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  • Writer's pictureFr. Scott Haynes

The Finding of the True Cross

 Fr. Scott Haynes

When the Body of Jesus was removed from the Cross, to prevent His followers from finding it, the Cross was thrown in a ditch or well, and then covered with stones and earth. In the year 312 A.D., almost 300 years later, while Constantine, who had not yet converted to Christianity, was in combat with Maxentius for the throne of the Roman Empire, he prayed to the Lord God of the Christians to help him in his battle.  In answer to his prayer, a sign appeared in the sky.  A luminous cross was seen with the words "By this Sign you will conquer" (in Latin, "In Hoc Signo Vinces") inscribed on it. Constantine won the battle over Maxentius.  Indebted to God for his victory at the Milvian Bridge on October 28, 312, Constantine commanded that the Sign of Christianity be placed on the Roman standards and on the shields of all the soldiers.

Then, on September 14, 326, Emperor Constantine’s mother, St. Helena, found in Jerusalem the True Cross on which Jesus was crucified.  The legend of the story of the discovery of the True Cross is that when visiting the holy places in Palestine, St. Helena was guided to the site of the Crucifixion by an aged Jew who had inherited traditional knowledge as to its location. 

After the ground had been dug to a considerable depth, three crosses were found, as well as the superscription placed over the Savior’s head on the Cross, and the nails with which He had been crucified. The Cross of the Lord was distinguished from the other two by laying the crosses on a dead youth who was revived by the touch of the third Cross.

To commemorate the finding of the Holy Cross, Constantine dedicated two Churches upon Calvary, "Anastasis" and "Golgotha," both within the precincts of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Beginning in those days, the Feast of the "Exaltation of the Holy Cross" was commemorated annually on May 3.

In 614, Chosroes II, the King of Persia, invaded Syria and Palestine, at which time he carried away many of the great treasures of Jerusalem, including the relic of the True Cross.  In 629, Emperor Heraclius of Constantinople marched into Persia and recaptured the True Cross, seeing to it that Heraclius piously bring it back to Jerusalem while being clothed in sackcloth of penance and barefoot. On September 14, the Sacred Cross was restored to its place in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. To commemorate this victory, in the seventh century A.D., the Church of Rome adopted the "Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross" on September 14.

Today one may visit the Basilica Church of Santa Croce in Jerusalemme (The Holy Cross in Jerusalem), located in Rome, in which a sizable portion of the Holy Cross is enshrined along with numerous other associated relics of the Passion, including a large portion of the sign that had been placed on the Cross saying, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." Let us ever venerate the Holy Cross because it was the instrument on which our Lord made His supreme sacrifice for our salvation. It was soaked in His most precious Blood. And through this we recognize that the cross of Christ has become the Tree of Life.


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