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Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Bishop Antoine Charbel Tarabay
Bishop Antoine Charbel Tarabay
Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay is the Maronite Bishop of Australia, New Zealand and Oceania.
Christ’s Holy Cross is a sign of hope for us all. Image: Abdo B

Earlier this month, on the 14 of September, the Universal Church celebrated the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This feast has a lot of significance not only in the Maronite Church but also in the Spiritual Eastern Traditions of the Church.

The feast, which marks the beginning of the final season of the Maronite liturgical year, originated with the discovery of the True Cross in Jerusalem by St Helena in 326 A.D.
The Cross of Christ was identified when people were miraculously healed simply by touching it.

There is no doubt, that the Cross, our source of strength and encouragement, is a symbol of Christianity. When a Cross or crucifix is visible on a building, we can safely assume this is a Christian place.

But the Cross is more than a symbol, it reveals our identity – that we are Christians, we are believers in Jesus Christ, and we belong to the Church.

We cannot separate between Jesus and the Cross and we cannot separate Christianity and the Cross: the Cross is Christianity and Jesus, who was crucified on the Cross, is the centre of our faith. Today we may ask ourselves, why is the Cross so important, and most especially, to Catholics? Why do we celebrate the Feast of the Cross?

It is because the Cross is essential to the story of salvation and to the birth of Christianity. We can’t speak about Christ, we can’t speak about the Gospel, we can’t speak about Heaven without speaking about the Cross.

It is an integral part of the story of every Christian as Jesus Himself said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matt 16:24).

As believers or as followers we are called to embrace and to accept the cross of the Lord. Certainly, the first thing that comes to our mind here is suffering, the trials and tribulations of life, and difficulties.

But while Jesus’ death on the Cross may seem like humiliation, suffering, and defeat, it was in fact a moment of glory because Jesus defeated death, in the ultimate act of love for our sake. And our suffering can become an act of love for Jesus and similarly, an instrument of our salvation.

The Holy Cross is a sign of hope for all of us. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”

The Cross we are invited to carry can also include the Cross of Evangelisation, to preach the good news of the Gospel and share our experiences of faith, to speak about the kingdom of God and eternal life, and about Jesus as the only saviour of the world and our hope.

In today’s world, living according to the teachings of Christ is neither simple and nor easy. It requires us to carry a daily cross, to educate and prepare ourselves for sacrifice, and for repentance. Most importantly, keep our eyes focussed on the Cross with a will to be saved, to give meaning to our lives.

The Holy Cross is a sign of hope for all of us. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hatred cannot drive out hatred; only love can do that. And pride cannot drive out pride; only humility can do that.

It becomes obvious for us that there is hope beyond our suffering, our failures, and our losses. When we are in trouble, or problems plague us, we make the sign of the Cross…when we are sorrowful and afflicted, we look to the Holy Cross. We know there is hope and we offer that hope to all around us; the woman with an unwanted pregnancy, the person who is terminally ill, a homeless acquaintance and a friend who feels marginalised. There is hope because God will not abandon us in our trials.

Finally, The Cross of Jesus Christ does not promise us success, health, or pleasure. The Cross only promises us that Jesus will be with us, no matter how much we suffer, no matter how badly we fail, and no matter how horribly we feel.

We need to know that God, in Jesus Christ, chose to suffer with us.

Jesus said: Behold I am with you always until the end of the age. How wonderful and how privileged we are to have Jesus with us no matter what.

The Cross is the place where we meet Jesus profoundly and where we learn to lean on him the most. It is a place of victory and a place of miracles.


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