayant pas trouvé où loger, entra pour y rester dans un temple d'Apollon. Comme il craignait de passer la nuit dans ce lieu sacrilège, bien qu'il n'eut pas du tout confiance dans la croix, il eut soin cependant de se signer. Or, au milieu de la nuit, il s'éveilla et vit une foule d'esprits malins qui semblaient s'avancer sous la direction de quelque autorité; alors le chef qui commandait aux autres s'assit au milieu d'eux, et se mit à discuter les affaires et les actes de chacun des esprits placés sous son obéissance, afin de s'assurer de tout ce que chacun d'eux avait commis d'iniquités. Saint Grégoire a passé sous silence, pour abréger, le mode de cette discussion : mais ou peut s'en rendre compte par un exemple semblable qu'on lit dans la Vie des Pères (Honorius d'Autun). En effet quelqu'un étant entré dans un temple d'idoles, vit Satan assis et toute sa milice présente devant lui. Alors entra un des malins esprits qui l’adora. Satan lui dit : « D'oit viens-tu ? » Et il répondit : «J'ai été dans telle province et j'y ai suscité quantité de guerres; j'y ai soulevé beaucoup de troubles, J'y ai versé du sang en abondance, et je suis venu te l’annoncer. » Et Satan reprit : « En combien de temps as-tu fait cela? » L'autre dit : « En trente jours. » « Pourquoi, dit le prince des ténèbres, si peu en tant de temps? » et s'adressant aux assistants : « Allez, dit-il, fouettez-le et frappez dur. » Un second vint et l’adora en disant : « J'étais dans la mer, maître, et j'ai excité d'épouvantables tempêtes, j'ai englouti beaucoup de navires, j'ai fait périr grand nombre d'hommes. » Et Satan dit : « En combien de temps as-tu fait cela? » « En vingt jours, répondit l’autre. » Et Satan le fit fouetter comme le premier en disant : « C'est en tant de temps que tu as fait si peu ! » Alors vint un troisième qui dit : « Je suis allé dans une ville, et j'ai excité des querelles pendant certaine noce, j'y ai fait répandre beaucoup de sang, j'ai tué l’époux lui-même, et je suis venu te l’annoncer. » Satan dit : « En combien de temps as-tu fait cela ! » « En dix jours, répondit-il. » Et Satan lui dit : « Et tu n'as pas fait plus en tant de jours ? » Et il le fit frapper par ceux qui étaient autour de lui. Ensuite vint un quatrième : « Je suis resté, dit-il, dans le désert, et pendant quarante ans, j'ai travaillé autour d'un moine, et c'est. à peine si enfin je l’ai fait tomber dans le péché de la chair. » Quand Satan entendit cela, il se leva de son trône, et embrassant ce démon, il ôta la couronne de dessus son front, et la lui mit sur la tête, puis il le fit asseoir avec lui en disant : « C'est une grande chose que tu as eu le courage de faire là, et tu as travaillé plus que tous les autres. » C'est là ou à peu près le mode de la discussion que saint Grégoire a passée sous silence. Quand chacun des esprits eut exposé ce qu'il avait fait, il y (53) en eut un, qui s'élança au milieu de l’assemblée, et qui fit connaître de quelle tentation charnelle il avait agité l’esprit d'André par rapport à cette religieuse, ajoutant que la veille, à l’heure des vêpres, il en était venu jusqu'à amener son esprit à donner un coup sur le dos de cette femme en signe de caresse. Alors le malin esprit l’engagea à accomplir ce qu'il avait commencé afin que ce fût lui qui eût la palme la plus remarquable pour avoir fait succomber André : il commanda ensuite qu'on cherchât à savoir quel était celui qui avait été si présomptueux pour se coucher dans ce temple. Et comme cet homme tremblait de plus en plus fort, et que les esprits envoyés pour le reconnaître voyaient' qu'il était signé du mystère de la croix, aussitôt ils se mirent à crier avec effroi : « Le vase est vide, il est vrai, mais il est scellé. » A ce cri, la troupe de malins esprits disparut aussitôt. Mais le juif se hâta de venir trouver l’évêque et lui raconta tout de point en point. L'évêque, en entendant cela, se mit .à gémir grandement; et il Renvoya de suite toutes les femmes hors de sa maison, puis il baptisa le Juif. — Saint Grégoire rapporte encore au livre des Dialogues (ch. IV), qu'une religieuse en entrant dans un jardin, et y apercevant une laitue, en conçut un violent désir, et, oubliant de la bénir avec le signe de la croix; elle la mordit avec avidité, mais elle fut saisie par le démon et tomba à l’instant. Saint Equitius étant venu auprès d'elle, le diable se mit à crier en disant: « Qu'ai-je fait, moi, qu'ai-je fait? J'étais assis sur la laitue; celle-ci est venue et elle m’a mordu. » Mais sur l’ordre du saint homme, le démon sortit de suite. — On lit au livre XIe de (54) l’Histoire ecclésiastique que les Gentils avaient peint sur les murs d'Alexandrie les armes de Sérapis ; mais Théodose les fit effacer et y substitua le signe de la croix. Alors, les gentils et les prêtres des idoles se firent baptiser, en disant que c'était une tradition des anciens, que ce qu'ils vénéraient subsisterait jusqu'à ce que soit venu ce signe dans lequel est la vie. Ils avaient dans leur alphabet une lettre, à laquelle ils donnaient le nom de sacrée : elle avait la forme d'une croix qu'ils disaient signifier la vie future (Eusèbe de Césarée, 1. II, c. XX; — Rufin, l. II, c. XXIX.).

LA LÉGENDE DORÉE de Jacques de Voragine nouvellement traduite en français avec introduction, notices, notes et recherches sur les sources par l'abbé J.-B. M. Roze, chanoine honoraire de la Cathédrale d'Amiens, Édouard Rouveyre, éditeur, 76, rue de Seine, 76, Paris MDCCCCII

SOURCE : http://www.abbaye-saint-benoit.ch/voragine/tome03/136.htm


Exaltation de la sainte Croix

Fête de la Croix glorieuse

Quand, à Jérusalem, la reine sainte Hélène, mère de l'empereur Constantin, fut convaincue d'avoir retrouvé sur le Mont Calvaire la vraie croix du Christ, elle fit édifier en ce lieu, avec l'aide de son fils, une basilique englobant le Calvaire et le Saint Sépulcre. Cette basilique qui eut pour nom "Résurrection" fut consacrée un 14 septembre. Par la suite, ce jour fut choisi pour célébrer une fête qu'on appela "Exaltation de la précieuse et vivifiante Croix" parce que son rite principal consistait en une ostension solennelle d'une relique de la vraie croix. Ce geste manifestait devant tous que la Croix est glorieuse parce qu'en elle la mort est vaincue par la vie. La fête se répandit à Constantinople où elle connut un éclat nouveau à partir du VIIe siècle parce que les Perses infidèles s'étaient emparés de Jérusalem et avaient emporté dans leur pays la vraie Croix comme trophée de victoire. L'empereur Heraclius alla la reprendre et ramena triomphalement à Constantinople le symbole de la victoire du Christ sur la mort. Progressivement la fête fut célébrée dans toute l'Église et des parcelles de cette relique furent distribuées à travers le monde chrétien.

"Ô Croix mon refuge, ô Croix mon chemin et ma force, ô Croix étendard imprenable, ô Croix arme invincible. La Croix repousse tout mal, la Croix met les ténèbres en fuite; par cette Croix je parcourrai le chemin qui mène à Dieu."

Fête de la Croix glorieuse. Au lendemain de la dédicace de la basilique de la Résurrection, érigée sur le tombeau du Christ, la sainte Croix est exaltée et honorée, comme le trophée de sa victoire pascale et le signe qui apparaîtra dans le ciel, annonçant déjà d’avance à tous son glorieux avènement.
Martyrologe romain



L’Eglise de Rome fêtait le 3 mai l’invention de la Ste Croix (fête supprimée par Jean XXIII en 1960) : c’est à dire l’anniversaire de son retour à Jérusalem par Héraclius (630), la date du 14 septembre étant déjà celle de la célébration des Sts Corneille et Cyprien. Puis par un glissement de mémoire, la fête du 3 mai devint celle de la découverte par Ste Hélène (320) et l’événement d’Héraclius fut commémoré le 14 septembre.

Cette fête commémore aussi la dédicace des basiliques du Calvaire et du St Sépulcre (335). La réforme de Jean XXIII, ayant supprimée la fête du 3 mai, a élevé celle du 14 septembre au rang de IIème classe.

(Leçons des Matines)

AU PREMIER NOCTURNE.

Du livre des Nombres.

Première leçon. Lorsque le roi d’Arad, Chananéen, qui habitait vers le midi, eut appris cela, c’est-à-dire qu’Israël était venu par le chemin des espions, il combattit contre lui, et étant vainqueur, il en emporta le butin. Mais Israël se liant par un vœu au Seigneur, dit : Si vous livrez ce peuple à ma main, je détruirai toutes ses villes. Et le Seigneur exauça les prières d’Israël, et il livra le Chananéen qu’Israël fit périr, ses villes ayant été renversées ; et il appela ce lieu du nom de Horma, c’est-à-dire anathème.

R/. La sainte Église vénère le jour glorieux où fut exalté le bois triomphal, * Sur lequel notre Rédempteur, rompant les liens de la mort, a vaincu le perfide serpent. V/. Le Verbe du Père nous a ouvert le chemin du salut, étant suspendu au bois. * Sur lequel.

