O Cross of Christ, Immortal Tree, on which our Saviour died…From bitter death and barren wood the tree of life is made.
Today is the Cross recognized. Today is the wood on Calvary given an exalted place. Today, not only is the death of Christ glorified as the means of our salvation, but also is the tree from which He hung glorified.
Today, it would seem, we honour an instrument of torture and execution.
Man, Catholics are weird.
But that is exactly what today is about. Today is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, the Triumph of the Cross. We are honouring a means of death that the Romans used for base criminals. Why? Because by his death, Jesus raised crucifixion, and death itself, to Glory. The Cross upon which Jesus died has triumphed over the cruelty and barbarism of the world in gaining for us eternal life. Before Calvary, Heaven was closed to us through Adam’s sin. Through the Cross, we have no more need to fear death.
Adam lost Paradise by accessing the forbidden Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. Now Christ, the second Adam, reopens Paradise by the new Tree of Life, which is the Cross. Now, the only way to Heaven is through the Cross, as Jesus says in St. Matthew’s Gospel: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me” (16:24). But we do not need to fear the pain of the cross, nor the pain of death, since we know that these are what will lead us to Life Everlasting.
As the Liturgy of the Hours says in Morning Prayer for this feast, “How radiant is that precious cross which brought us our salvation. In the cross we are victorious, through the cross we shall reign, and by the cross all evil is destroyed, alleluia.”
Today we exalt the Triumph of the Cross, for Death has been vanquished by Death! “Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55) This is what the Triumph of the Cross means—death is no longer the end, but the beginning. A favourite quote of mine is from a French play by Henri Ghéon called The Comedian, and describes the Christian view of death perfectly: “My God doth offer thee a sepulchre, which is the Gate of Sunrise.”
The Gate of Sunrise. Does this remind anyone else of the Tolkien’s Undying Lands? Or Aslan’s Country? Or…well, this isn’t quite the same, but…Neverland?
I’ll be honest. I’m not a morning person, so I rarely see sunrises. But when I do see one, I know that it is the most glorious time of the day. When we die, we will enter into the Glory of Heaven. The Sepulchre is our gateway into Eternal Sunrise before the Father’s Throne, just as in Narnia, where Aslan’s Country is reached by death.