Saturday, 14 September 2019 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day the whole Universal Church celebrate together the great Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, remembering that moment when the Lord’s one and holy True Cross was discovered in the city of Jerusalem. At that time, just two decades or so after the Edict of Milan in the Year of Our Lord 313, the True Cross was discovered by St. Helena, the Empress Mother of the Roman Empire.

At that time, the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, famous as the Emperor who first adopted the Christian faith for himself and also for the Empire, had finally triumphed over all of his rivals and enemies, having finally reunited the whole Empire under one reign and liberating the whole people of God, communities of Christians who were still persecuted from time to time by the rival rulers of the Emperor Constantine who supported or courted the support of the pagans.

As the Holy Land and the city of Jerusalem was under the control of the rival Emperors, it was then that finally, after the reunification of the whole Empire under the rule of the Emperor Constantine the Great that the whole land knew peace again after decades of continuous strife and conflict. The Christian population in particular finally had a reprieve after almost constant persecution from the very early days of the Church.

The Emperor’s mother, St. Helena, who was already a Christian long before that of her son, went to the Holy Land for pilgrimage, and it was told by tradition that in Jerusalem she discovered three crosses at the place near the site where the historic Crucifixion of the Lord took place when the pagan temples that once stood over the sites were demolished. The three crosses therefore correlated with that of the Lord’s Cross and the two crosses used to crucify the two thieves who were with Him that day.

In order to find out which of the three crosses is the one True Cross of the Lord, St. Helena brought a woman who was suffering from terminal illness, and when she touched one of the three crosses, she was completely healed from her issues, indicating that the one which the woman touched, was the one and holy True Cross. The discovery of the True Cross was not just a very significant event in the whole history of the Church, but it is also a very symbolic event marking the triumph of Christ over that of the enemies of the Church.

And even more so than just merely marking the victory of Christianity over the pagans and their false pagan gods, the gods of the Romans and Greeks and the many other peoples of the Empire, but the Cross of the Lord itself is a powerful and real symbol of victory of mankind against their greatest enemy, that is sin. Sin has always been our great enemy, as sin leads to death and separation from God, the Source of all our lives.

And by His Passion, suffering and death on the Cross, Our Lord Jesus Himself has conquered sin and death. He has been victorious and triumphant in the battle against them, and through Him, all of us mankind have received the assurance of eternal life and salvation. Thus, through the Cross, God has shown His light and a new hope to all of us, as a victorious and conquering sign against all of our enemies and all those who sought our destruction.

When we then look at the Cross again, we must understand the context in how God made use of this humble and simple instrument to be the ultimate weapon and means by which the final victory and triumph against sin would be won. For the Romans who ruled all of Judea and the whole lands around the Mediterranean at that time, the cross was the symbol of ultimate humiliation and fear, as crucifixion was a punishment reserved only to the worst of all criminals, to those who betrayed the state and those who committed unforgivable crimes.

But God converted that symbol of ultimate shame and indeed defeat, into a symbol of ultimate victory, hope and glory, by what He has willingly done in embracing the Cross to be crucified despite Himself being totally blameless and faultless. And in parallel to what we have heard in our first reading today from the Book of Numbers, through the Cross, Christ changed the ultimate symbol of our defeat into the ultimate symbol of victory.

At the time of the Exodus, as recorded in the Book of Numbers, the people of Israel frequently and constantly rebelled against God, in refusing to believe in Him and in rejecting the truth and the laws which He has laid before them. They chose to follow their own selfish paths, worshipping pagan gods and doubting all that they have been shown through Moses. Because of all these disobedience, the people sinned against God.

The fiery serpents sent against them were actually representative of mankind’s sins, our own sins. St. Paul mentioned in one of his Epistles, the Epistle to the Corinthians that ‘the sting of sin is death’, clearly alluding to this moment depicted and recorded in the Book of Numbers, when the fiery serpents bit many of the Israelites and killed them. And then, God asked Moses when the people begged Him for forgiveness, to build a bronze serpent and to place it on a tall pole that everyone might see the bronze serpent and live.