Deuxième leçon. Or, ils partirent aussi du mont Hor par la voie qui conduit à la mer Rouge, pour aller autour de la terre d’Edom. Et le peuple commença à s’ennuyer du chemin et de la fatigue ; et il parla contre Dieu et contre Moïse, et dit : Pourquoi nous as-tu retirés de l’Egypte, pour que nous mourions dans le désert ? Le pain nous manque, il n’y a pas d’eau ; notre âme a déjà des nausées à cause de cette nourriture très légère. C’est pourquoi le Seigneur envoya contre le peuple des serpents brûlants.

R/. O Croix, l’appui de notre confiance, arbre seul illustre entre tous les autres, nulle forêt n’a produit ton pareil pour le feuillage la fleur et le fruit : * Il nous est cher, ce bois ; ils nous sont chers, ces clous ; et combien est doux le fardeau qu’ils soutiennent. V/. Tu es seule plus élevée que tous les cèdres. * Il nous est cher.

Troisième leçon. A cause des blessures et de la mort d’un grand nombre, on vint à Moïse et on dit : Nous avons péché, parce que nous avons parlé contre le Seigneur et contre toi : prie pour qu’il éloigne de nous les serpents. Et Moïse pria pour le peuple, et le Seigneur lui dit : Fais un serpent d’airain, et expose-le comme un signe : celui qui, ayant été blessé, le regardera, vivra. Moïse fit donc un serpent d’airain et l’exposa comme un signe : lorsque les blessés le regardaient, ils étaient guéris.

R/. Voici l’arbre très digne placé au milieu du paradis, * Sur lequel l’auteur du salut a vaincu, par sa mort, la mort de tous les hommes. V/. Croix excellente et d’une éclatante beauté. * Sur. Gloire au Père. * Sur.

AU DEUXIÈME NOCTURNE.

Quatrième leçon. Vers la fin du règne de Phocas, Chosroës, roi des Perses, après avoir envahi l’Egypte et l’Afrique et s’être emparé de Jérusalem, où il fit périr plusieurs milliers de Chrétiens, emporta en Perse la Croix de notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ, qu’Hélène avait déposée sur le mont Calvaire. Fatigué des vexations et des calamités innombrables de la guerre, Héraclius, successeur de Phocas, demanda la paix. Mais Chosroës, enorgueilli par ses victoires, ne voulut à aucun prix la lui accorder. Dans cette extrémité, Héraclius eut recours aux jeûnes et aux prières multipliées, implorant avec beaucoup de ferveur le secours de Dieu. Sur l’inspiration du ciel, il rassembla une armée et, ayant engagé le combat, il défit les trois généraux de Chosroës avec leurs trois armées.

R/. Il faut que nous nous glorifiions dans la Croix de notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ, en qui est le salut, la vie et notre résurrection : * Par qui nous avons été sauvés et délivrés. V/. Nous adorons votre Croix, Seigneur, et nous honorons le souvenir de votre glorieuse passion. * Par qui.

Cinquième leçon. Abattu par ces défaites, Chosroës prit la fuite ; et lorsqu’il se disposait à traverser le Tigre, il désigna son fils Médarsès, comme devant partager avec lui l’autorité royale. Son fils aîné ne supporta pas cet affront sans un cruel dépit, et en vint à méditer la perte commune de son père et de son frère : dessein qu’il exécuta bientôt au retour de ces deux fugitifs. Après quoi il sollicita d’Héraclius le droit de régner et l’obtint à certaines conditions, dont la première était la restitution de la Croix du Seigneur. C’est ainsi que la Croix fut recouvrée, quatorze ans après qu’elle était tombée en la possession des Perses. De retour à Jérusalem, Héraclius la prit sur ses épaules et la reporta, en grande pompe, sur la montagne où le Sauveur l’avait lui-même portée.

R/. Tandis que par une grâce céleste on exalte le gage sacré, la foi dans le Christ est fortifiée : * On voit s’accomplir les divins prodiges opérés figurativement autrefois par le bâton de Moïse. V/. Au contact de la Croix, les morts ressuscitent, et les grandeurs de Dieu se révèlent. * On voit.

Sixième leçon. Cette action fut marquée par un éclatant miracle. Héraclius, tout chargé d’or et de pierreries, sentit une force invincible l’arrêter à la porte qui donnait accès au mont Calvaire ; plus il faisait d’efforts pour avancer, plus il semblait être fortement retenu. Comme l’empereur et avec lui tous les témoins de cette scène étaient stupéfaits, Zacharie, Évêque de Jérusalem, lui dit : « Prenez garde, ô empereur, qu’avec ces ornements de triomphe, vous n’imitiez point assez la pauvreté de Jésus-Christ et l’humilité avec laquelle il a porté sa Croix. » Héraclius se dépouillant alors de ses splendides vêtements, et détachant ses chaussures, jeta sur ses épaules un vulgaire manteau et se remit en route. Cela fait, il accomplit facilement le reste du trajet et replaça la Croix sur le mont Calvaire, à l’endroit même d’où les Perses l’avaient enlevée. La solennité de l’exaltation de la sainte Croix, que l’on célébrait chaque année en ce même jour, prit alors une grande importance, en mémoire de ce qu’elle avait été remise, par Héraclius, au lieu même où on l’avait dressée la première fois pour le Sauveur.

R/. Ce signe de la Croix sera dans le ciel lorsque le Seigneur viendra pour juger : * Alors seront manifestés les secrets de notre cœur. V/. Quand le Fils de l’homme sera assis sur le siège de sa majesté, et commencera à juger le siècle par le feu. * Alors. Gloire au Père. * Alors.

AU TROISIÈME NOCTURNE.

Lecture du saint Évangile selon saint Jean.

En ce temps-là : Jésus dit à la foule des Juifs : C’est maintenant le jugement du monde, maintenant le prince de ce monde sera jeté dehors. Et le reste.

Homélie de saint Léon, Pape.

Septième leçon. A la vue du Christ élevé en croix, il ne faut pas, mes bien-aimés, que votre pensée s’arrête à ce seul aspect extérieur qui frappa les yeux des impies, auxquels il a été dit par Moïse : « Ta vie sera comme en suspens devant tes yeux, et tu craindras jour et nuit, et tu ne croiras pas à ta vie. » En effet, à la vue du Seigneur en Croix, les impies ne pouvaient apercevoir en lui autre chose que leur crime ; ils tremblèrent de crainte, non pas de la crainte qui justifie dans la vraie foi, mais de celle qui torture une conscience coupable. Pour nous, ayant l’intelligence éclairée par l’esprit de vérité, embrassons d’un cœur pur et libre la Croix dont la gloire resplendit au ciel et sur la terre, et appliquons toute l’attention de notre âme à pénétrer le mystère que le Seigneur, parlant de sa passion prochaine, annonçait ainsi : « C’est maintenant le jugement du monde, maintenant le prince de ce monde sera jeté dehors. Et moi, quand j’aurai été élevé de terre, j’attirerai tout à moi. »

R/. Doux bois, doux clous, ils ont soutenu un doux fardeau : * Ce bois a seul été digne de porter la rançon du monde. V/. Ce signe de la Croix sera dans le ciel, lorsque le Seigneur viendra pour juger. * Ce bois.

Huitième leçon. O vertu admirable de la Croix ! ô gloire ineffable de la passion ! où l’on voit, et le tribunal du Seigneur, et le jugement du monde, et la puissance du Crucifié. Oui, Seigneur, vous avez attiré tout à vous, lorsque, ayant « vos mains tout le jour étendues vers un peuple incrédule et rebelle, » l’univers entier comprit qu’il devait rendre hommage à votre majesté. Vous avez, Seigneur, attiré tout à vous, lorsque tous les éléments n’eurent qu’une seule voix pour exécrer le forfait des Juifs ; lorsque les astres étant obscurcis, la clarté du jour changée en ténèbres, la terre fut à son tour ébranlée par des secousses extraordinaires et la création tout entière se refusa à servir des impies. Vous avez, Seigneur, attiré tout à vous, parce que le voile du temple s’étant déchiré, le saint des saints rejeta ses indignes pontifes, pour montrer que la figure se transformait en réalité, la prophétie en déclarations manifestes, la loi en Évangile.

R/. Comme Moïse a élevé le serpent dans le désert, il faut de même que le Fils de l’homme soit élevé : * Afin que quiconque croit en lui ne périsse point, mais qu’il ait la vie éternelle. V/. Dieu n’a pas envoyé son Fils dans le monde pour condamner le monde, mais pour que le monde soit sauvé par lui. * Afin. Gloire au Père. * Afin.

Neuvième leçon. Vous avez, Seigneur, attiré tout à vous, afin que la piété de toutes les nations qui peuplent la terre célébrât, comme un mystère plein de réalité et dégagé de tout voile, ce que vous teniez caché dans un temple de la Judée, sous l’ombre des figures. Maintenant, en effet, l’ordre des Lévites a plus d’éclat, la dignité des Prêtres plus de grandeur, et l’onction qui sacre les Pontifes plus de sainteté. Et cela, parce que la source de toute bénédiction et le principe de toutes les grâces se trouvent en votre Croix, laquelle fait passer les croyants de la faiblesse à la force, de l’opprobre à la gloire, de la mort à la vie. C’est maintenant aussi que les divers sacrifices d’animaux charnels étant abolis, la seule oblation de votre corps et de votre sang tient lieu de toutes les différentes victimes qui la représentaient. Car vous êtes le véritable « Agneau de Dieu qui effacez les péchés du monde, » et tous les mystères s’accomplissent tellement en vous, que, de même que toutes les hosties qui vous sont offertes ne font qu’un seul sacrifice, ainsi toutes les nations de la terre ne font plus qu’un seul royaume.

