This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (September 14). Early in the fourth century, Saint Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, went to Jerusalem in search of the holy places of Christ’s life. During the excavation for the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher (to be built on the spot that tradition held was over the Savior’s tomb), workers found three crosses. Legend has it that the one on which Jesus died was identified when its touch healed a dying woman. The cross immediately became an object of veneration.
The following day, September 15, is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. Mary, the Mother of Sorrows, stood with her Son as he hung on his cross, and she stands here with each of us as we carry the cross beside her Son. Whether the cross enters our life through loss, failure, sin, illness, relationships, Mary is with us because she knows our sorrow. She herself has lived through the agony of the moment-by-moment struggle to make sense of pain, to find a way forward, to try to reframe what is happening into something our minds can comprehend. And she knows the final leap of faith, the only thing that can make sense of the struggle between the force of Love and the shadows of darkness.
Here are three ways Mary strengthens me as I carry the cross:
- She teaches me to see. When life is brought to a shabby wreck through illness, failure, fractured human relationships, the bitter awareness of sin, Mary assures me that my own Calvary’s are paradoxically the places of my greatest hope.
- She teaches me to wait. The cross cannot be explained away. It defies logic. Mary teaches me that conclusions I may reach with my mind are necessarily incomplete when I am dealing with the painful situations of life. As she pondered in her heart the death of her Son, she slowly waited for understanding.
- She teaches me to trust. The cross is essentially how God works in and through the way-things-are to defeat the darkness that still struggles for the upper hand in my life. I have been blessed to realize, at least in my better moments, that I want to let God act. In the words of Mary, I am finally able to say, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your will” (Lk 1:38).
I’d like to introduce you to our new Just a Minute Series. When your burden is heavy these small take-me-with-you books will bring you light, love, and healing. It is like opening a window, taking in the fresh air, and gratefully receiving the sunshine. Each meditation takes just a few minutes to read, can be chosen at random, and is filled with encouragement and simple insights. These short meditations will enable you to connect with God’s heart through scripture and listen to what he is saying to you right here, right now.
by Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, fsp
author of Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments