The Finding of the Holy Cross (May 3)

There are two feasts of the Holy Cross that are celebrated in the Western Rite calendar. The one shared with the Eastern Rite is September 14, which we know as “The Exaltation of the Holy Cross.” It commemorates the return from Persia of the (quite large) relic of the Holy Cross after Persia was defeated by Emperor Heraclius. This feast also commemorates the dedication of the Church of the Holy Cross on Mt Calvary. The second feast is called “The Finding [Inventione] of the Holy Cross.” This feast, which occurs on May 3 each year, commemorates St Helen’s discovery of the True Cross.

In the Western tradition, the feast of The Finding of the Holy Cross is of such importance that it is permitted to supersede any Sunday after Easter (except Low Sunday). This is good since it allows us a second celebration of Our Lord’s salvific suffering and life-saving death.

As we recall the story of the finding of the Holy Cross, this feast also brings to mind the healing power of the Holy Cross. For this is how it was determined that the actual cross Our Lord died on was among the three discovered by St Helen. “Macarius, Bishop of Jerusalem, after praying to God, applied each cross to a woman who was suffering from a grievous disease; the first two were of no effect, but at the touch of the third she was healed immediately.”

In this episode, we see that an instrument of suffering becomes a means of healing; the executioner’s tool becomes an aid to life. And this is why such a cruel implement is both a token of glory and the sign to which we look, like the Israelites of old, in order to be rescued from the contagion of sin and the sting of death.