SOURCE : http://www.introibo.fr/14-09-Exaltation-de-la-Ste-Croix


Feast of The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (or Triumph of the Cross) we honor the Holy Cross by which Christ redeemed the world. The public veneration of the Cross of Christ originated in the fourth century, according to early accounts. The miraculous discovery of the True Cross on September 14, 326, by Saint Helen, mother of Constantine, while she was on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, is the origin of the tradition of celebrating the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on this date. Constantine later built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on the site of her discovery of the cross. On this same pilgrimage she ordered two other churches built: one in Bethlehem near the Grotto of the Nativity, the other on the Mount of the Ascension, near Jerusalem.

In the Western Church the feast came into prominence in the seventh century — after 629, when the Byzantine emperor Heraclitus restored the Holy Cross to Jerusalem, after defeating the Persians who had stolen it.

It remained in Christian hands until the Battle of Hattin in 1187, when the Moslem leader Saladin captured the relic. Saladin after the Battle of Hattin and the capture of Jerusalem, would ride his horse through the streets with the Holy Relic dragging behind his mount’s tail.

Christians “exalt” (raise on high) the Cross of Christ as the instrument of our salvation. Adoration of the Cross is, thus, adoration of Jesus Christ, the God Man, who suffered and died on this Roman instrument of torture for our redemption from sin and death. The cross represents the One Sacrifice by which Jesus, obedient even unto death, accomplished our salvation. The cross is a symbolic summary of the Passion, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ — all in one image.

The Cross — because of what it represents — is the most potent and universal symbol of the Christian faith. It has inspired both liturgical and private devotions: for example, the Sign of the Cross, which is an invocation of the Holy Trinity; the “little” Sign of the Cross on head, lips and heart at the reading of the Gospel; praying the Stations (or Way) of the Cross; and the Veneration of the Cross by the faithful on Good Friday by kissing the feet of the image of Our Savior crucified.

Placing a crucifix (the cross with an image of Christ’s body upon it) in churches and homes, in classrooms of Catholic schools and in other Catholic institutions, or wearing this image on our persons, is a constant reminder — and witness — of Christ’s ultimate triumph, His victory over sin and death through His suffering and dying on the Cross.

SOURCE : http://www.ucatholic.com/saints/the-exaltation-of-the-cross/


The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

A.D. 629.

THE MIRACULOUS appearance of the cross to Constantine, 1 and the discovery of that sacred wood by St. Helen, 2 gave the first occasion to this festival, which was celebrated under the title of the Exaltation of the Cross on the 14th of September, both by the Greeks and Latins as early as in the fifth and sixth ages, 3 at Jerusalem from the year 335. The recovery of this precious instrument and memorial of our redemption out of the hands of the infidels, in the reign of Heraclius, in the seventh century, was afterwards gratefully commemorated on the same day: and the feast of the Invention or Discovery of the Cross has been removed in the Latin church to the 3d of May ever since the eighth century. The history of the recovery of this sacred relic from the Persians is gathered from the continuation of the Paschal Chronicle, Theophanes, Cedrenus, and other historians.

Chosroes II., the most barbarous and perfidious king of Persia, availing himself of the weakness of the reign of the cruel and covetous usurper Phocas, broke peace with the empire, upon the specious pretext of revenging the murder of the Emperor Mauritius and his family, whom Phocas had most inhumanly massacred; but the conduct of this barbarian showed how opposite his views were to those of public justice, and that his aim was merely to gratify his ambition, and his implacable hatred of the Christian and Roman name. The Persians, meeting with no opposition, plundered Mesopotamia and part of Syria. Heraclius, prefect of Africa, being pressed by the chief statesmen and senators to assume the purple, and rid the empire of a usurper, went with his forces by sea to Constantinople, after a successful battle made Phocas prisoner, and put him and his children to death in the year 611, the tyrant having reigned eight years and four months. The new emperor, by suppliant entreaties, begged a peace of Chosroes, with the proffer of an annual tribute; but the haughty barbarian dismissed his ambassadors without an audience, and in the first year of the reign of Heraclius the Persians took Edessa and Apamea, and advanced as far as Antioch; in the second they took Cæsarea, in Cappadocia; in the fourth Damascus, and in the fifth (which was the year 614), in the month of June they possessed themselves of Jerusalem, filling that city with outrages which cannot be mentioned without horror. Many thousands of clerks, monks, nuns, and virgins were cruelly massacred, ninety thousand Christians were sold for slaves to the Jews, and afterwards many of them were tortured and slain. The churches, even that of the holy sepulchre, were burnt, and all the rich moveables were carried away, among which were an infinite number of consecrated vessels, many precious relics, and that part of the wood of the true cross, which had been left there by St. Helen. The patrician Nicetes found means, by the help of one of the friends of Sarbazara, the Persian general, to save two holy relics, namely the sponge with which the soldiers gave our Saviour vinegar to drink; and the lance which pierced his side; both which he sent to Constantinople. The sacred sponge was exposed to the view of the people in the great church, on the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, on the 14th of September, the same year. The sacred lance was brought thither on the Saturday, the 26th of October: it was publicly venerated in the great church on the following Tuesday and Wednesday by the men, and on Thursday and Friday by the women. The patriarch Zachary was carried away captive into Persia, with a great multitude of other persons. During his absence the abbot Modestus took care of the city of Jerusalem, and began to rebuild several churches and monasteries that had been destroyed. The next year the Persians took Alexandria, and plundered all Egypt; and in the year following they conquered Carthage. These losses and calamities forced Heraclius again suppliantly to beg peace of the victorious tyrant, who laughed at his request, and blasphemously declared: “That he would never let those men rest, so long as they should adore one who had been crucified by other men, and should refuse to worship the sun.” Heraclius depending wholly upon the Saviour of the world, whose glory he was to assert, in the extreme poverty of the state, borrowed the gold and silver which was found in the churches, and coined it into money, to raise an army for the protection of his subjects. Saez, lieutenant-general to the Persian king, took Ancyra, pillaged all Galatia, and being advanced as far as Chalcedon, offered to treat of peace. Heraclius sent to him seventy noblemen of great worth to negotiate with him; but the perfidious infidel put them all in chains, and carried them into Persia. When he arrived there, his master caused him to be flayed alive, because he had not brought with him Heraclius himself, whom he had once seen, and had received presents from.

The emperor resolved at length to carry the war into Persia itself, to oblige the infidels to return home for the defence of their own country. That he might not leave any enemies behind him, he concluded a peace with the chan of the Turci Avari, who had attacked him on the side of Thrace, and in the year 622, the twelfth of his reign, began his march towards Persia immediately after Easter. When he put himself at the head of his army, holding in his hand a picture of Jesus Christ, he protested to his soldiers, that he would never abandon them till death, and set before them how the enemies of God had overrun their country, rendered their cities desolate, laid the countries waste before them, burnt the sanctuaries, profaned the holy altars with blood, and defiled the sanctuary of the most holy places by their brutal lusts and debaucheries. With this army he defeated the Persians the same year in Armenia, and in the ensuing summer took the city of Gazac, in Persia, and burnt in it the fine temple, and the palace of Chosroes, in which was a rich statue of that prince, sitting under a dome, which, represented the heavens with the sun, moon, and stars, and round about it angels holding sceptres in their hands, with machines to make a noise like thunder. Leading his army back to take winter quarters in Albania, he there, out of compassion, released fifty thousand Persian captives he had brought with him, and supplied them with necessaries; which act of humanity made them all to pray with tears for his success, and that he might deliver Persia from a tyrant, who by his cruelty and exactions was the destroyer of mankind. The emperor’s campaigns in 624 and 625, were still more successful against numberless armies of the enemy. Sarbazara, a Persian general, arrived with a strong army before Chalcedon, and was seconded by the perfidious chan of the Avari, who, having broken the truce, attacked Constantinople on the European side of the Straits. They were, however, both repulsed by the Christians in July, 626, and in their disorder slew one another. This deliverance was looked upon as miraculous, obtained by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, as the Paschal Chronicle, Theophanes, and particularly Cedrenus relate.

On the 12th of December, in 627, Heraclius gave the Persians an entire overthrow, almost without any loss on his side, near the ruins of the ancient city of Ninive, under the command of Rezastes, who was himself found among the slain, with his shield and armour of massy gold; and with him fell most of the field officers and the greater part of the Persian army. The proud Chosroes was driven from town to town, yet continued obstinately deaf to all proposals of peace. Heraclius, in his pursuit, burnt down all the king’s houses of pleasure, but often released prisoners without a ransom, though the barbarian detained even his ambassadors. The disdain with which Chosroes rejected all means of peace, even though Heraclius was master of the greater part of Persia, extremely exasperated his subjects; and his general, Sarbazara, who was near Chalcedon, upon information that his master had condemned him to die, openly revolted from him to the Romans. Chosroes locked himself up with his wives and children in the strong city of Seleucia, on the Tigris, and being there seized with a dysentery, declared Mardesanes or Medarses, his son by Sirem, the most beloved of his concubines, his successor, and ordered preparations to be made for his coronation. His eldest son, Siroes, provoked at this injustice, appealed to the nobles, took up arms, released the Roman prisoners, whom he sent back to Heraclius, seized on his father, bound him in chains, and threw him into a strong dungeon which Chosroes had lately fortified to keep his treasures in. Exasperated more and more at his father’s arrogance, even though the tyrant saw himself in his power, Siroes set no bounds to his rage, allowed him only a small quantity of bread and water for his subsistence, and bade him eat the gold which he had amassed by the oppression of so many innocent people. He sent his satrapes and his enemies to insult him, and caused Mardesanes, whom he would have crowned, and all the rest of his children, to be murdered before his eyes. In this manner was the old king treated for five days together, during which time he was frequently shot at and wounded with arrows, but not mortally, that his death might be the more lingering. He expired on the fifth day of these wounds. Thus, by God’s just judgment, perished Chosroes II. by the hands of an unnatural son, having himself mounted the throne by imbruing his hands in the blood of his father, Hormisdas, and filled not only his own kingdom, but all the East, with murders and desolation, during a reign of thirty-five years. 4 Siroes concluded a firm peace with Heraclius, released all the Roman prisoners, and among the rest, Zachary, patriarch of Jerusalem; restored the provinces which the Christians had lost, and, among other spoils, the true Cross, which had been carried into Persia fourteen years before by Sarbazara, when he took Jerusalem.

