Today, September 14th, we celebrate the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. It is a feast, like every saint memorial or feast, that we celebrate every year but yet it is different. Logistically, because of the importance of what this feast is about and unlike most other feasts, if it falls on a Sunday it takes precedence over the Sunday. The feast of a saint is about the saint and how they served God. This feast is about the very moment of our salvation.
To understand its importance one might begin by asking the question what is the one thing that God could not do for us as God in his divinity? God is eternal and will never die. So, “Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, …coming in human likeness,…he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (quote from today’s second reading)
Crucifixion was considered the most humiliating form of execution and used only for the worst of criminals. Yet, Jesus accepted this for us. “Because of this, God greatly exalted him.”
The Cross is the instrument upon which Jesus did this. We do not worship the Cross itself. We worship Jesus but we venerate the Cross as the instrument that Jesus choose for our salvation.
Here we should think about why, as Catholics, we use a Crucifix rather than a Cross without the Body of Christ on it. My limited understanding of Protestant theology says that they use a Cross rather than a Crucifix to say that Jesus is no longer on the Cross. He has been set free from the Cross and lifted up. He was first lifted up on the Cross for our salvation and for his obedience to the Father, has now be lifted up to Heaven.
As Catholics, we recognize that Jesus is not bound to the Cross but we use a Crucifix with the image of Jesus on it to always remind us that it is Jesus that saves us. We hold the Cross in the highest regard. We see the Cross and we see God’s love. We see hope.