Prior to His Passion, suffering and crucifixion, the Lord Himself had revealed to Nicodemus, one of the Pharisees who was sympathetic to Him, that this was a prelude and prefigurement of the moment of Christ’s Crucifixion. Just as the bronze serpent, representing the fiery serpents that killed the Israelites was raised up high, the Lord told Nicodemus that He Himself would be raised up on the Cross for all to see.

And He, the Sinless and Perfect One, willingly took up all the sins of the world, gathering to Himself all the burdens, the sufferings, the pains and tortures of the sins we should have endured and faced, and took them upon Himself. He lowered Himself such that, while He had done nothing wrong at all, He willingly accept total humiliation and nakedness, total rejection and pain, of being treated less than a human being on the Cross.

It was so painful and terrible to see the suffering Christ on the Cross, that even before He was crucified, as He was carrying His Cross, the women of Jerusalem wailed and wept for Him. All those who saw the Lord at that time would have been terrified and struck with fear and sorrow seeing just how much He has suffered. Yet, that was not the end, as we all know that the death of Christ is not the end of it all.

Instead, by His glorious resurrection on the third day, the Cross, a symbol of the ultimate shame, punishment and sorrow has been transformed into the symbol of ultimate victory and triumph. For at long last, death and therefore sin no longer has the final say over man. The Son of Man and Son of God Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ, has conquered death and rose in glory. And in parallel to what had happened in the time of the Exodus, all those who come to believe in the Lord, will not die but live.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have the Crucifix, the Holy Cross of Our Lord as the centre of our faith as is the Eucharist. For it is by shedding His Blood and Body on the Cross, the Bloody Altar of God’s sacrifice, that He brought unto us the salvation through His death and resurrection by which He defeated death and sin. It was His great and undying love for each and every one of us that has allowed Him to endure the sufferings for our sake.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, as we recall the triumphant Cross of Christ, how it was rediscovered by St. Helena and all that the Lord had done in bringing about our salvation through His Cross, all of us as Christians should reflect deep into our own respective lives, in our actions, words and deeds. Have we all loved God just as God has loved us all so much and so unconditionally? Have we devoted ourselves wholeheartedly to Him just as He has done so for us?

In a world today filled with darkness and many uncertainties, temptations and sins, we must hold true to that Cross, the Cross of our hope, the Cross by which the Ultimate Victory has been won by Our God. Let us all not be disheartened but be hopeful and be strong, always fixing our gaze on Him Who has suffered on the Cross. And let us all remember that He suffered because of our sins, every single one of our sins and disobedience.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to commit ourselves anew to the Lord from now on? Are we able to turn away from being sinful and disobedient against God, in each and every moments of our lives? Are we able to love God ever more unconditionally through our every words, deeds and actions from now on? May the Lord bless us all and continue to guide us in this journey of life, and may He be with us all our days through reminding us of the glory of His triumphant Cross. Amen.

Saturday, 14 September 2019 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 3 : 13-17

At that time, Jesus said to Nicodemus, “No one has ever gone up to heaven except the One Who came from heaven, the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.”

“Yes, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him may not be lost, but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world; instead, through Him the world is to be saved.”

Saturday, 14 September 2019 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 77 : 1-2, 34-35, 36-37, 38

Give heed, o My people, to My teaching; listen to the words of My mouth! I will speak in parables; I will talk of old mysteries.

When He slew them, they repented and sought Him earnestly. They remembered that God was their Rock, the Most High, their Redeemer.

But they flattered Him with their mouths; they lied to Him with their tongues, while their hearts were unfaithful; they were untrue to His Covenant.

Even then, in His compassion, He forgave their offences and did not destroy them. Many a time He restrained His anger, and did not fully stir up His wrath.

Saturday, 14 September 2019 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Numbers 21 : 4b-9

The people were discouraged by the journey and began to complain against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is neither bread nor water here and we are disgusted with this tasteless manna.”