The emperor brought this precious relic with him to Constantinople, where he made his entry with a most splendid triumph. In the beginning of the spring of the following year, 629, he embarked to carry the cross again to Jerusalem, and to return thanks to God in that holy place for his victories. He would carry it upon his own shoulders into the city, with the utmost pomp; but stopped suddenly at the entrance of the city, and found he was not able to go forward. The patriarch Zachary, who walked by his side, suggested to him, that his pomp seemed not agreeable to the humble appearance which Christ made, when he bore his Cross through the streets of that city: “You,” said he, “walk in your gaudy imperial robes; he was meanly clad; you have on your head a rich diadem; he was crowned with a wreath of thorns; you go with your shoes on: he walked barefoot.” Hereupon the emperor laid aside his purple and his crown, put on mean clothes, went along barefoot with the procession, and devoutly replaced the Cross where it stood before. It still continued in the silver case in which it had been carried away, and the patriarch and clergy finding the seals whole, opened the case with the key, venerated it, and showed it to the people. The original writers always speak of this portion of the Cross in the plural number, calling it the pieces of the wood of the Cross, 5 which shows that it consisted of different pieces. This solemnity was performed with the most devout thanksgiving, and honoured with miraculous cures of several sick persons. The ceremony of exposing this sacred relic, as the most lively memorial of the sufferings of our Divine Redeemer, to the veneration of the faithful, on this and several other days, was very solemn, and is often mentioned both before and after the recovery of this part of the Cross from the infidels. With what pomp and respect the like was done with the part of the Cross that was kept at Constantinople, and with what devotion and order the emperor, his court, the clergy, and all ranks among the people assisted at this religious act, is described at length by the Emperor Constantine Porphyrogeneta, both on this feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, 6 and on certain other solemn days: 7

“About seven days before the 1st of August, the holy Cross, (i. e. that large portion which Constantine the Great deposited in the imperial palace at Constantinople) was taken out of the holy treasury in which it was kept with other precious relics and rich holy vessels, between the third and sixth ode of matins then singing. It was laid on the ground that the Protopapa or chief priest of the palace might anoint it all over with balsam and precious perfumes. Then it was set up in the church of the palace of our Lady of the Pharos, or opposite to the Pharos, exposed to the veneration of the people. After matins, the clergy of the palace assembled before it, singing hymns, in praise of the Cross, called Staurosima, or, of the Cross. Then the princes and lords came to venerate it before they assisted at the Sunday’s procession, in which they attended the emperor every Sunday and holiday to the divine service in the church of the palace, or on certain great festivals to some other principal church in the city. The chief priest then took up the Cross on his head, having on a purple cassock, and over it a rich Scaramangium, (or great cope which covers the whole body,) and, attended by the clergy and others in procession, carried it through the golden hall, before the oratory of St. Basil, placed it to be venerated by all the senate; then proceeded to the palace of Daphne, and exposed it in the church of St. Stephen. On the 28th of July the priests began to carry the Cross through all the streets and to all the houses, and afterwards round the walls of the city, that by the devotion of the people, and their united prayers, God would, through the Cross and merits of his Son, bless and protect the city and all its inhabitants. On the 13th of September it was brought back to the palace, and placed on a rich throne in the Chrysotriclinium, or golden hall, where the clergy sung the hymns in praise of the Cross during its Exaltation there. It was afterwards carried through all the apartments of the palace; then deposited in the chapel of St. Theodoras. In the evening it was delivered back to the keeper of the sacred treasure. Next morning it was carefully cleansed by the Protopapa and the keeper, and again deposited in the rich case in the treasury.” See the emperor Constantine Porphyrogeneta, l. 2, c. 8. In the 11th chapter he writes with what devotion and pomp the three great crosses kept in the great palace were taken out in the third or middle week of Lent, and exposed to veneration; one in the new church of this great palace, another in the church of St. Stephen, in the palace of Daphne; the third in the patriarchal church of St. Sophia. All were brought back on Friday in the same week with a procession, torches, adoration of the princes, senate, &c. hymns, &c. as above.

Our Divine Redeemer is the spiritual King of our souls; and it is by the love and spirit of his cross that he must reign in them. By this happy instrument he has rescued us from the power of sin, and conquered death and hell. But do not our sloth and malice still hold out against him? Have the boundless excess of his love, and the omnipotent power of his grace, yet triumphed over our hearts? Is his holy cross planted there? does it daily grow and spread itself in our affections? The spirit of the cross, or of Christ crucified, is the spirit of that perfect humility, meekness, charity, patience, and all other virtues, which he preaches to us by his cross. So long as self-love, pride, sensuality, or impatience find any place in us, we are so far strangers to this spirit of Christ, and enemies to his cross. We justly glory in this holy instrument of our salvation, in this adorable and sweet mystery of love, in this most tender and precious memorial of our infinitely amiable God and Saviour, and of the price by which he has redeemed us, and made us, by so many new strict titles, his own. But can we look on a crucifix, or form the cross on our foreheads, without being pierced with grief, and covered with shame and confusion to see ourselves so little acquainted with it, and its happy fruits; so filled with the contrary spirit of the world? Let us most earnestly and assiduously conjure our loving Saviour, by his holy cross, and by his infinite love and mercy, to subdue our obstinacy, to extinguish in us whatever opposes his sweet reign, perfectly to form his spirit in our hearts, and entirely to subject all our powers and affections to himself. He promised that when he should be exalted on his cross he would draw all things to himself. Is it possible that the malice of our hearts should be able to resist so wonderful a mystery of Love? Let us beg that he fulfil his gracious word to us, and that his spirit of humility, meekness, and pure love may at length triumph in us. Then we shall begin to taste the most sweet hidden manna that is found in the cross, that is, in the devout remembrance and contemplation of that mystery, and in the participation or imitation of it by patient suffering. Then shall we understand the glory, the happiness, and unspeakable advantages and treasures that are its portion.

Note 1. How weak soever the church appeared in its infancy, the whole power of the Roman empire, exerted against it with the utmost fury, was not able to stop its progress, much less to extinguish it. The little flock of Christ grew by its own losses, and gathered strength from the most violent persecutions; the very emperors who had so long waged war against the cross, confessed themselves vanquished, laid down their arms, and became its votaries and protectors. This wonderful change was not the work of men, but of God; nor was it effected without miracles, though it was itself most miraculous. Christ, who conquered the world, not by the sword, but by the ignominy of his cross, was pleased to make Constantine triumph by that sacred sign, that he might know the hand by which he was raised. This emperor marched from the border of the Rhine through Gaul and part of Italy by Verona to Rome, against the tyrant Maxentius, who had declared war against him, and was at Rome with an army much superior to his. Constantine, though he was not yet a Christian, earnestly invoked the one true God, both on his march, and the day before he gave battle, and Christ was pleased by a double vision to show him from what power he received the empire of the world. Some have thought that Eusebius and Prudentius (l. 1, adv. Symmachum) recount the vision of the cross in the sky to have happened in Gaul; but the former mentions neither the time nor the country, and the latter expressly says it was shown him after he had passed the Alps, transmissis Alpibus. Lactantius determines both the time and place of this nocturnal vision, with which he assures us the emperor was favoured near Rome the night before the battle. Eusebius himself expressly distinguishes the vision which he saw in the day, and another the night following. The former this historian relates as follows: Constantine, just after he had put up an earnest prayer to the true God, was travelling with part of his army at mid-day, says the martyr Artemius; about noon, says Socrates; most accurately Eusebius, a little after mid-day, the sun beginning to decline, when he and all those who were with him, beheld with astonishment in the sky, above the sun, a bright cross of light, as has been related in the Notes on the Life of St. Helen, (t. 8, p. 201,) and that of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, (t. 3, p. 172.) The night following, Christ appeared to Constantine in his sleep, with the same sign, and commanded him to have a representation of it to be made, and to make use of it for his standard in battle. The emperor rose very early the next morning, imparted this second vision to his friends, and gave orders for the famous imperial standard to be made in that form. It was known by the name of the Labarum, the etymology of which word is very uncertain. (See Gretser, De Cruce, l. 1, c. 4, Gothefred. in Cod. Theodos. Tit. de Præpositis Laborum; Fuller, l. 2, Miscell. Sacr. c. 1, Suicer, v. [Greek], Du Cange, v. Labarum, or as it is called by Sozomen, the glosses on the Code, and some other Greeks, Laborum.) It was a pole plated with gold, upon which was laid horizontally a cross bar, so as to form the figure of a cross. The top of the perpendicular shaft was adorned with a crown wrought with gold, and ornamented with sparkling precious stones. In the middle of this crown was a monogram representing the name of Christ by the two initial Greek letters, X Chi, equivalent to our CH, and P Ro, equivalent to our R. This last-mentioned letter was formed in the Chi, and rose a little above it. A purple veil of a square figure hung from the cross bar, spangled with bright jewels, which dazzled the eyes of the beholders. Above the veil were afterwards set the images of the emperor and his children.


