Sermon given by Fr. Benjamin Durham FSSP at Holy Cross Church, Seaview, Isle of Wight, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross – (Patronal Feast of the Church), 2006
Dear Brethren in Christ, first of all it is a privilege to be here in Seaview to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass on this, the patronal feast of the church.
In the natural course of the seasons, our Holy Mother the Church has placed today’s feast diametrically opposite the great feast of Easter in such a way that the mysteries of our Faith should find their resonance in the universe created by Almighty God Himself.
Today’s feast can better be understood if we consider for a moment the cyclic nature of our universe. Liturgical feasts do not simply recur periodically from year to year, but are better viewed as renewed invitations to follow Christ Our Lord. In Autumn the days grow shorter and the light is rapidly fading. Nature experiences not only a lack of light, but a certain lack of life. From such a lack of life must come new life, for such is the natural order established by God the Creator. A new Advent will mean a new liturgical year and during the long winter nights, we shall be in joyful expectation of the Light who is to come into the world and this light will transform us in a new way that we have yet to experience. It will have renewed meaning for us, and it is in this manner that we shall truly progress in our Faith.
It is the earnest and sincere desire of Our Lord that we shall not stumble in the darkness but rather we should walk in the Light, that we should believe in the Light, and that we should become sons of Light.
Therefore we must also consider the Mystery of our Catholic Faith by which Christ seeks to draw us closer to Him raised up on the Cross, so that we may be raised up into Heaven with Him who rose from the dead. That is why, my dear brethren, Christ calls us to live this Mystery through the Sacrament of Baptism, which is instituted for our salvation.
In order to better understand the profound meaning of our Holy Baptism, we must consider our own baptismal death and resurrection in this divinely instituted sacrament. It is through Christ’s death on the Cross and His Resurrection from the tomb that He has redeemed us: in dying on the Cross, he merited a life of grace for us, resurrected, he, in turn, communicates to us this grace.
In consequence, throughout the centuries, it has been a glorious mission of the Church to make each of us a participant in the redeeming death and resurrection of Our Lord. Indeed opposite today’s feast, we find the great Triduum of Christ crucified, buried and risen from the dead. The natural world comes into the daylight bearing new life and so we have been immersed in the depths of the baptismal waters three times, to die with Christ, put on the radiant garment of the new man, and walk confidently in the Light of Christ, as a child of Light.
Our holy mother the Church reminds us on this feast day that, it is as children of Light that we are called to carry the Cross with Christ. Since we are incorporated to Him through our baptismal death and resurrection, so too are we called to share in carrying the Holy Cross on which Our Lord was raised up amidst the scorn of the multitudes and, on which He died in victory over sin.
There is no doubt that to carry the cross is to suffer in this world. Nevertheless, the heights of the cross upon whch we are raised in this world in this world brings us closer to Our Father who is in Heaven and it is from upon the cross, in the midst of our sufferings in this world that Christ invites us to share in his victory. It is precisely through our experience of this mystery that we shall be able to receive in Heaven the merits of our redemption through Christ who is obedient unto death, death on the Cross, and it is for this reason that God has exalted Him and given Him a name that is above all other names. Just as the dawn of a new Spring will cast off the shadow of long nights of darkness, so we have been called by Christ to carry the radiant sign of victory with Him, that we may renounce our death through sin and enjoy the merits of new and eternal life.