Jerusalem: the feast-day of the Invention of the Holy Cross

The day of the Invention of the Holy Cross is celebrated on 7th May and is one of the traditional feast-days that is still celebrated in the Holy Land even after the change in the Liturgical Calendar in 1969.

The invention (or “finding”) of the Holy Cross by St Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, took place in Jerusalem in 327 in a place not very far from Calvary. Although the liturgical reform of 1969 suppressed some feast-days for the Universal Church, deciding to eliminate this one in favour of that of the Exaltation, the Church of Jerusalem wanted to keep the memory of this feast-day which was previously celebrated on 3rd May but was then moved to the 7th of the same month. This date thus allowed remaining within the Easter period, uniting the mystery of the Cross with that of the Resurrection, recalling that 7th May 351 when, as St Cyril wrote “an enormous luminous cross appeared in the sky, above Holy Golgotha, and extended as far as the Mount of Olives.”

The Celebration started on the evening of 6th May with the solemn entrance into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre by the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, who presided the daily procession and the solemn Vespers and the nocturnal prayer in St Helena’s Chapel. It came to an end on the morning of 7th May with the solemn Celebration of the Eucharist and the Procession to the Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre with one of the existing Relics of the true Cross.

"What do we glory in and in what should we glory?” asked the Custos in his homily. Fr. Patton could not fail to quote St Francis and Admonition V (FF 154) finding in its paraphrase the answer to the question. “There is only one right answer: the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, made ours, carried existentially, not as an ornament around the neck and not even as a banner for processions, but as something which is part of our daily following of Jesus, which distinguishes our way of life, our very person and  our flesh." Because, the Custos said, however overwhelming it may be, it is in the Cross that we find our salvation, life and resurrection.

After the Solemn Mass, the faithful who met for the celebration followed the Franciscan Friars in a procession to the Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre  to circle it three times as tradition holds and for the three blessings: at the Edicule, at the altar of Mary Magdalene and at the Chapel of the Apparition of Jesus to his Mother.


Giovanni Malaspina