  The emperor chose fifty men of the stoutest and most religious among his guards, to carry this banner by turns; it was always borne before the emperor in battles. Constantine caused banners of the same fashion, but less, to be made for every legion, and had the monogram of the name of Christ framed, in the form of a Cross on his helmet, and in the shields of his soldiers. Julian the Apostate changed on his medals this sacred monogram into the old letters S. P. Q. R. But Jovian and the succeeding emperors restored it.


Maxentius’s army, which consisted of the united forces of three armies of veteran soldiers, esteemed the best in the empire, engaged Constantine in the Quintian fields, near the bridge Milvius, now called Ponte-Mole; and being defeated, Maxentius was drowned in the Tiber in his flight, on the 27th of October, 312, as it is related by Libanius, Aurelius Victor, Eusebius, &c. Constantine’s camp was near Ponte-Mole, but Maxentius was drowned at another bridge made of boats, which he had caused to be thrown over the Tiber, at the Red Rocks, nine miles from Rome, as is clear from Eusebius and Zosimus, though Prudentius and the panegyrist mistake it for Ponte-Mole. Constantine on the same day entered Rome in triumph. The senate and people of Rome, four years after, erected to his honour, in memory of his victory, a magnificent triumphal arch at the head of the Appian road, behind the amphitheatre, in which the inscription runs, “That by the instinct of the Deity he delivered the commonwealth from the tyrant.” “Quod instinctu Divinitatis, mentis magnitudine—de tyranno justis remp. ultus est armis.” (Ap. Gruter, p. 282.) The Cross could not be decently mentioned amongst Romans, who looked upon it as an unlucky omen, and as Cicero says, (pro Rabir,) not to be named by a freeman. Pope Clement XII. caused this triumphal arch to be repaired in 1733, adding this inscription: “Arcum Imp. Constantine M. erectum ob relatam salutari crucis signo præclaram de Maxentio victoriam,” &c. Constantine himself attributed this victory to the Cross, in the inscription which he caused to be put under his statue with which the senate honoured him in Rome, as Eusebius testifies. (Vit. Constant. l. 1, c. 33.) The same historian mentions that in his triumph, he did not mount the capitol, to offer sacrifices and gifts to the false gods, according to the custom of his predecessors, but “by illustrious inscriptions promulgated the power of Christ’s saving sign.” Codinus assures us, (Orig. Constantinop.) that he caused the sign of the cross which he had seen in the air, to be erected in the chief square at Constantinople. Eusebius testifies (Vit. Const. l. 3, c. 49,) that he also set up in the principal hall of his palace at Constantinople, a great figure of the cross which he had seen in the heavens, and by the power of which he had been victorious. That not only the monogram, but also the figure of the cross was placed in the Labarum, &c. is clear from the description in Eusebius, and from the ancient medals in which it is represented. The figure and sign of the cross were held in veneration before Constantine, who herein only practised what the church had learned from the apostles. The century-writers (cent. 3, c. 10,) pretend that Tertullian borrowed his respect for this saving sign from the Montanists. But he proves it from the tradition and custom of the church, as do the other Fathers. St. Ephrem (l. de pœnit.) says, “The Christians marked their very doors with the precious and life-giving cross.” That the figure of the cross was usually marked on the tombs of the primitive Christians, see the learned canon John de Vita. (De Antiquitatibus Beneventanis, Dissert. 11, p. 291, Romæ 1721.) See also Mamachi (Origines Christ. l. 1, c. 3, n. 6,) Aringhi, &c. Also the Greek monogram of the name of Christ was in use long before Constantine’s time, and is found engraved on the tombs of St. Laurence and many other martyrs. See Bosius and Aringhi, (Roma subt. l. 3, c. 22, &c.) Mamachi, (t. 5.) Boldetti, (Observ. ad Cæmet. Sacra, l. 1, c. 39.) Menekenius, (Diss. de Monogram.) Georgi, (Diss. de Monogr. Christi.) Bonaroti, (Præf. l. De Vitreor. Frag. Vascul. Cæmet. Urb.) &c. Another monogram was [Greek]. the initial letters of [Greek], Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour. These initial letters being worn by Neophytes or persons newly baptized, they were called [Greek], which word is formed of those Greek letters, and signifies a fish; whence they are called symbolically by Tertullian (De Monog. c. 5.) Pisces or Fish, and are distinguished by the emblem of a fish engraved on their tombs in the catacombs, &c. See Aringhi; Jacutius, p. 94, &c. The two apparitions with which Constantine was favoured, are attested in so authentic a manner, that Baluze had reason to cry out, (Not. in Lactant.) “What history will men believe, if it be allowed to call in question a fact confirmed by the most unexceptionable witnesses, and by ancient medals and other monuments?” Eusebius assures us, that he received the account he gives us of this double apparition, from Constantine’s own mouth, who confirmed the truth of his narration by a solemn oath. (Eus. de Vita Const. l. 1, c. 38.) That emperor loudly ascribed his victories to this miraculous sign of the Cross, (ib. l. 2, c. 6, 7, 8, 10, &c.) which appears also from various inscriptions which he set up in public places, and from several medals which he and his successor struck. Lactantius, who was preceptor to Crispus Cæsar, Constantine’s son, ascribes Constantine’s victory over Maxentius to the miraculous vision which he had in his sleep before the battle. See his book, On the Death of the Persecutors, c. 44, which work he wrote before Eusebius compiled his Life of Constantine. Philostorgius, an Arian contemporary historian, in certain fragments of his history preserved by Photius, (l. 1, c. 6,) describing Constantine’s vision of the Cross in the air, says the heavenly sign extended very wide in the east with a wonderful light, and with the following inscription, [Greek]. By this conquer. In several ancient medals it is expressed in Latin; In hoc victor eris. This memorable event is recorded in the Acts of St. Artemius, the martyr under Julian, Gelasius Cyzicenus, the Alexandrian or Paschal Chronicle, (published by F. Raderus, and more accurately by Du Cange) compiled in 630, Socrates, Sozomen, Glycas, Eutychius, (Chr. Orient.) &c., who do not copy Eusebius, but write from various memoirs and as vouchers of a fact to which many had been eye-witnesses. Among these authors if any disagreement be found in certain circumstances, the authority of Eusebius ought to have the greatest weight. According to the Paschal Chron. &c., the inscription was formed in letters as it were of gold, in the perpendicular shaft or body of the Cross from the middle down to the bottom. See Tillemont, Vies des Emp. L’Abbé de Lestocq, dean and grand vicar at Amiens, Discours Historique sur la Conversion de Constantin, an. 1751. Langlet Dufresnoy, Tr. Hist. sur les Apparitions, t. 1, p. 47. F. Jacutius, a Roman Benedictin monk, Syntagma de apparentis Constantine M. Crucis Historia, Romæ, 1755; and the elegant and judicious Mons. Beau, Hist. du Bas Empire, t. 1. Among the Protestants some pretend the history of this apparition to be a forgery and an imposture, as Hornbeck, (Comm. in Bullam Urb. VIII. de Imag. cultu, p. 182.) Oiselius, (in Thes. Numism. Antiq. p. 463.) Tollius, (Præf. in Longin. et Adnot. in Lactant. de Mort. Persec. c. 44,) and Christ. Thomasius. (Observ. Hallens. t. 1, p. 380.) At so harsh and extravagant a censure other Protestants are shocked. For who can hear without indignation a religious emperor (who embraced the divine faith in opposition to the Roman senate and the principal orders of men in the whole empire, and a faith which declared war against all his passions) charged in this very action with hypocrisy, imposture, and perjury? Could he, moreover, impose upon the senses of his whole army? Could so many historians and monuments of the same age be made to conspire in a fact which was either publicly notorious or manifestly false? To defeat this miracle, John Albert Fabricius (Diss. de Cruce a Constantino visa in Bibl. Græc. vol. 6, c. 1, p. 8,) and John Andrew Schmidius (Diss. de Luna in Cruce visa Helmstadii, 168,) have endeavoured to explain the diurnal apparition by a natural solar or lunar halo. A halo is a circle of light, often red, which compasses the sun and moon at a small distance. It differs from the rainbow, which consists always of the seven colours, and appears in opposition to the sun; also from a parhelion, which is a second or a false sun formed by an image of the sun reflected by a light cloud. (See Philosophical Transactions, an. 1670. Mem. de l’Acad. 1721. Mem. de Trevoux, 1701. Newton’s Optics, p. 155, &c.) But light is not more distant from darkness, than a circular halo from the figure of a Cross. If, by an oblique reflection of certain pencils of rays, a halo might form a cross in its middle, on the solar disc, (which Fabricius does not show ever to have happened,) what affinity has this with a cross appearing above the sun? not to mention the inscription and many other circumstances. Whence Mosheim, at this day the oracle of the German Protestants in ecclesiastical history, having mentioned these opinions of Tollius and Fabricius, says: “It is easy to confute both those who call this apparition a forgery of the emperor, and those who ascribe it to the natural causes of a halo,” &c. (Mosheim, Instit. Histor. Eccl. Helmstadii. 1755, Sæc. 4, p. 145.) Those likewise show their distress for an answer, who would have this vision pass for a dream, and seem themselves asleep if they imagine Constantine and his army to have dreamed all together in the midst of their march. The connection of the diurnal and nocturnal visions, and of the event remove all cavil about this miracle. See Benedict XIV’s Rules for distinguishing Supernatural Visions. De Canoniz. SS. t. 3, l. 3, c. 51. [back]

Note 2. See May 3, t. 5, p. 44. [back]

