Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Holy Cross Day
Notes on the Feast
Holy Cross Day is one of the nine feasts appointed on fixed days in the alternative Calendar of the Anglican Church of Canada that takes precedence of a Sunday. In this, our Church has restored it to the importance it held in the English Church before the Reformation. A proper collect was provided in the Canadian Prayer Book of 1962, but the feast itself remained a black-letter day. Here are some notes on the history of the feast; notes on the Propers will follow (God willing) before the Weekend.
The feast is known in the Roman Church as the Triumph of the Cross, which renders the Latin Exaltatio Sanctae Crucis. The rich significance of the title Exaltation of the Cross is seen in the readings, which centre on the word play of "lifted up" and "exalted". "As Moses lifted up (exaltavit) the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up (exaltari), that every one who believes in him may have eternal life" [Jn 3.14-15]. Though death seems to be a defeat, yet in being lifted up on the Cross, the Lord Christ is exalted. If we exalt the Cross on this day, it is so that we may in faith look unto the one lifted up thereon, and be healed.
This, or the other feast of the Cross in May (see below), has also been familiarly known as "Crouchmas" or "Crowchemesse Day", crouch being an old variant of the word "cross" (from crux, crucis). I daresay it is too late to be sending out our Chrouchmass Cards. Perhaps next year?
Some History
The festival of the Cross on the fourteenth of September commemorates the dedication of the complex of churches built in Jerusalem by order of Constantine the Great on the sites of Golgotha and the Holy Sepulchre [The Anastasia or Church of the Resurrection, known the the West as The Church of the Holy Sepulchre] dedicsted with great festivity about this date in the year AD 335. The feast of the dedication was kept anually thereafter. Connected with the erection of the basilica was the story that Helena, the emperor’s mother, whom he had charged with seeing to the building of the basilica at Jerusalem, had discovered the true cross buried at the site. [For further reading, see the Catholic Encyclopaedia: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04517a.htm.]
The celebration on September 14 was imitated in other places, and particularly at Rome by the end of the seventh century. Relics of the cross were also brought to various places, particularly the Church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome. In AD 615 the armies of Persia under King Chosroes II took the relic of the Cross from Jerusalem; it was recovered and restored by the Emperor Heraclius in 629.
Now the churches of Gaul at that time seem to have been unaware of the feast on September 14, but celebrated the Cross on May 3 a date that may have been derived from a legend of the finding of the Cross. In latr years the Gallican and Roman liturgies were combined, each of the two feasts was given a different character so that both could be celebrated. The 3rd of May was called the feast of the Invention [finding] of the Cross, and it paticularly commemorated St 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 recovery of the the relics by Heraclius. “Nevertheless,” as the old Catholic Ecyclopaedia puts it, “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.”
A strong devotional reason for this celebration of the Holy Cross in September is given by Stephen Reynolds in For All the Saints (page 278),a nd is worth quoting here:

Jesus was crucified at the time of year when people in the northern hemisphere prepare the earth for planting. But September is harvest, our time for reaping and sharing what the earth, under our care, has brought forth. Just so with our remembrance of the Holy Cross. On Good Friday we recalled its planting in the seedtime of the new creation; and now, on the verge of autumn, we look for Christ, the true Vine which the Cross supported, to bear the fruit of justice and mercy not only in opur own lives but also in the dealings of the world.

The Relics and Legends of the Cross
Satire makes much of the sheer number of purported relics of the Cross, claiming that there are enough for a navy, or at least a great ship. On this point the Catholic Encylopaedia refers to the work of Charles Rohault de Fleury, Mémoire sur les instruments de la Passion (Paris, 1870), which provides a catalogue of known relics of the true cross, and states that Rohault de Fleury
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.”
For the Legend of the True Cross, see the homily for Good Friday, which is posted at my sermon blog, Sermonets for Christianets, on June 16 of this year. There should be a link over on the left somewhere.
On Holy Cross Day we should remember in our prayers the Order of the Holy Cross, an Anglican Monastic Order, and in particular Holy Cross Priory in Toronto and the work of those brothers.

No comments: