The Solemnity of the Discovery of Christ’s Cross is celebrated every year on 7th May in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, near Golgotha. St Cyril of Jerusalem recalls that, on the seventh day of the month of May in 351, a large luminous cross appeared in the sky which stretched from above Golgotha to the Mount of Olives. The same St Cyril also mentions the episode of the discovery of Jesus’ Cross, around the year 327, by St Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine.
There are three major liturgies that celebrate this solemnity, on 6th and 7th May: the Solemn Entrance of the Father Custos in the Holy Sepulchre, followed by the procession in the basilica and Vespers in the chapel where the true Cross of Christ was discovered, on the afternoon of 6th May; the Night Vigil in the same grotto, with the reading of the passage taken from the history of the Church by St Rufinus, which relates the episode of the discovery of the Cross by St Helena; the Solemn Mass on the morning of 7th May, at the end of which the relic of the Tre Cross is taken in procession around the basilica to the Rotonda of Anastasis, where the empty Tomb is circled three times.
The Father Custos, Fra Francesco Patton, recently conformed in his position, presided the various liturgies. During the homily, inviting the faithful present to look up to the crucifix, suggested a new way of discovering the cross: "Finding the Cross means finding the turning point from the fear of being worthless to the awareness of having infinite dignity; from the fear that everything ends in death to the awareness that I am called to participate in the very life of God; from the fear of being overwhelmed by evil to the confidence of being forgiven, that is, of being loved as they are; from the fear that life is a desert in which to die to the awareness that life is a pilgrimage towards true freedom, full life, eternal happiness.”
St Rufinus wrote that St Helena, “warned by divine visions,” went to Jerusalem to search for the place where Jesus had been crucified. The queen was able to identify Golgothadue to the presence of a status of Venus which had been placed there by the Emperor Hadrian after the final destruction of Jerusalem, in the attempt to discourage worship by the first Christians and so that the memory of the exact place where the events of the Easter of the Lord had taken place. St Helena had the site cleared and, after having removed the ruins deep under the ground, she discovered three crosses placed randomly. In front of the uncertainty on which one of the three there could be the original wood of our salvation, the bishop of Jerusalem Macarius had the intuition of taking the crosses to the house of a woman who was very ill and see which of the three have a miraculous force. After having applied the first two to the body of the dying woman, no effect was to be found, but when they put the third one close to her, the woman suddenly opened her eyes and “ very much livelier than she had ever been when she was healthy, she started to go round her house and praise the power of God.”
The Cross of Christ is always a source of salvation for anyone who looks at the crucifix and lets themselves be reached by the love triggered off by the love of Christ. At the end of his homily, Fra Francesco Patton asked everyone oaddress to the crucified and risen Lord a heartfeltplea to obtain the gift of peace: "At this time and in this celebration, let us ask the Lord for Russia and Ukraine to walk together again and try and find the Cross of the Lord, to look up to the crucified Lord, to find the way of reconciliation, the path of the Lord. Let us ask the Lord for all countries, marked nu violence, and way, to be able to create and find and welcome this unique and simple instrument of peace and reconciliation.”
Filippo De Grazia