Note 3. See the Bollandists on May 3; Thomassin, Tr. des Fêtes, p. 479; Baillet, Hist. de cette Fête; Jos. Assemani, Comm. in Calend. Univ. t. 5, p. 236, ad 14 Sept. See also on the 3d of May. [back]

Note 4. The strength of Persia was so broken by the victories of Heraclius, that it never recovered itself; and soon after the Saracens, under the caliph, Osmar, in 632, conquered this kingdom, having defeated and slain Hormisdas II. a son of Siroës, the last Persian king of the race of Artaxerxes. Few princes ever behaved with greater valour and religion than Heraclius, during the six years he was engaged in the Persian war. But softened by the blandishments of prosperity, he afterwards tarnished his laurels, suffered the Mahometan Saracens not only to conquer all Arabia, but also to make inroads into Syria, and became a weak prince, and an abettor of the Monothelite heresy. God often chastised and delivered the flourishing nations of the Eastern empire, till he at length suffered his justice to take place. Thus he dealt with the Jews; thus he often deals with unfaithful souls. [back]

Note 5. [Greek]. [back]

Note 6. Constant. Porphyrog. de Cæremoniis Aulæ Constantinopolitanæ, curâ Joan. Henr. Leichii, et Joan. Jac. Reiskii, Lipsiæ, 1751. Folio, l. 1, c. 22, p. 74. [back]

Note 7. L. 2, c. 18, p. 311, &c. [back]

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume IX: September. The Lives of the Saints.  1866.



The True Cross

AND REPRESENTATIONS OF IT AS OBJECTS OF DEVOTION).

(1) Growth of the Christian Cult

(2) Catholic Doctrine on the Veneration of the Cross

(3) Relics of the True Cross

(4) Principal Feasts of the Cross.

Growth of the Christian cult

The Cross to which Christ had been nailed, and on which He had died, became for Christians, quite naturally and logically, the object of a special respect and worship. St. Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 1:17: "For Christ sent me not to baptize; but to preach the gospel: not in wisdom of speech, lest the cross of Christ should be made void"; in Galatians 2:19: "With Christ I am nailed to the cross"; in Ephesians 2:16: Christ . . . . "might reconcile both to God in one body by the cross"; in Philippians 3:18: "For many walk . . . enemies of the cross of Christ"; in Colossians 2:14: "Blotting out the handwriting of the decree that was against us, which was contrary to us. And he hath taken the same out of the way, fastening it to the cross"; and in Galatians 6:14: "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world".
It seems clear, therefore, that for St. Paul the Cross of Christ was not only a precious remembrance of Christ's sufferings and death, but also a symbol closely associated with His sacrifice and the mystery of the Passion. It was, moreover, natural that it should be venerated and become an object of a cult with the Christians who had been saved by it. Of such a cult in the Primitive Church we have definite and sufficiently numerous evidences. Tertullian meets the objection that Christians adore the cross by answering with an argumentum ad hominem, not by a denial. Another apologist, Minucius Felix, replies to the same objection. Lastly we may recall the famous caricature of Alexamenos, for which see the article Ass. From all this it appears that the pagans, without further consideration of the matter, believed that the Christians adored the cross; and that the apologists either answered indirectly, or contented themselves with saying that they do not adore the cross, without denying that a certain form of veneration was paid to it.

It is also an accepted belief that in the decorations of the catacombs there have been found, if not the cross itself, at least more or less veiled allusions to the holy symbol. A detailed treatment of this and other historical evidence for the early prevalence of the cult will be found in ARCHAEOLOGY OF THE CROSS AND CRUCIFIX.

This cult became more extensive than ever after the discovery of the Holy Places and of the True Cross. Since the time when Jerusalem had been laid waste and ruined in the wars of the Romans, especially since Hadrian had founded upon the ruins his colony of Ælia Capitolina, the places consecrated by the Passion, Death, and Burial of Christ had been profaned and, it would seem, deserted. Under Constantine, after peace had been vouchsafed to the Church, Macarius, Bishop of Jerusalem, caused excavations to be made (about A.D. 327, it is believed) in order to ascertain the location of these holy sites. That of Calvary was identified, as well as that of the Holy Sepulchre; it was in the course of these excavations that the wood of the Cross was recovered. It was recognized as authentic, and for it was built a chapel or oratory, which is mentioned by Eusebius, also by St. Cyril of Jerusalem, and Silvia (Etheria). From A.D. 347, that is to say, twenty years after these excavations, the same St. Cyril, in his discourses (or catecheses) delivered in these very places (iv, 10; x, 14; xiii, 4) speaks of this sacred wood. An inscription of A.D. 359, found at Tixter, in the neighbourhood of Sétif in Mauretania, mentions in an enumeration of relics, a fragment of the True Cross (Roman Miscellanies, X, 441). For a full discussion of the legend of St. Helena, see ARCHAEOLOGY OF THE CROSS AND CRUCIFIX; see also ST. HELENA. Silvia's recital (Peregrinatio Etheriae), which is of indisputable authenticity, tells how the sacred wood was venerated in Jerusalem about A.D. 380. On Good Friday, at eight o'clock in the morning, the faithful and the monks assemble in the chapel of the Cross (built on a site hard by Calvary), and at this spot the ceremony of the adoration takes place. The bishop is seated on his chair; before him is a table covered with a cloth; the deacons are standing around him. The silver-gilt reliquary is brought and opened and the sacred wood of the Cross, with the Title, is placed on the table. The bishop stretches out his hand over the holy relic, and the deacons keep watch with him while the faithful and catechumens defile, one by one, before the table, bow, and kiss the Cross; they touch the Cross and the Title with forehead and eyes, but it is forbidden to touch them with the hands. This minute watchfulness was not unnecessary, for it has been told in fact how one day one of the faithful, making as though to kiss the Cross, was so unscrupulous as to bite off a piece of it, which he carried off as a relic. It is the duty of the deacons to prevent the repetition of such a crime. St. Cyril, who also tells of this ceremony, makes his account much more brief but adds the important detail, that relics of the True Cross have been distributed all over the world. He adds some information as to the silver reliquary which contained the True Cross. (See Cabrol, La Peregrinatio ad loca sancta, 105.) In several other passages of the same work Silvia (also called Egeria, Echeria, Eiheria, and Etheria) speaks to us of this chapel of the Cross (built between the basilicas of the Anastasis and the Martyrion) which plays so great a part in the paschal liturgy of Jerusalem.

A law of Theodosius and of Valentinian III (Cod. Justin., I, tit. vii) forbade under the gravest penalties any painting, carving, or engraving of the cross on pavements, so that this august sign of our salvation might not be trodden under foot. This law was revised by the Trullan Council, A.D. 691 (canon lxxii). Julian the Apostate, on the other hand, according to St. Cyril of Alexandria (Contra Julian., vi, in Opp., VI), made it a crime for Christians to adore the wood of the Cross, to trace its form upon their foreheads, and to engrave it over the entrances of their homes. St. John Chrysostom more than once in his writings makes allusion to the adoration of the cross; one citation will suffice: "Kings removing their diadems take up the cross, the symbol of their Saviour's death; on the purple, the cross; in their prayers, the cross; on their armour, the cross; on the holy table, the cross; throughout the universe, the cross. The cross shines brighter than the sun." These quotations from St. Chrysostom may be found in the authorities to be named at the end of this article. At the same time, pilgrimages to the holy places became more frequent, and especially for the purpose of following the example set by St. Helena in venerating the True Cross. Saint Jerome, describing the pilgrimage of St. Paula to the Holy Places, tells us that "prostrate before the Cross, she adored it as though she had seen the Saviour hanging upon it" (Ep. cviii). It is a remarkable fact that even the Iconoclasts, who fought with such zeal against images and representations in relief, made an exception in the case of the cross. Thus we find the image of the cross on the coins of the Iconoclastic emperors, Leo the Isaurian, Constantine Copronymus, Leo IV, Nicephorus, Michael II, and Theophilus (cf. Banduri, Numism. Imperat. Rom., II). Sometimes this cult involved abuses. Thus we are told of the Staurolaters, or those who adore the cross; the Chazingarii (from chazus, cross), a sect of Armenians who adore the cross. The Second Council of Nicæa (A.D. 787), held for the purpose of reforming abuses and putting an end to the disputes of Iconoclasm, fixed, once for all, the Catholic doctrine and discipline on this point. It defined that the veneration of the faithful was due to the form "of the precious and vivifying cross", as well as to images or representations of Christ, of the Blessed Virgin, and of the saints. But the council points out that we must not render to these objects the cult of latria, "which, according to the teaching of the faith, belongs to the Divine nature alone . . . . The honour paid to the image passes to the prototype; and he who adores the image, adores the person whom it represents. Thus the doctrine of our holy fathers obtains in all its force: the tradition of the Holy Catholic Church which from one end of the earth to the other has received the gospel." This decree was renewed at the Eighth Ecumenical Council at Constantinople, in 869 (can. iii). The council clearly distinguishes between the "salutation" (aspasmos) and "veneration" (proskynesis) due to the cross, and the "true adoration" (alethine latreia), which should not be paid to it. Theodore the Studite, the great adversary of the Iconoclasts, also makes a very exact distinction between the adoratio relativa (proskynesis schetike) and adoration properly so called.