YHVH then sent fiery serpents against them. They bit the people and many of the Israelites died. Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, speaking against YHVH and against you. Plead with YHVH to take the serpents away.”

Moses pleaded for the people and YHVH said to him, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a standard; whoever has been bitten and then looks at it shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a standard. Whenever a man was bitten, he looked towards the bronze serpent and he lived.

Alternative reading

Philippians 2 : 6-11

Though He was in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking on the nature of a servant, made in human likeness, and in His appearance found as a Man.

He humbled Himself by being obedient to death, death on the cross. That is why God exalted Him and gave Him the Name which outshines all names, so that at the Name of Jesus all knees should bend in heaven, on earth and among the dead, and all tongues proclaim that Christ Jesus is the Lord to the glory of God the Father.

(Usus Antiquior) Exaltation of the Holy Cross (II Classis) – Saturday, 14 September 2019 : Offertory, Secret Prayer of the Priest, Preface, Communion and Post-Communion Prayer

Liturgical Colour : Red

Offertory

Tradition of the Faith

Protege, Domine, plebem Tuam per signum Sanctae Crucis ab omnibus insidiis inimicorum omnium : ut tibi gratam exhibeamus servitutem, et acceptabile fiat sacrificium nostrum, Alleluja.

 

English translation

Through the sign of the Holy Cross, protect Your people, o Lord, from the snares of all enemies, that we may pay You a pleasing service, and our sacrifice be acceptable, Alleluia.

 

Secret Prayer of the Priest

Jesu Christi, Domini nostri, Corpore et Sanguine saginandi, per quem Crucis est sanctificatum vexillum : quaesumus, Domine, Deus noster; ut, sicut illud adorare meruimus, ita perreniter Ejus gloriae salutaris potiamur effectu. Per eumdem Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium Tuum, qui Tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

 

English translation

Being about to be fed with the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ our Lord, through Whom the banner of the Cross was sanctified, we beseech You o Lord, our God, that, as we have had the grace to adore it, so we may forever enjoy the effect of its salutary glory. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who with You lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.

 

Preface of the Holy Cross

Vere dignum et justum est, aequum et salutare, nos Tibi semper et ubique gratias agere : Domine, Sancte Pater omnipotens, aeterne Deus : Qui salutem humani generis in ligno Crucis constituisti : ut, unde mors oriebatur, inde vita resurgeret : et, qui in ligno vincebat, in ligno quoque vinceretur : per Christum, Dominum nostrum.

Per quem majestatem Tuam laudant Angeli, adorant Dominationes, tremunt Potestates. Caeli caelorumque Virtutes ac beata Seraphim socia exsultatione concelebrant. Cum quibus et nostras voces ut admitti jubeas, deprecamur, supplici confessione dicentes :

 

English translation

It is truly meet and just, right and profitable for us, at all times, and in all places, to give thanks to You, o Holy Lord, Father Almighty, Eternal God, You Who had established the salvation of mankind in the wood of the Cross, that from whence death came into the world, thence a new life might spring, and that he who by a tree overcame, by a tree might be overthrown. Through Christ our Lord.

Through Whom the Angels praise, the Dominations adore, the Powers, trembling with awe, worship Your majesty, which the heavens, and the forces of heaven, together with the Blessed Seraphim joyfully do magnify, and You do command that it be permitted to our lowliness to join with them in confessing You and unceasingly to repeat :

 

Communion

Tradition of the Faith

Per signum Crucis de inimicis nostris libera nos, Deus noster.

 

English translation

Through the sign of the Cross deliver us from our enemies, o our God.

 

Post-Communion Prayer

Adesto nobis, Domine, Deus noster : et, quos Sanctae Crucis laetari facis honore, ejus quoque perpetuis defende subsidiis. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium Tuum, qui Tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

 

English translation

May You be with us, o Lord, our God, and as You had made us rejoice in honour of the Holy Cross, defend us also by its perpetual assistance. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who with You lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.

