HOLY LAND – On September 14th, the Church of Jerusalem celebrated the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, which commemorates the finding of the relic of the True Cross, and the building and consecration of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
In Christian faith, the Cross is the universal symbol of Jesus’ victory over death. Originally used as an instrument of torture, it was turned into a beacon of hope and faith in the message of the Lord after Christ’s resurrection. During the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, we celebrate this symbol as a reminder of God’s fulfilled promise of salvation.
In 327 AD, Saint Helena (the mother of Christian Emperor Constantine I) and Bishop Macarius of Jerusalem had excavations made in order to find the site of the Cavalry and the Holy Sepulchre. According to historians, it was during these excavations that St Helena found the Holy Cross, as well as the two crosses used to crucify the impenitent thief and the good thief. She became certain of the authenticity of the relic when an ill woman got cured after touching it. Afterward, Emperor Constantine had the Church of the Holy Sepulchre built over the holy site. It was consecrated on September 13th, 335, and the Holy Cross was brought inside the next day, on September 14th.
For Fr. Hadi Qasis, a Melkite priest living in Mi’ilya (Galilee), the Holy Cross is “a beacon” that guides him in his “personal, priestly and family life. For me, the only path toward happiness and true joy is the Cross. When I remember the words of Christ, who invites me to follow Him and carry the Cross as He did, this very Cross becomes a path of salvation, crowned with resurrection and joy.”
In Melkite tradition, the Feast of the Holy Cross is celebrated on September 13th. “It is a long moment of contemplation and remembrance,” says Fr. Hadi. “Crosses of all kinds are united to the life-giving Cross of the Lord. During this moment, I too take up my cross, which becomes a source of joy and healing for my wretched soul. From pain to health, from difficulties to relief… This is what the Cross and the feast of the Exaltation mean for me. It is the day where I take my complaints, my difficulties and my pain to put them on Jesus’ Cross, with which I will be able to start anew.”
For parishioners also, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross holds a special meaning. To describe it, Issam Ewedah, a Christian living in Amman (Jordan), speaks of the Cross as “the pain that becomes love.” For him, the value of the Cross does not only reside in the Cross itself, but in the essence of Christ’s love for the world. “It is a reminder of life’s victory over death,” says another parishioner, Mariana Duaibes, who lives in Zababdeh (Palestine). “We all suffer from our own crosses. The cross that falls on our shoulders always falls on mine too, and so I pray to God Almighty and ask Him to help me and everyone else carry it, just as He helped His son Jesus Christ to carry it until the Resurrection.”