The Salvific Cross of Jesus



“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

This emotional plea from the cross is on my mind a lot these days. I imagine the concern about confused people is discussed daily from the throne of God. Is it a lack of knowledge, or blatant rejection of how Christ taught us to live? Those present during the crucifixion may not have understood what they were doing, but we have over 2,000 years of salvation history to help us acknowledge the teachings of Christ.

September is a very beautiful month, and its days are filled with holy celebrations. I keep a paper calendar from a Catholic source at my desk; the calendar year in the Church is full of reminders of the men and women who were not ashamed of the cross of Jesus. There is a trifecta of holiness during the days of Sept. 14-16, with the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross, the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows and the Martyr’s Memorial of Sts. Cornelius, Pope (253) and Cyprian, Bishop (258).

The Exultation of the Holy Cross, Sept. 14, also known as the Triumph of the Cross, celebrates two historical events. Saint Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, led a search to find the True Cross in 320. The cross was discovered under the temple of Venus in Jerusalem, and a basilica was built by Constantine to dedicate the site of the Crucifixion in the year 335. The basilica, named the Martryrium, and the shrine, named the Calvarium, were destroyed by the Persians in the year 614. In 1149, the crusaders built the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which stands today. The Exultation of the Cross is a commemoration of God’s great work in the salvific death on the Cross and the Resurrection, by which death was defeated and the gates of Heaven opened.

The Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows is celebrated Sept. 15. Our Blessed Mother was given this title because of her intense suffering during the passion and death of her son, Jesus. The Prophet Simeon proclaimed, “this child (Jesus) is destined to be the downfall and the rise of many in Israel, a sign that will be opposed and you yourself shall be pierced with a sword so that the hearts of many hearts may be laid bare” (Luke 2:34-35). The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, also known as the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady, was inserted into the Roman calendar in 1814; and Pope Pius X fixed the date permanently on the day after the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross.

The Martyr’s Memorial of Sts. Cornelius and Cyprian, Sept. 16, is a reminder of God’s mercy for those who renounced their faith during the persecutions under the Roman Emperor Decius. Saint Cornelius is called the “Pope of  Second Chances” because he gave the apostates an opportunity to repent and return to the Church after the persecutions ended. Emperor Gallus exiled Cornelius for this act of mercy; and in this hardship, he died a martyr. The Bishop of Carthage, Cyprian supported Pope Cornelius in welcoming defectors back to the Church. He wrote about unity in the Catholic Church: “You cannot have God for your Father if you do not have the Church for your mother.” His full treatise on the unity of the Church is enlightening.

I celebrated these three holy days with greater appreciation this year. We need to be unified in Christ; people seem confused, distressed and separated from one another. Please remember, the True Cross where Mary grieved until the very end was found; Christ died so that, through the mercy of God, repentant sinners could live forever. Now we know what to do, so keep soldiering! Amen!