(Usus Antiquior) Exaltation of the Holy Cross (II Classis) – Saturday, 14 September 2019 : Holy Gospel

Liturgical Colour : Red

Sequentia Sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem – Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to St. John

John 12 : 31-36

In illo tempore : Dixit Jesus turbis Judaeorum : Nunc judicium est mundi : nunc princeps hujus mundi ejiciatur foras. Et ego si exaltatum fuero a terra, omnia traham ad meipsum. (Hoc autem dicebat, significans, qua morte esset moriturus.)

Respondit ei turba; Nos audivimus ex lege, quia Christus manet in aeternum : et quomodo Tu dicis : Oportet exaltari Filium Hominis? Quis est iste Filius Hominis?

Dixit ergo eis Jesus : Adhuc modicum lumen in vobis est. Ambulate, dum lucem habetis, ut non vos tenebrae comprehendant : et qui ambulat in tenebris, nescit, quo vadat. Dum lucem habetis, credite in lucem, ut filii lucis sitis.

 

English translation

At that time, Jesus said to the multitude of the Jews, “Now is the judgment of the world, now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to Myself. (Now this He said, signifying what death He should die.)

The multitude answered Him, “We have heard out of the Law, that Christ abides forever, and how can You say, the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is the Son of Man?”

Jesus therefore said to them, “Yet a little while, the Light is among you. Walk while you have the light, that the darkness does not overtake you. And he who walks in darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may be the children of light.”

(Usus Antiquior) Exaltation of the Holy Cross (II Classis) – Saturday, 14 September 2019 : Gradual and Alleluia

Liturgical Colour : Red

Philippians 2 : 8, 9 and Tradition of the Faith

Christus factus est pro nobis obediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis.

Response : Propter quod et Deus exaltavit illum, et dedit illi Nomen, quod est super omne nomen.

Alleluja, Alleluja.

Response : Dulce lignum, dulces clavos, dulcia ferens pondera : quae sola fuisti digna sustinere Regem caelorum et Dominum. Alleluja.

 

English translation

Christ became obedient for us unto death, even the death of the cross.

Response : For which cause also God had exalted Him a Name which is above all names.

Alleluia, Alleluia.

Response : Sweet the wood, sweet the nails, sweet the load that hangs thereon, to bear up the King and Lord of heaven nought was worthy save you, o Holy Cross. Alleluia.

(Usus Antiquior) Exaltation of the Holy Cross (II Classis) – Saturday, 14 September 2019 : Epistle

Liturgical Colour : Red

Lectio Epistolae Beati Pauli Apostoli ad Philippenses – Lesson from the Epistle of Blessed Paul the Apostle to the Philippians

Philippians 2 : 5-11

Fratres : Hoc enim sentite in vobis, quod et in Christo Jesu : qui, cum in forma Dei esset, non rapinam arbitratus est esse se aequalem Deo : sed semetipsum exinanivit, formam servi accipiens, in similitudinem hominum factus, et habitu inventus ut homo.

Humiliavit semetipsum, factus obediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis. Propter quod et Deus exaltavit illum : et donavit illi Nomen, quod est super omne nomen :

(Genuflect)

Ut in Nomine Jesu omne genu flectatur caelestium, terrestrium, et infernorum : et omnis lingua confiteatur, quia Dominus Jesus Christus in gloria est Dei Patris.

 

English translation

Brethren, let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, Who being in the form of God, thought in not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself as nothing, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a Man.

He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. For which cause God also had exalted Him, and had given Him a Name which is above all names.

(Genuflect)

That in the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.

(Usus Antiquior) Exaltation of the Holy Cross (II Classis) – Saturday, 14 September 2019 : Introit and Collect

Liturgical Colour : Red

Introit

Galatians 6 : 14 and Psalm 66 : 2

Nos autem gloriari oportet in Cruce Domini nostri Jesu Christi : in quo est salus, vita et resurrectio nostra : per quem salvati et liberati sumus.

