On September 14, the church celebrated Holy Cross Day in honor of Christ’s self-offering on the cross for our salvation. This feast day is also known in some churches as the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. It was one of the 12 great feasts in the Byzantine liturgy and remains a major feast day for the Episcopal Church.
The celebration of the Holy Cross occurs on September 14 to commemorate the consecration of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on that day in 335 by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. Constantine’s mother, Saint Helena, is said to have discovered the True Cross during a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and Constantine built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on the site of her discovery. A portion of the Cross is said to have been placed inside the church.
The legend also tells of Persians carrying away that portion of the cross in 614 and that it remained missing until 628, when the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius recaptured it and returned it to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
As “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church” (Church Publishing, 2000) points out, “Although the authenticity of alleged relics of the cross may be questionable, Holy Cross Day provides an opportunity for a joyous celebration of Christ’s redeeming death on a cross.”
Collect for Holy Cross Day
Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself: Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen. Book of Common Prayer, p. 244