The royal banners forward go;
the Cross shines forth in mystic glow;
where He in flesh, our flesh Who made,
our sentence bore, our ransom paid - from the Vesperal Office Hymn of the Feast
O Cross, surpassing all the stars in splendour, world renowned, exceeding dear unto the hearts of men, holier than all things: thou only wert counted worthy to uphold the world's ransom. Sweet the wood, sweet the iron, bearing so sweet a burden: bring aid to this congregation, who are here assembled to celebrate thy praises. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Today is the Feast of the Invention (or finding, from the Latin invenire) of the True Cross to which Our Lord ascended to save mankind from death by sharing in it, later to conquer death by His glorious Resurrection.
In the year 326AD, St Helen of Colchester, Equal to the Apostles, mother of Emperor St Constantine, on her mission to gather sacred relics of the Christian Faith, led an excavation at Jerusalem, on the site of a temple of the pagan goddess Venus. Being directed by the Jew Judas, who himself converted to the true Faith of Christ and is hailed at St Cyriacus, St Helen unearthed three crosses, among them, the True Cross of Our Lord. She also prayed for the recovery of the nails, and found them together with the sign which the Gospels record was secured to the Cross at the command of Pilate. These sacred relics had been hidden by the Jews near to the Holy Sepulchre of Christ in a vain attempt to conceal the Truth and diminish the effect of the Passion of the Lord. The pagans had profaned the site with temples to their false gods to add further insult.
In order to determine which of the crosses was the True Cross of the Lord, St Helen, under the direction of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Saint Macarius, took each of the crosses, one by one, to a woman who was extremely sick. The first two had no effect but she was immediately restored to wholeness when they brought the third. In the same manner, a man who had just died and was to be carried away was taken instead to the crosses and, upon being taken to the third, was restored to life. Thus, this third cross was hailed as the True, Precious, and Life-Giving Cross of Christ, and was venerated by Ss Macarius and Helen, and the crowds of the faithful who flocked there upon having heard the news.
The Cross was divided into two portions, one of which was sent to Emperor St Constantine, and the other of which was left in Jerusalem, where much of it remains to this day in the Church of the Resurrection of Christ, (also known as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre).
Over the centuries, fragments of the True Cross have been sent to churches in various parts of the world where they are esconced in altars and venerated in reliquaries by the faithful throughout the world.
We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee, because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.
Thou alone excellest in stature all the cedars of Lebanon: for on thee the Life of the world was hanged, on thee was Christ victorious, and death over death did for ever triumph. Alleluia!