A Feastday Table:
The Call Of the Cross, Cherishing Christ's Tree of Rescue

Tomarrow is the feast of the Exultation (or Triumph) of the Holy Cross. Picture if you will...Triumph! Exaltation! Rescue! Picture if you will Joy and Gratitude and Cherishing that Cross of Rescue with all your heart and holding it up (exalting it) for all to see. Such is today.

This day commemorates St Constantine the Great's "dedication of the basilicas (raised by him) on Mount Calvary and over the holy sepulchre, after the precious discoveries made by his mother St. Helena; In the very same century that witnessed all these events, a pious pilgrim, thought to be St. Silvia, sister of Rufinus the minister of Theodosius and Arcadius, attested that the anniversary of this dedication was celebrated with the same solemnity as Easter and the Epiphany. There was an immense concourse of bishops, clerics, monks, and seculars of both sexes, from every province; and the reason, she says, is that 'the Cross was found on this day', which motive had led to the choice of the same day for the primitive consecration, so that the two joys might be united into one. " (from here).

No small day! It used to be celebrated with deep song and holy processions. In some places I'm sure it still is. I wish it still were here, because such a very core day it feels like to me. I feel incredibly moved by it. We are not alone, it says, we have a rescuer, it says, we are loved and protected, it says, and we love Him too, we "bless back the light" (ancient shabbat tradition), we "keep" Him, we hold and cherish Him and His cross of rescue, and through that this symbol of how he has actually rescued and exalted and not deserted us. We exalt it, and we exalt Him. He will never desert us, and we will never desert Him...

This Exaltation of the Cross is core to folks for their own personal reasons, their own personal stories of being rescued, their own personal reasons to exalt Him. For me it also holds meaning through ancestry, through both me and my partner being descended from St Helena, the woman who, directed through actual literal dreams, found the One True Cross. Which makes it all just extra precious personally. I love how St Helena found the sacred cross out of the blue, but not in the way most mean by that phrase...she found it out of the blue because in a sense her tears found it. For years she was heartbroken that Our Savior's Cross had been so desecrated and hidden, she longed so much to see it held and cherished and honored. And in her later life, the guiding dreams came, and she was actually led through them to unearthing the One True Cross.

I have posted on St Helena previously, both me and my partner are both deeply drawn to her, it is one of the things that corely bonds us. And there is more to it than meets the eye, because we have the sort of connection that is very bonded by our dreams as well...and St Helena's taking seriously her dreams, and the amazing fruit heeding those dreams bore, calls deeply to us both. And the thing is, we are not all called to be a saint of course, but we all do have our core dreams, core symbols, core stories, core images...and through them God's leading us. So I take them seriously, as I think we all should. Our own precious stories, the fairy tale God calls us to live out, are woven into our precious dreams and life if we listen and feel for His guiding hand there.

And I just cant help but think of dreams when I think of this holy feast day. Dreams, or rather guidance given in dreams and listened to, actually are behind finding that Cross so exalted. Finding it so we could hold it again, cherish it...exalt it, and through it exalt Him.

Actually dreams were the culmination--it was the tears, the longing, the need, St Helena's yearning to hold and honor her Saviour's Cross of Rescue, that led to her to even be opening up to and listening to those dreams. At least this is how I understand it.

And I also feel, under all of this, that familiar fairy tale feeling. Many think of "make believe" when they hear the words fairy tale. But for me it is the very opposite---when I sense that fairy tale feeling in something it is there that I find the most feeling of truth. The Bible, after all, reads like the most amazing fairy tale of all... which to me tells me is what tells me it holds the deepest truth of all.

There is a really lovely hymn sung today called Vexilla Regis. From here:

"Vexilla Regis was written by Venantius Fortunatus (530-609) and is considered one of the greatest hymns of the liturgy. Fortunatus wrote it in honor of the arrival of a large relic of the True Cross which had been sent to Queen Radegunda by the Emperor Justin II and his Empress Sophia. Queen Radegunda had retired to a convent she had built near Poitiers and was seeking out relics for the church there. To help celebrate the arrival of the relic, the Queen asked Fortunatus to write a hymn for the procession of the relic to the church.

The hymn has, thus, a strong connection with the Cross and is fittingly sung at Vespers from Passion Sunday to Holy Thursday and on the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross (today!). The hymn was also formerly sung on Good Friday when the Blessed Sacrament is taken from the repository to the altar. The text given below is the full text of Fortunatus' hymn, but verses 2, 4, and 7 are omitted when the hymn is used liturgically (and omitted here). The last two verses which form the concluding doxology are not by Fortunatus, but is rather the work of some later poet...


Abroad the regal banners fly,
now shines the Cross's mystery:
upon it Life did death endure,
and yet by death did life procure.

Who, wounded with a direful spear,
did purposely to wash us clear
from stain of sin, pour out a flood
of precious water mixed with blood.

That which the prophet-king of old
hath in mysterious verse foretold,
is now accomplished, whilst we see
God ruling the nations form a Tree.

O lovely and refulgent Tree,
adorned with purpled majesty;
culled from a worthy stock, to bear
those limbs which sanctified were.

Blest Tree, whose happy branches bore
the wealth that did the world restore;
the beam that did that Body weigh
which raised up Hell's expected prey.

Hail Cross, of hopes the most sublime!
Now, in the mournful Passion time;
grant to the just increase of grace,
and every sinner's crimes efface.

Blest Trinity, salvation's spring
may every soul Thy praises sing;
to those Thou grantest conquest by
the Holy Cross, rewards supply. Amen.

Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross:
On this triumphant day.

Blessed feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross!

(Images are from unknown (unless anyone knows?) first one,
here second one, and here third one)

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