Catholic doctrine on the veneration of the Cross

In passing to a detailed examination of the Catholic doctrine on this subject of the cult due to the Cross, it will be well to notice the theories of Brock, the Abbé Ansault, le Mortillet, and others who pretend to have discovered that cult among the pagans before the time of Christ. For a demonstration of the purely Christian origin of the Christian devotion the reader is referred to ARCHAEOLOGY OF THE CROSS AND CRUCIFIX. See also the works of Harlay, Lafargue, and others cited at the end of this section. With reference, in particular, to the ansated cross of Egypt, Letronne, Raoul-Rochette, and Lajard discuss with much learning the symbolism of that simple hieroglyphic of life, in which the Christians of Egypt seem to have recognized an anticipatory revelation of the Christian Cross, and which they employed in their monuments. According to the text of the Second Council of Nicæa cited above, the cult of the Cross is based upon the same principles as that of relics and images in general, although, to be sure, the True Cross holds the highest place in dignity among all relics. The observation of Petavius (XV, xiii, 1) should be noted here: that this cult must be considered as not belonging to the substance of religion, but as being one of the adiaphora, or things not absolutely necessary to salvation. Indeed, while it is of faith that this cult is useful, lawful, even pious and worthy of praise and of encouragement, and while we are not permitted to speak against it as something pernicious, still it is one of those devotional practices which the church can encourage, or restrain, or stop, according to circumstances. This explains how the veneration of images was forbidden to the Jews by that text of Exodus (20:4 sqq.) which has been so grossly abused by Iconoclasts and Protestants: "Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth. Thou shalt not adore them, nor serve them: I am the Lord thy God," etc. It also explains the fact that in the first ages of Christianity, when converts from paganism were so numerous, and the impression of idol-worship was so fresh, the Church found it advisable not to permit the development of this cult of images; but later, when that danger had disappeared, when Christian traditions and Christian instinct had gained strength, the cult developed more freely. Again, it should be noted that the cult of images and relics is not that of latria, which is the adoration due to God alone, but is, as the Second Council of Nicæa teaches, a relative veneration paid to the image or relic and referring to that which it represents. Precisely this same doctrine is repeated in Sess. XXV of the Council of Trent: "Images are not to be worshipped because it is believed that some divinity or power resides in them and that they must be worshipped on that account, or because we ought to ask anything of them, or because we should put our trust in them, as was done by the gentiles of old who placed their hope in idols but because the honour which is shown to them is referred to the prototypes which they represent; so that through the images which we kiss, and before which we kneel, we may adore Christ, and venerate the saints, whose resemblances they bear." (See also IMAGES.)

This clear doctrine, which cuts short every objection, is also that taught by Bellarmine, by Bossuet, and by Petavius. It must be said, however, that this view was not always so clearly taught. Following Bl. Albertus Magnus and Alexander of Hales, St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas, and a section of the Schoolmen who appear to have overlooked the Second Council of Nicæa teach that the worship rendered to the Cross and the image of Christ is that of latria, but with a distinction: the same worship is due to the image and its exemplar but the exemplar is honoured for Himself (or for itself), with an absolute worship; the image because of its exemplar, with a relative worship. The object of the adoration is the same, primary in regard to the exemplar and secondary in regard to the image. To the image of Christ, then, we owe a worship of latria as well as to His Person. The image, in fact, is morally one with its prototype, and, thus considered, if a lesser degree of worship be rendered to the image, that worship must reach the exemplar lessened in degree. Against this theory an attack has recently been made in "The Tablet", the opinion attributed to the Thomists being sharply combated. Its adversaries have endeavoured to prove that the image of Christ should be venerated but with a lesser degree of honour than its exemplar.

The cult paid to it, they say, is simply analogous to the cult of latria, but in its nature different and inferior. No image of Christ, then, should be honoured with the worship of latria, and, moreover, the term "relative latria", invented by the Thomists, ought to be banished from theological language as equivocal and dangerous.-- Of these opinions the former rests chiefly upon consideration of pure reason, the latter upon ecclesiastical tradition, notably upon the Second Council of Nicæa and its confirmation by the Fourth Council of Constantinople and upon the decree of the Council of Trent.

Relics of the True Cross

The testimony of Silvia (Etheria) proves how highly these relics were prized, while St. Cyril of Jerusalem, her contemporary, testifies as explicitly that "the whole inhabited earth is full of relics of the wood of the Cross". In 1889 two French archæologists, Letaille and Audollent, discovered in the district of Sétif an inscription of the year 359 in which, among other relics, is mentioned the sacred wood of the Cross (de ligno crucis et de terrâ promissionis ubi natus est Christus). Another inscription, from Rasgunia (Cape Matifu), somewhat earlier in date than the preceding, mentions another relic of the Cross ("sancto ligno salvatoris adlato".-- See Duchesne in Acad. des inscr., Paris, 6 December, 1889; Morel, "Les missions catholiques", 25 March, 1890, p. 156; Catech. iv in P.G., XXXIII, 469; cf. also ibid., 800; Procopius, "De Bello Persico", II, xi). St. John Chrysostom tells us that fragments of the True Cross are kept in golden reliquaries, which men reverently wear upon their persons.

The passage in the "Peregrinatio" which treats of this devotion has already been cited. St. Paulinus of Nola, some years later, sends to Sulpicius Severus a fragment of the True Cross with these words: "Receive a great gift in a little [compass]; and take, in [this] almost atomic segment of a short dart, an armament [against the perils] of the present and a pledge of everlasting safety" (Epist. xxxi, n.1. P.L., LXI, 325). About 455 Juvenal, Patriarch of Jerusalem, sends to Pope St. Leo a fragment of the precious wood (S. Leonis Epist. cxxxix, P.L., LIV, 1108). The "Liber Pontificalis", if we are to accept the authenticity of its statement, tells us that, in the pontificate of St. Sylvester, Constantine presented to the Sessorian basilica (Santa Croce in Gerusalemme) in Rome a portion of the True Cross (Duchesne Liber Pontificalis, I, 80; cf. 78, 178, 179, 195). Later, under St. Hilary (461-68) and under Symmachus (498-514) we are again told that fragments of the True Cross are enclosed in altars (op. cit., I, 242 sq. and 261 sq.). About the year 500 Avitus, Bishop of Vienne, asks for a portion of the Cross from the Patriarch of Jerusalem (P.L., LIX, 236, 239).

It is known that Radegunda, Queen of the Franks, having retired to Poitiers, obtained from the Emperor Justin II, in 569, a remarkable relic of the True Cross. A solemn feast was celebrated on this occasion, and the monastery founded by the queen at Poitiers received from that moment the name of Holy Cross. It was also upon this occasion that Venantius Fortunatus, Bishop of Poitiers, and a celebrated poet of the period, composed the hymn "Vexilla Regis" which is still sung at feasts of the Cross in the Latin Rite. St. Gregory I sent, a little later, a portion of the Cross to Theodolinda, Queen of the Lombards (Ep. xiv, 12), and another to Recared, the first Catholic King of Spain (Ep. ix, 122). In 690, under Sergius I, a casket was found containing a relic of the True Cross which had been sent to John III (560-74) by the Emperor Justin II (cf. Borgia, "De Cruce Vaticanâ", Rome, 1779, p. 63, and Duchesne, "Liber Pontificalis", I, 374, 378). We will not give in detail the history of other relics of the Cross (see the works of Gretser and the articles of Kraus and Bäumer quoted in the bibliography). The work of Rohault de Fleury, "Mémoire sur les instruments de la Passion" (Paris, 1870), deserves more prolonged attention; its author has sought out with great care and learning all the relics of the True Cross, drawn up a catalogue of them, and, thanks to this labour, he has succeeded in showing that, in spite of what various Protestant or Rationalistic authors have pretended, the fragments of the Cross brought together again would not only not "be comparable in bulk to a battleship", but would not reach one-third that of a cross which has been supposed to have been three or four metres in height, with transverse branch of two metres (see above; under I), proportions not at all abnormal (op. cit., 97-179). Here is the calculation of this savant: Supposing the Cross to have been of pine-wood, as is believed by the savants who have made a special study of the subject, and giving it a weight of about seventy-five kilograms, we find that the volume of this cross was 178,000,000 cubic millimetres. Now the total known volume of the True Cross, according to the finding of M. Rohault de Fleury, amounts to above 4,000,000 cubic millimetres, allowing the missing part to be as big as we will, the lost parts or the parts the existence of which has been overlooked, we still find ourselves far short of 178,000,000 cubic millimetres, which should make up the True Cross.

Principal feasts of the Cross

The Feast of the Cross like so many other liturgical feasts, had its origin at Jerusalem, and is connected with the commemoration of the Finding of the Cross and the building, by Constantine, of churches upon the sites of the Holy Sepulchre and Calvary. In 335 the dedication of these churches was celebrated with great solemnity by the bishops who had assisted at the Council of Tyre, and a great number of other bishops. This dedication took place on the 13th and 14th of September. This feast of the dedication, which was known by the name of the Encnia, was most solemn; it was on an equal footing with those of the Epiphany and Easter. The description of it should be read in the "Peregrinatio", which is of great value upon this subject of liturgical origins. This solemnity attracted to Jerusalem a great number of monks, from Mesopotamia, from Syria, from Egypt, from the Thebaïd, and from other provinces, besides laity of both sexes. Not fewer than forty or fifty bishops would journey from their dioceses to be present at Jerusalem for the event. The feast was considered as of obligation, "and he thinks himself guilty of a grave sin who during this period does not attend the great solemnity". It lasted eight days. In Jerusalem, then, this feast bore an entirely local character. It passed, like so many other feasts, to Constantinople and thence to Rome. There was also an endeavour to give it a local feeling, and the church of "The Holy Cross in Jerusalem" as intended, as its name indicates, to recall the memory of the church at Jerusalem bearing the same dedication.