Deus misereatur nostri, et benedicat nobis : illuminet vultum suum super nos, et misereatur nostri.

Response : Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto, sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper : et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

 

English translation

But it behooves us to glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ in Whom is our salvation, life and resurrection, by Whom we are saved and delivered.

May God have mercy on us, and bless us, may He cause the light of His countenance to shine upon us, and may He have mercy on us.

Response : Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

 

Collect

Deus, qui nos hodierna die Exaltationis sanctae Crucis annua sollemnitate laetificas : praesta, quaesumus; ut, cujus mysterium in terra cognovimus, ejus redemptionis praemia in caelo mereamur. Per eumdem Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium Tuum, qui Tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

 

English translation

O God, You Who had gladdened us this day by the annual solemnity of the exaltation of the Holy Cross, grant, we beseech You, that, as we have known its mystery on earth, we may deserve in heaven the reward which it had purchased. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who with You lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.

Friday, 13 September 2019 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial or St. John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Word of God in the Scriptures the need for us all to be humble in our faith and to be aware of our own shortcomings and weakness, of our own vulnerabilities and unworthiness before God. And that is why, through what we have heard in our Scripture readings today we are called to examine our lives and our attitude all these while.

In the Gospel passage today we heard of the famous parable that the Lord Jesus used, the parable of the splinter and the plank in order to highlight why it is so important for us all to be in touch and to be aware of our own shortcomings and vulnerabilities, and to be humble despite the temptations to do otherwise. The Lord stated how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were behaving in the way as if they were focusing on the splinter in the other persons’ eyes while being ignorant of the plank in their own.

For the context of what the Lord had spoken to the people, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were those who took great pride in their privileges and the honour and respect that were given to them based on their knowledge and education background, their intellect and in depth knowledge of God’s laws and the customs of the Israelites, preserved through the many generations.

But in their preoccupation with status, glory and worldly fame, they ended up focusing on the wrong things in life. Many of them ended up guarding their status and fame with great jealousy, and when the Lord Jesus came into their midst, naturally they saw Him with great suspicion and anger, and tried their best to undermine and disturb His works and ministry among the people.

They also tended to look down on other people, especially all those whom they deemed to be unworthy and as sinners. They easily condemned those they deemed as sinners particularly the tax collectors and prostitutes, those who were suffering from diseases such as leprosy and also disabilities like blindness and paralysis. But amidst all of that, they forgot that they themselves were sinners too.

The Lord wanted to show all of us that we must first be aware of our own shortcomings and mistakes, our sinfulness and unworthiness before we are quick to point out those shortcomings in others. And that is why we should not be quick to judge with sinister and wicked intentions in our minds and hearts just because we think highly of ourselves or be too proud or be filled with too much of ego.

Rather, as St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle to St. Timothy, part of our first reading today, all of us must have God as our source of strength and providence, as our backbone and pillar of strength. All of us should seek to put God first and foremost before all, and seek Him as the source of our faith and power that allow us to walk faithfully in His path despite the challenges and temptations to do otherwise.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all then look at the examples set by a holy man of God, St. John Chrysostom, whose feast we celebrate on this day. St. John Chrysostom was the Archbishop of Constantinople and a very influential leader of the Church and Church father in the early days of the Church remembered for his great sermons and teachings of the faith among the people against heresies and falsehoods.

And St. John Chrysostom was also remembered for his great stand and commitment to God in the opposition to the abuse of worldly power and human ambitions, serving God faithfully despite the challenges that he had to face throughout his life and ministry. He had to go through many years of trouble, both before and during his tenure as the Archbishop of Constantinople. But he did not give up or allow those challenges to prevent him from remaining resolute and true to his faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all today reflect on the courage shown by St. John Chrysostom and so many others of our holy and devout predecessors. Let us all look upon their inspirations and their commitment to God, and think of how we ourselves can be more faithful to God in each and every moments of our life. Let us all turn towards God with greater fidelity and with greater commitment and love from now on, and be ever closer to Him and be ever more filled with love in all things. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.