You are here:
Exaltation of the Cross

Exaltation of the Cross

On September 14, Christians celebrate a feast that often goes unnoticed, but which nevertheless remains very important: the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.

Very old, this festival is an opportunity for us to meditate around the mystery of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, a sign of the infinite love of God for us!

What is the meaning of the events of this feast day? How should we to look at the Cross? Discover everything about the devotion to the glorious Cross, through which Jesus saved humanity!



What is the Exaltation of the Cross?

Where does the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross come from?

The feast of the Exaltation of the Cross of Jesus is very old, dating back to September 14, 335. On this date, the consecration of two basilicas took place in Jerusalem, but also the first display of the relics of the Holy Cross, discovered a few years earlier by Saint Helena, the mother of the emperor Constantine.

The dedication of the basilicas on September 14 gradually became the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, as a sign of veneration of the Cross of Christ.

Why glorify the Cross?

It seems surprising that Christians celebrate the cross, because it is above all an instrument of torture. Used in the Roman Empire, it was the most degrading and painful way to put the condemned to death.


However, very early on, Christians saw in the Cross of Christ the instrument of their redemption. In fact, by his resurrection, Jesus transformed his cross into a "Glorious Cross", for it is through that that he opens the doors of the kingdom of God to us! Thus, on September 14, the Church exalts the Exaltation of the Cross of Jesus, for it is intimately linked to God’s plan to save humanity: "God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that whoever believes in him will not be lost, but will have eternal life" (John 3:16).


The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in this regard: "The Paschal Mystery of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ is the center of the good news announced by the Catholic Church [...]. God's saving plan was accomplished " once for all " (Hebrews 9:26) through the redemptive death of his Son Jesus Christ."

The Celebration of the Exaltation of the Cross for Christians

The Feast in the Liturgical Calendar

The feast of the Exaltation of the Most Holy Cross, celebrated on September 14 by Catholics and Orthodox, is one of the seven major feasts of the liturgical year in honor of the Lord Jesus.

This feast takes place exactly forty days after the feast of the Transfiguration. It is the culmination of a "spiritual journey" during which Christians are invited to enter into the mystery of the cross and redemption. 

The day after the Exaltation of the Cross, Christians also celebrate Mary, Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, who, by being intimately associated with the sufferings of her son during his Passion, allows us to enter more deeply into the mystery of Christ on the cross. 

Liturgy of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross

The liturgy of the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross reminds us that the cross is our only way to salvation. Thus, the opening antiphon of the Mass invokes: "May our only pride be the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Him, we have salvation, life and resurrection. By Him, we are saved and delivered”.


The first reading leads us to read either the book of Numbers or the letter of Saint Paul Apostle to the Philippians: "Recognized as a man by his appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, and the death of the cross. That is why God exalted him: he endowed him with the Name that is above every name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee will bow to heaven, earth and hell”. 


Finally, the Gospel we read is that of Saint John: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” (John 3:13-17)


These few excerpts from the readings call us to meditate on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, who, in a cry of love, gaveshis life for us and thus became a source of life for each of us.


Devotion to the Glorious Cross of Christ

The Mystery of the Cross of Christ

The feast of the Exaltation of the Cross is an opportunity for Christians to deepen their understanding of one of the greatest Christian mysteries: that of the cross, including the crosses that everyone carries in their life.


The cross of Christ contains a deep mystery: it is an instrument of torture and death created by men, and Christ has transfigured it into an instrument of love and life!

Indeed, through the cross, Christ gives his life to save us from death and sin. His resurrection, three days later, is the bright sign of his victory and glory! Thus, the Exaltation of the Cross becomes a source of life for us, capable of changing all evil into good.

"What we are celebrating is the love of God that has gone so far, this unconditional love capable of transforming everything," - Monsignor Aupetit, in his homily of the Exaltation of the Cross.  


The mystery of suffering is something that each of us experiences in life through the crosses that we carry. Monsignor Aupetit adds, "Jesus carries with us our cross whatever the weight, because nothing can repel his love." 

Pope Francis also invites us to meditate on this mystery: "You must look inside the cross, for it is there that his glory is revealed, there that man, in the wounds of Christ, finds healing. (Homily of September 14, 2017)

Invocation of the Glorious Cross

"O Cross, my refuge, O Cross, my path and my strength, O Cross, impregnable standard, O Cross, invincible weapon. The Cross repels all evil, the Cross puts darkness to flight; through this Cross I will walk the path that leads to God. The Cross is my life: but for you, enemy, it is your death. May the Cross of our Lord be my nobility, may his Blood remain in me the true redemption. May his Resurrection give me firm faith and certain hope in the resurrection of the just. And may his glorious Ascension into heaven make me walk every day towards the object of my heavenly desire; may it pour out the Holy Spirit in our hearts and remit all our past sins to us. Amen.”

(Invocation of the Cross by Saint Odilon)

Praying with Hozana

The veneration of the Exaltation of the Cross of Jesus is a great sign of hope, for it is through it that we are saved. By the mystery of his cross and resurrection, Christ is the one who "makes everything new" (Revelation 21:5). It was also at the foot of the cross that Jesus gave us his Mother by saying to John “Behold your mother” (John 19:26-27).

In order to meditate on this great mystery of the Cross, sign up to these communities of prayer with Hozana:

Association Hozana - 8 rue du Palais de Justice, 69005 Lyon

Contact us