The Cross Returns Us to Our Dignity as Children of God | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

The Cross Returns Us to Our Dignity as Children of God

On Tuesday the 7th of May, the Franciscans of the Custody went to the Holy Sepulchre to celebrate the Feast of the Invention (Finding) of the Holy Cross. With the stalls and shops of the suq barely open for the day, the basilica saw the arrival of a large number of pilgrims. Most of them were Slavs who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Easter Octave. Last Saturday the Orthodox churches celebrated that most symbolic of their Paschal rites: the Holy Fire. It was celebrated five weeks after the Catholic and Protestant churches because they have their own calculation of the date of Easter.

Holy Sepulchre had returned to relative quiet, but celebrating the feast in the Crypt of Saint Helena allowed the Custody friars to observe it with all due recollection.

The seventh of May was chosen as the date to celebrate the Invention of the Cross because it was on May 7th 351 that “a vast luminous body, in the form of a Cross, appeared in the heavens, just over the holy Golgotha, reaching as far as the holy Mount of Olives” (Letter from St. Cyril of Jerusalem to the Emperor Constantine, 351), as is depicted in a painting in the Armenian chapel. This feast is no longer celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church except in Jerusalem.

The Crypt of Saint Helena was not large enough to contain the small number of local lay faithful and pilgrims from abroad who wished to take part in the celebration, so they found places on the stairways and in the Armenian Chapel of the Cross.

Not everyone was able to hear the beautiful homily of the Custos, who presided over the celebration, in which he gave new life to the vision, not only of the Cross, but also of obedience.

Recalling that this year the Church is celebrating the 1,700th anniversary of the Edict of Constantine (also known as the Edict of Milan), that allowed Christian worship within the Roman Empire, thereby opening the way to the construction of the first Basilica of the Resurrection, the Custos chose to meditate on the Epistle to the Philippians (Ph. 2:5011), where Jesus is presented as the New Adam. But where through his sin Adam lost the dignity of a Son of God, Jesus restored it to us through his obedience.

This obedience liberates us from the desire for power that engenders violence and injustice. This obedience—a sign of loyalty and faith, proof of God’s unconditional love—brings whoever imitates it into a new relationship with the Father and opens the door to a new dynamism of life.

Having begun the evening before with First Vespers during the daily procession, the feast day brought the friars together again for the Office of Readings at midnight. It ended with a procession circling the Lord’s empty Tomb three times, the Custos carrying the relic of the True Cross that the faithful were then able to venerate.