The feast of the Exaltation of the Cross sprang into existence at Rome at the end of the seventh century. Allusion is made to it during the pontificate of Sergius I (687-701) but, as Dom Bäumer observes, the very terms of the text (Lib. Pontif., I, 374, 378) show that the feast already existed. It is, then, inexact, as has often been pointed out, to attribute the introduction of it to this pope. The Gallican churches, which, at the period here referred to, do not yet know of this feast of the 14th September, have another on the 3rd of May of the same signification. It seems to have been introduced there in the seventh century, for ancient Gallican documents, such as the Lectionary of Luxeuil, do not mention it; Gregory of Tours also seems to ignore it. According to Mgr. Duchesne, the date seems to have been borrowed from the legend of the Finding of the Holy Cross (Lib. Pontif., I, p. cviii). Later, when the Gallican and Roman Liturgies were combined, a distinct character was given to each feast, so as to avoid sacrificing either. The 3rd of May was called the feast of the Invention of the Cross, and it commemorated in a special manner Saint Helena's discovery of the sacred wood of the Cross; the 14th of September, the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, commemorated above all the circumstances in which Heraclius recovered from the Persians the True Cross, which they had carried off. Nevertheless, it appears from the history of the two feasts, which we have just examined, that that of the 13th and 14th of September is the older, and that the commemoration of the Finding of the Cross was at first combined with it.

The Good Friday ceremony of the Adoration of the Cross also had its origin in Jerusalem, as we have seen, and is a faithful reproduction of the rites of Adoration of the Cross of the fourth century in Jerusalem which have been described above, in accordance with the description of the author of the "Peregrinatio". This worship paid to the Cross in Jerusalem on Good Friday soon became general. Gregory of Tours speaks of the Wednesday and Friday consecrated the Cross—probably the Wednesday and Friday of Holy Week. (Cf. Greg., De Gloriâ Mart. I, v.) The most ancient adoration of the Cross in Church is described in the "Ordo Romanus" generally attributed to Saint Gregory. It is performed, according to this "Ordo", just as it is nowadays, after a series of responsory prayers. The cross is prepared before the altar; priests, deacons, subdeacons, clerics of the inferior grades, and lastly the people, each one comes in his turn; they salute the cross, during the singing of the anthem, "Ecce lignum crucis in quo salus mundi pependit. Venite, adoremus" (Behold the wood of the cross on which the salvation of the world did hang. Come, let us adore) and then Psalm 118. (See Mabillon, Mus. Ital., Paris, 1689, II, 23.) The Latin Church has kept until today the same liturgical features in the ceremony of Good Friday, added to it is the song of the Improperia and the hymn of the Cross, "Pange, lingua, gloriosi lauream certaminis".

Besides the Adoration of the Cross on Good Friday and the September feast, the Greeks have still another feast of the Adoration of the Cross on the 1st of August as well as on the third Sunday in Lent. It is probable that Gregory the Great was acquainted with this feast during his stay in Constantinople, and that the station of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, on Lætare Sunday (the fourth Sunday in Lent), is a souvenir, or a timid effort at imitation, of the Byzantine solemnity.

Sources

On the theology of the subject, ST. THOMAS, Summa Theol., III, Q. xxv, aa. 3 and 4, with which cf. Idolatry, the controversy in The Tablet from 22 June to 21 Sept., 1907. PETAVIUS, De Incarnat. XV, xv-xviii; "cenotes">On the cult of the cross in pre-Christian times: BROCK, The Cross, Heathen and Christian (London, 1880). criticized by DE HARLEY in Dict. apol. de la foi catholique (Paris, 1891), 670-678; DE HARLEY, Prétendue origine païenne de la Croix in La Controverse (1882) IV, 705-32; cf. La Croix et le Crucifix, ibid. (1887), IX. 386-404, and La croix chez les Chinois, ibid. (1886), VII, 589; BRING-MOUTON, De Notâ Christianismi Ambiguâ Cruce (London, 1745); SAINT FÉLIX-MAUREMONT, De la croix considérée comme signe hiéroglyphique d'adoration et de salut in Bullelin de la soc. archéol. du midi de la France (1836-37), III, 183, LAJARD, Observations sur l'origine et la signification du symbole appelé la croiz ansée in Mémoires de l'acad. des inscr. (1846); RAPP, Das Labarum u. der Sonnencultus in Jahrb. (Bonn, 1866), XXXIX, XL; MÜLLER, Ueber Sterne, Kreuze, u. Kränze als religiöse Symbole der alten Kulturvölker (Copenhagen, 1865); MORTILLET, Le signe de la croix avant le christianisme (Paris, 1886)-cf. Nuova Antologia (1867), 797, 805, and Revue Celtique (1866), 297; VERTUS, Du culte de la croix avant J.-C. in Annuaire de la Soc. Hist. Archéol, de Château-Thierry (1873, 1874) IX, 135-194; BUNSEN, Das Symbol des Kreuzes bei alten Nationen u. die Entstehung des Kreuz-Symbo's des christlichen Kirche (Berlin, 1876); HOCHART, Le symbole de la croix in Ann. de la fac. litt. de Bordeaux (1886); ROBIOU, Observations sur les signes hiéroglyphiques qui peuvent rappeler la figure de la Croix in Science cath. (1890), IV 465-471; ANSAULT, Le culte de la croix avant J.-C. (Paris, 1889); ID., Mémoire sur le culte de la croix avant J.-C. (Paris, 1891); LAFARGUE, Le culte de la croix avant J.-C. in Rev. cath. De Bordeaux (1891). XIII, 321-330; Pre-Christian Cross in Ed. Rev. (1870) CXXXI, 222; MEYER. Die Gesch. des Kreuzholzes von Christus in Abhandl. philos.-philol. bayer. Akad. (1882), XVI, 101, 116.

De Imaginibus Sanctorum, II, xxiv; THEODORE THE STUDITE, Adv. Iconomachos in P.G., XCIX. For the controversy in the time of Charlemagne, GONDI OF ORLÉANS, De Cultu Imaginum. P.L. CVI, 305 sq., ; DUNGAL, Liber adversus Claudium Taurinensem, P.L., CV, 457 sq.; AMALARIUS, Des officiis eccls,. I, xvi, P.L., CV, 1028 sq.; PSEUDO-ALCUIN, Officia et Oratt. de Cruce, P.L., CI, 1207 sq.; RABANUS MAURUS, De Laudibus S. Crucis, P L. CVII, 133; SCOTUS ERIUGENA, De Christo Crucifixo, P.L., CXLI, 345.

On crosses in general: BORGIA, De Cruce Vaticanâ (Rome, 1774); ID., De Cruce Veliternâ (Rome, 1780); GRETSER, De Cruce Christi (2 vols. 40, Ingoldstadt, 1600 and 4th ed. of the same enlarged. in Opp. Omnia (1618); BOSIO, Crux triumphans et Gloriosa (Antwerp, 1617); DECKER, De Staurolatriâ Romanâ (Hanover, 1617); BASILIUS, De Veterum Christianorum Ritibus (Rome, 1647); SCHLICHTER, De Cruce apud Judæus, Christianos et Gentiles signo Salutis (Halle, 1732); ZACCARIA, Dissert. de Inventione S. Crucis in GORI, Symbol. Litt., X, 65 sq.; PAPEBROCHI, De Inventione S. Crucis in Acta SS., 3 May, i sqq; LIPSIUS, De Cruce libri 111 (40, Antwerp, 1593); ZÖCKLER, Das Kreuz Christi (Gütersloh, 1775); ZIEGELBAUER, Historia didactica de S. Crucis Cultu et Veneratione in Ord. D. Benedicti (Vienna, 1746); WISEMAN, Four Lectures on the Offices and Ceremonies of Holy Week (London, 1839) 11-114; HOUSSAYE, Les cérémonies de la Semaine Saint . . . culte de la croix in Rev. Des Questions Historiques (1878), XXIII, 472 sq.; The Sign of the Cross in the Early Church in The Dub. Rev. (1851), XX, 113; BERNARDAKIS, Le culte de la Croix chez les Grecs in Échos d'Orient (1902), 193-202; REVIUS, De cultu Crucis (Leyden, 1851); ALGER, History of the Cross (Boston, 1858); BERJEAU, History of the Cross (London, 1863); ROHAULT DE FLEURY, Mémoires sur les instruments de la Passion (Paris, 1870); NESTLE, De Sanctâ Cruce (Berlin, 1889).

On the Finding of the Cross in particular: PAPEBROCHI in Acta SS., 3 May; CABROL, Étude sur la Peregrinatio Silviæ (Paris, 1895) 103-105; HOLDEN, Inventio S. Crucis (Leipzig, 1889); COMBS, tr. By LUIGI CAPPADELTA, The Finding of the Cross (London, 1907); STALEY, The Liturgical Year, an Explanation of the Origin, History and Significance of the Festival Days and Fasting Days of the English Church (London, 1907), 101-103; DUCHESNE, tr. McClure, Christian Worship (London, 1904), 274 sq., and cf. ID. Liber Pontificalis, I, 374, 378; FEASEY, Ancient English Holy Week Ceremonial (London, 1897), 114 sq.

See also BÄUMER in Kirchlex., s. vv. Kreuz, Kreuzerfindung, Kreuzpartikel; MARRUCHI, in Dict. de la Bible, s.v. Croix; SCHULTE in Realencyk für prot. Theol., s. vv. Kreuz u. Kreuzigung, Kreuzauffindung, Kreuzeszeichen.

For Additional bibliography see BÄUMER and above all CHEVALIER, Topo.-Bibl., s.v. Croix.

Cabrol, Fernand. "The True Cross." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 11 Sept. 2016 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04529a.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Wm Stuart French, Jr.


Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.