Feast of the Holy Cross

By Father Anthony J. Salim
Pastor of St. Theresa in Brockton, MA

Commentary on the Readings of the Feast
Opening chant:
The Lord reigns, clothed in majesty, Alleluia!
I am the Bread of Life, said our Lord.
From on high I came to earth so all might live in me.
Pure Word without flesh I was sent from the Father.
Mary’s womb received me,
like good earth a grain of wheat.
Behold! The priests bear me aloft to the altars.
Alleluia! Accept our offerings.

Our Liturgy: The Lectionary Readings for the Feast:
1Cor 1:18-25 Jn 12:20-32

That the saving Cross of Jesus Christ is at the centre of the Christian experience is beyond doubt.  without the great sacrifice of his life for the taking away of sins, the most traditional of Christian theology from the time of St Paul on says, we would not be able to reach eternal happiness with the Blessed Trinity.
Yet, Christian Tradition has always seen two sides of this Cross: death and shame, yes, on Great Friday of the Crucifixion; but glory and power too, as verses 31-32 of today’s selection from Paul indicate. It is not always easy to speak about this paradox of the Christian life. Paul indicates this in his First Letter to the Corinthians, verses 18 to 25. Who could imagine then that a criminal’s death could be the standard of of a religion? We are, in the words of Paul, “on the way to salvation”; thus, we believe this talk of the Cross.
When we think of the Cross, most Christians, if pushed, would probably think of Great Friday before Easter. However, since the 4th century, with the story of St Helena’s finding the true Cross, this great feast, celebrated on 14 September, tells us of the “other side” of the Cross: glory after suffering, and God’s power to save.
This paradox is stated in an earthy image in John’s Gospel: The dying of the grain of wheat grows into a source of nourishment and life. Thus, we share in the glory of Christ, through his dying.

Patristic Commentary
JESUS AS THE GRAIN OF WHEAT. However, he (Jesus) says, my death must not upset you. As indeed a grain of wheat is just a single grain before falling into the earth, after it has fallen and decomposed, it sprouts forth in great glory and produces double fruit by showing before everyone its riches in its ears and display­ing the spectacle of its beauty to those looking on. This is the same way you should think about me. Now I am alone, and just one more man among obscure people without any glory. But when I undergo the passion of the cross, I will be raised in great honor. And when I produce much fruit, then everyone will know me—not only the Jews but also the people of the entire world will call me their Lord. Then, not even the spiritual powers will refuse to worship me. (THEODORE OF MOPSUESTIA, COMMENTARY ON JOHN)