The Exaltation of the Cross
The Small Crucifixion
(Matthias Grunewald - 1510)
September 14th is the Sunday that the Church celebrates this year’s feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. Whereas Good Friday commemorates the Passion, or the severe suffering of Jesus on the cross, as a way of deep Christian reflection on his sacrifice, this Sunday’s feast acknowledges profoundly the cross as the mystical and historical instrument of salvation.
The gospel reading selected for this great feast is from St. John’s gospel, chapter 3, verses 13 through 17. The scene is Jesus speaking with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and respected member of the Sanhedrin, who is intrigued by Jesus. In the earlier verses of this chapter, Jesus is attempting to draw Nicodemus out of a literal understanding of the Judaic law into the spiritual understanding of a life of grace, that is to say - into a transformation from flesh to spirit (John 3:6). Such a new understanding would only be possible if Nicodemus could first come to believe that God himself becomes flesh as the Son of Man (John 3:13). Of course, such belief can only come about through the gift of grace and this is what Jesus was offering to Nicodemus.
As he does so often, Jesus cites Hebrew scripture in relation to himself: “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” That this “lifting up” is not a reference to Jesus' Ascension into heaven, but rather to his Crucifixion on Mt. Calvary becomes clear in the context of the first reading for this Sunday (Num 21:4b-9), where Moses is described as mounting a bronze serpent on a pole upon which the Israelites would look in order to be saved from the saraph serpent-bites that plagued them due to their ingratitude to God.
This comparison made by Jesus is unique and a great revelation since without this reference it is doubtful that the brazen serpent of the Book of Numbers would have otherwise been directly related to the cross of Jesus. However, the most unique point, for the purpose of comparison, is that those who were to be saved in the wilderness from the serpent bites were first required to look upon that mounted serpent.
One thing that distinguishes Catholics from Protestants is Catholic’s devotion to the cross of Christ in the form of a crucifix, that is, a cross affixed with the suffering corpus of Jesus Christ. While Catholics do not claim that it is necessary for salvation to look upon Christ nailed to the cross, we do claim that it is necessary to look upon Christ nailed to the cross to truly appreciate and understand the act of salvation. And those who say that Catholics should rather have bare crosses because Jesus has already been raised from the dead seem to forget that many more still need to come to a complete Christian understanding of salvation which must include a knowledge of the price of that salvation - the full discovery of which comes only by looking upon Jesus on the cross.
If the life of grace (that Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about) is to fully play out it, it must play out before the crucifix and not before an empty cross. For any Christian to truly grasp - "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mt 16:24), he must look upon the crucifix, Jesus on the cross, in the wilderness of prayer. This is because Jesus did not just carry his cross around in circles until he tired of it. He carried it so as to be willingly pinned to it. This is how Christians are to follow Christ.
Meditating upon a bare cross may serve minimally as an occasion for grace but such reflection usually ends blandly in no reflection at all. The cross then becomes (as in some faith communities) only a general symbol of Christianity and set off to the side, not what Christ meant it to be: a tall, bold, reality which we are all to look upon in the wilderness of faith as the instrument in our salvation.
Who, for a naked cross, would lose his life in order to save it (Mt 16:25)? Answer: the one who has kept sincerely and devoutly the image of a cross clothed with the suffering body of the Son of God.
Be in the Presence of Jesus: On Easter Day some of Jesus' disciples who knew of his suffering and death on the cross just two days prior, were walking and talking and probably lamenting over the horrific crucifixion of the person they thought was the Messiah, the Savior of the world. They were on their way to Emmaus, a town some seven miles distant from Jerusalem. The resurrected Jesus caught up with them, "but their eyes were kept from recognizing him." (Lk 24:16) They told Jesus of the great prophet who had been delivered up to death, and that even now his body was not in the tomb where his disciples had laid him. They did not undrstand.
Jesus therefore explained to them all the prophecies concerning the Messiah and how he was to suffer and all the mysteries that related to him and their hearts were "burning" inside them at his words and presence. Then Jesus, "took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight." (Lk 24:30-31).
The Eucharist is an eye-opener! It is in the Eucharist that Catholics most recognize Jesus here on earth. It is important to note that St. Luke in his gospel states that the disciples recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread and not in the "bread" itself. This is because the bread was no longer mere bread but the same Body of Christ that the Lord fed his Apostles at The Last Supper. This post-Easter encounter on the way to Emmaus was a training session in the Real Presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus the physical person vanished, however Jesus the Holy Eucharist remained! It is in the blessing and breaking - the consecration of the bread into the Body of Christ - that the Church was expected to recognize Jesus until his Second Coming.
It takes grace and faith to recognize Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. In the Eucharist, one's eyes are kept from recognizing him, however one's mind and heart and soul burns in recognition. Catholics must pray fervently for this grace and the grace of Adoration, and the best place to do this is before the Lord in the Holy Eucharist.
Come to the parish church of St. Francis Xavier of Acushnet and pray before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. It is only in doing so that you will come to greater understanding by being in the Real Presence of Jesus, just as the men on their way to Emmaus recognized Jesus, only after he vanished from their sight, in the Most Holy Eucharist.
Parish Rosary CD is available for $5.00.
Copies are available at the parish office.
It is also sold on iTunes.
You can click on image and play the Rosary from this site.
Got Evening Prayer? We do! Every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evening in the parish church beginning at 6:30pm & concluding before 7:00pm. Please look for more information about Evening Prayer under the above home page heading: Parish Life & Liturgy
The church is open for prayer every day. Please call the office at 508 - 995 - 7600 if you require use of our wheel-chair lift.
New Season: As we enter September, it is time to bring attention to our parish education program for adults. Our first session this year is presented by our Religious Education Director (DRE), Janine Hammarquist on Sunday, September 28th at 9:15am and Tuesday, September 30th at 7:00pm. This presentation is titled – “Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going?” This session will explore the priceless value of being Catholic and how to remain a faithful Catholic in today’s trying world. All parishioners and their guests are welcome.
SFX Blood Drive: Our 4th and last parish blood drive of 2014 will be held on Sunday, October 26th from 7:30am to 1:00pm. Our total units donated this year is 79 pints of blood. We expect that with your support we will break the 100 mark for the year - our best year yet. Thanks for participating in this very pro-life event.
Thank You: to everyone who made our Day with Mary such a great success. We had over 100 people attend the 10am Mass and about that many enrolled in the Brown Scapular. Special thanks to the Franciscans of the Immaculate for their sponsorship of this event.
Recent Photo's & Events
May 04, 2014
St. Francis Xavier of Acushnet is a lively parish with many activities and opportunities for worship, prayer, and community. We extend to you an invitation to our parish family in hopes that you may join in our devotions and our reverent celebration of Holy Mass. Please contact us with any questions you have regarding our parish and living a life in the Catholic faith.
Copyright 2011 Saint Francis Xavier Parish - Acushnet, Ma. All rights reserved.