“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, So that EVERYONE who believes in him might not perish, but might have eternal life” John 3:16
Just to pronounce, to say “EXALTED,” gives a rise to one’s spirit. We have something extraordinary to celebrate today! Yet, we are ever mindful that all we describe is due to the unbelievable love of God. We remember God’s love is all compassion, all-forgiving, and simultaneously, a total mystery to us.
To begin our reflection, let’s see when and why this feast is so designated on the Liturgical Calendar. Solid base! We see that this devotion to the Cross of Jesus is ancient. People have often searched for the true cross. Then in the 8th century, the Church formally said that on this day we will honor the finding of the true cross by St Helena in 320, the dedication of Churches at the site of the Holy Sepulcher, and the return of the true cross to Jerusalem.
Sound familiar? Yes, but not complete. That’s history and a beginning. But what does this feast mean to us in 2023? As I began writing these thoughts the music of our hymns for today played in my mind. The words became intermingled: “Lift high the Cross—be exalted O God.”
The symbol of the Cross has always been so meaningful. How do you feel when you see an athlete make the sign of the cross or a child about to receive First Communion? How have you always begun the mass or said your prayers? Although this is automatic, our action is deep with a devotion that is and will remain part of us. But we don’t have to stop there. We are always going forward led by and trusting in the Spirit of Wisdom.
I noted earlier that the words of songs played in my head. Well, that was along with thoughts on Creation. Interestingly, this feast is in mid-September, the Season of Creation. Music can accompany us as we stretch ourselves to hear what God wants us to hear.
Allow me to stretch a few years back to an Astronomy class in the 1970s. This was the first time I had heard the term EXPANDING UNIVERSE, and the scientific data fit my understanding that the Universe as we knew it, could not contain the Infinite God of love. The term EXPANDING serves us well as we focus on the CROSS—a reminder of ancient Rome’s barbarism inflicting intense suffering on the body of Jesus who died on that Cross; while at the same time, liberating the human-divine Jesus who rose from the dead and expanded salvation to all who believe through the restorative Justice of God.
We are learning more about the restorative justice of God as we celebrate the Season of Creation. Creation is not something that just happened once—it is ever happening. As we expand our understanding of Creation, we know that all life is dying as new life emerges. Suffering continues because there is evil in the world and the most vulnerable are victims. Jesus, our Redeemer is united in their suffering, and the forgiving, restorative love of God empowered by the Spirit longs for “justice to roll like a river.” (Amos 5:24)
For God so loved the world that all Creation is entitled to this justice. The earth itself needs this justice; all plant and animal life are precious to God. . . “All the earth proclaims the glory of God!” (Psalm 19)
We are so conscious of our age and yet, we are still primary learners and I believe that is fine with God. Saint Isaac the Syrian, a 7th-century Syriac Christian bishop and theologian, said, "The Tree of Life is the love of God" (Homily 72). So, let’s lift high the cross, the Tree of Life, the love of God for all ages and times, as we exalt and sing a canticle to the sun and dance with dragonflies on our journey toward eternal life.
Sister Bridget Kiniry, OP
A resident of Dominican Convent, Sister Bridget is a preacher and
coordinator of the Days for Girls program there.