Finding the Cross
For many years,the finding of the cross of Jesus was commemorated on this day.
St. Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, is said to have found the cross. In 326, the 80-year-old Helena traveled to Jerusalem to find the site of the crucifixion and the tomb of Jesus, and to destroy any pagan building that had been built over them. To accomplish this task, she enlisted the aid of St. Macarius, the bishop of Jerusalem, and a Jewish man named Judas who claimed to know the exact spot of the crucifixion.
But how could Helena verify Judas’ information?
One legend says that she placed a man who had recently died on what Judas said was the crucifixion site. When the dead man came back to life, she declared the location to be the site where Jesus was crucified.
Another legend says that three crosses were actually found. To determine the true cross, Helena had the three crosses carried to the bedside of a holy woman who was dying. Upon touching the third cross, the woman was suddenly cured, and Helena knew she had found the cross of Jesus.
Here is Father’s Commentary about the Relic of the True Cross:
This artifact is a relic of the True Cross of Christ owned by Pope Clement XI. He was Pope from 1700-1721, just to give you an idea of the time we are referring to.
Of course there are a lot of spurious relics of the True Cross out there. But I’m totally convinced that St. Helena brought back the original true cross. The mother of Constantine traveled to the Holy Land and found the True Cross, and she brought it back to Rome.
However, over time, a lot of people have produced fake relics of the cross and pawned them off as real.
The best bet we have of authenticating this one, as a relic of the true cross, is that it was actually owned by the Pope, and he actually prayed with it.
And so what we have here is a relic of the true cross. It’s in a silver case, a very nice silver case. On one side it says, in Latin, “Lignum S. S. Crucis”, meaning it is a portion of the True Cross.
On the other side it has an image of the Pope’s coat of arms, and the date, 1703. And then when you open it up, there is a beautiful crystal cross that is sewn together with gold threading and small slivers of the cross are on the inside.
It’s just a beautiful item. And the fact that it was owned by one of the Holy Fathers makes it quite unique as well.
The fact is that this relic is so sacred and important to our spirituality and to who we are as Christians. It makes me not want to leave it in a box somewhere, so I have often used it for catechesis.
I keep this close to myself to use for my own prayer life. It’s a way of having that connection to Christ crucified. Obviously, but also, it’s another way of being connected to a pope who was also praying with it.
So it’s a very unique piece that I personally used in my own spirituality, and it is one of these humbling things to have one of these.
If there’s a relic of the True Cross that’s authentic, then this one is with the highest level of certitude, because the Pope owned it. It’s a very beautiful item and very precious.
The Vatican is the organization that has the care of the true cross that came from St. Helen, mother of Constantine, in the 4th century. So the Vatican always had a portion of the true cross.
The fact that this was owned by the Pope with the reliquary in his own personal possession lends credence to the authenticity of this item. —Fr. Richard Kunst