This feast was observed in Rome before the end of the seventh century. It commemorates the recovery of the Holy Cross, which had been placed on Mt. Calvary by St. Helena and preserved in Jerusalem, but then had fallen into the hands of Chosroas, King of the Persians. The precious relic was recovered and returned to Jerusalem by Emperor Heralius in 629.
The lessons from the Breviary tell us that Emperor Heraclius carried the Cross back to Jerusalem on his shoulders. He was clothed with costly garments and with ornaments of precious stones. But at the entrance to Mt. Calvary a strange incident occurred. Try as hard as he would, he could not go forward. Zacharias, the Bishop of Jerusalem, then said to the astonished monarch: “Consider, O Emperor, that with these triumphal ornaments you are far from resembling Jesus carrying His Cross.” The Emperor then put on a penitential garb and continued the journey.
Prayer to Jesus on the Cross
O Jesus, for how many ages have You been on the Cross and yet people pass by in utter disregard of You except to pierce once again Your Sacred Heart. How often have I passed You by, heedless of Your overwhelming sorrow, Your countless wounds, Your infinite love. How often have I stood before You, not to comfort and console You, but to offend You by my conduct or neglect of You, to scorn Your love. You have stretched out Your Hands to comfort me, and I have seized those Hands – that might have consigned me to hell – and have bent them back upon the Cross, nailing them rigid and helpless to it. Yet I have only succeeded in imprinting my name on Your palms forever. You have loved me with an infinite love and I have taken advantage of that love to sin all the more against You. Yet my ingratitude has only succeeded in piercing Your Sacred Heart and causing Your Precious Blood to flow forth upon me. O Jesus, let Your Blood be upon me, not for a curse, but for a blessing. Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world. Have mercy on me. Amen.
Photo credit:St.John Cantius,Chicago,Il