THE TRIUMPH OF THE CROSS
By Rev. Fr. Abe P. Arganiosa
- An article published in Parish Bulletin for the Month of September 2015.
Every 14th of September we celebrate the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross which is important for its historical significance.
After Constantine assumed the imperial throne the persecution of Catholics ended. The Church was recognized as one of the authorized religions and the baptized became free to practice the faith; no longer threatened by imprisonment and tortures, such as being fed to the lions, beheaded or burned alive at the stake. The Pagan Rome was finally defeated by the Blood of the Martyrs and the Miracle of the Cross. This occurred prior to the Battle of Melvian Bridge, wherein Constantine saw the image of a shining Cross on the sky with inscription: ‘In hoc signo vinces’ [By this sign thou shalt conquer]. He ordered that crosses be put on soldiers’ shields and armors and eventually he won over Maxentius and reunified the Empire. As an act of gratitude to the Lord Jesus, his pious mother St. Helena, went to Jerusalem and searched for the true Cross. When it was found, the Emperor himself rushed to pay homage, walking barefooted and kissing it with reverence. By such an act Jesus was hailed the Victorious King over the pagan persecutors. For two millennia since then until the fall of the Berlin Wall in Eastern Europe the Cross shines as beacon of Hope for the Church: Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat! [Christ Jesus Victor, Christ Jesus Ruler, Christ Jesus Lord and Redeemer!]
Moreover, this Feast is important for doctrinal reasons as well. For us Catholics the one who died on the Cross is no ordinary human being but God incarnate: “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.” [Phil 2:6-8 DRB]. The Cross then gave us the ultimate Sacrifice of Jesus our God; for that it depicts ‘the greatest love of all’. It measured the love of God for us and it was absolute and total oblation. By His death on the Cross the Lord Jesus gave us the victory in the ultimate War of all: The Triumph over Satan, Sin and Death all at once in single masterstroke [Rev 12:11]. Evil was vanquished by Good, Pride was shattered by Humility and Rebellion was corrected by Obedience of the Paschal Lamb [Rev 5:5-6]. Because the Lord saved us through the Cross [Col 1:20] it has become for us the very emblem of Salvation [Eph 2:16].
Thus, we refer to the Cross as the Tree of Life whose fruit is everlasting life: “for behold, because of the wood of a tree joy has come to the whole world” we declare on Good Friday. Then three times our Priest raises the Crucifix on high while singing: “This is the wood of the Cross on which is hung our Salvation. O come let us adore” and the congregation responses with kneeling, an act of Latria [Adoration] to the God who was crucified for our sins [Heb 12:2]. This solemn and touching Exultation of the Cross every Good Friday and the annual celebration of this Feast of the Triumph of the Cross are actually the fulfillment of the Divine Prophecy given by the Lord Himself: ‘And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself’ [Jn 12:32] and ‘They shall look on him whom they pierced’ [Jn 19:37]. Thus, we behold the Cross of the Lord Jesus day after day on top of our Church and we have placed it prominently in each of our altars. We seal our bodies with it and all prayers begins and ends by its sign. Together with St. Paul we declare: “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world” [Gal 6:14].