Page 6, 12th September 1941

12th September 1941
Page 6
Page 6, 12th September 1941 — Next Sunday's English Feast

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Next Sunday's English Feast


SUNDAY next is the feast of the Lxaltation of the Holy Cross. The complete story of its Invention or finding, observed on May 3, and its Exaltation or setting up, which we celebrate on September 14, is as romantic as any in theoannals of Christendom.

When the Emperor Constantine triumphed over his enemies by the miraculous aid of the

Cross—" In hoc sight vinces"—he resolved to build a magnificent church at Jerusalem. III, mother, St. Helena, then determined, though eighty years old, to go there and seek for the Holy Cross, lying buried beneath a pagan temple. Excavating this spot to a great depth she came upon the three crosses: that of our Saviour was determined by the laying upon each in turn of a sick woman until she was healed. In 335 St. Helena built a Basilica at Jerusalem to house the True Cross, but the Persians when they overcame the city in 614 robbed the churches and it was not until September 14, 629, that the Holy Cross was again exalted there.

a All these facts were perfectly well known to our forefathers who were proud to recall

that the two principal actors—Helen of Colchester, the daughter of "Old King Cole," and her son Constantine, who was born at York—were both natives of England: though with typical English forthrightness they were less interested in the mere discovery than in the more practical Exaltation, hence they dubbed that particular feast " Holy Cross Day."

There are over one hundred ancient "Holy Cross" churches in England but one only, at Dalling in Norfolk, is dedicated in honour of the Invention.

Of these Holy Cross churches some were important like Crediton, the ancient cathedral of the South-West from which St. Boniface took Christianity into Germany, Waltham Abbey, and the hospital of St. Cross at Winchester, where wayfarers may still obtain the monastic dole of bread and beer; some small, like Slapton, in Bucks, whose young parish priest in 1400 (John Kemp) rose to be Cardinal Primate and Chancellor of England.

Many churches, too, had guilds of the Holy Cross, sonic with their own chapels, in that of Stratford-upon-Avon the walls of which were covered with pictoral representations of " the history of the Cross from its origin as a tree at the Creation to its final Exaltation ar Jerusalem," was educated Shakespeare: need one ask what tired his imagination to write: " Therefore friends, As for as to the sepulchre of Christ. (Whose soldier now, under whose blessed cross We are impressed and engag'd to fight) Forthwith a power of English shall we levy,

Whose arms were moulded in their mother's. womb

To chase these pagans in those Italy fields Over whose acres walk'd those blessed feet, Whirl, fourteen hundred years ago were to ll'd For our advantage on. the hitter MSS."


Cyncwutf and Caedmon were English poets who early sang of the glory of the Cross: the latter concludes his " Dream of Holy Rood."

" We crosses., awhile stood there in our place weeping; until fierce warriors canoe and felled us to the earth. and in a deep pit hid lIS. Rut me the servants of the Lord there found: with silver and with gold they decked the o'er.

Luther waxed indignant because there was " so much gold now bestowed upon the garnishing of the pieces of the cross ''; but he was answered by an Englishman, St. Thomas MOM, that it was a mere nothing compared with that which adorned the properly and persons of princes and prelates alike, yet Luther could " spy no gold that grievously glittered on his bleared eyes but only about the Cross of Christ."

Naturally, some of these precious relics found their way to England: Edward I possessed himself of one that had belonged to the ancient Princes of Wales, this Edward II placed in the Tower and Edward 111 transferred to St. George's Chapel at Windsor. Just across the Thames at Eton the College treasured " a fragment ' of the salutiferous wood of the Cross of our Lord," and other fragments formed bequests in the wills of William of Wykeharn, the Countess of Northampton, and the Earl of Warwick. while the Earl of Oxford leaves to his wife " a cross made of the very cross of Christ's cross."


MISTLETOE OR HAZEL There was a great reverence for the elder tree, in some parts of England as it wsts believed to have provided the Crass, while in other districts it was thought that the wood was mistletoe, then a tree.but ever after the Crucifixion, a parasite; yet a third tree wns associated with the feast, for an old play has it that:—

" This day they say is Holy Rood Day And all the youths are now a nutting gone."

Four very different yet very great men died on this day: St. Chrysostom, Dante, the " Iron Duke," and Pugin, the eminent English Catholic architect, and by the passing of the " New Style " Act of 175(1. September 3, 1732, because September 14, thus our present calendar dates from Holy Cross Day.

It is a beautiful festival, so simple in designation,' so awful in its implication, and withal so important that it is observed on the same day by East and West alike and while the Orthodox are celebrating the " Exaltation of the Honourable and LifeEffecting Cross " with the song " We magnify Thee, 0 Christ, Giver or Life, and honour Thy !Tilly Cross, by the which Thou hast saved us from the yoke of the enemy," we respond with the age-old paean:" We adore Thee, 0 Christ, and we bless Thee, because by Thy Holy Cross, Thou hast redtemed the world."

G. P.

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