Homily given at Saint Teresa’s Motherhouse on September 14, 2020 on the Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross.
My dear Sisters in Christ and Our Lady of Mount Carmel –
“We should glory in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom is our salvation, life and resurrection, through whom we are saved and delivered.” Thus today’s entrance verse, which we have captured in song, sums up the theology and the sense of this magnificent feast. The symbol of the cross is everywhere in our world, in practically every room in this house, on buildings, in art, in architecture. The cross is presented in every color, every type of material, with many variations, and is used and misused endlessly and universally. The symbol of the cross can be so present, that it can, sadly, become invisible and without awareness, lose its power to move and affect us. We always need as human beings, and as believers, to think again and remind ourselves again, what the cross means and says. The motto of the Carthusians is priceless and so true: “The cross is steady while the world is turning.” Lord knows that we need this steady anchor of Christ, the whole Christ who died and rose for our salvation, as the point of reference today.
Today’s feast and Holy Cross is not precisely the feast and Holy Cross of Good Friday. Today’s cross focuses us on the triumph of Christ, the Exaltation of Christ, the victory of Christ, through His cross, over all forces and powers of darkness, chaos and evil in the world. We need to go back to this over and over again, because some days it just feels like the good guys are really taking a beating. The innocent, poor, elderly and good folks seem to suffer, and others walk free. Or, we get a taste of bitterness, and wonder what it all means? The believer, you and I, have to reset our thinking, our feelings back into the world of faith and say, with the old hymn, “The strife is o’er the battle done, now is the victor’s triumph won.” In Christ, and through the cross of Christ, the brightness of our loving God will triumph and shine. Have holy hope. We can’t stop the world, or even our lives some days from turning and turning. But we can hold steady with Our Lord, and His cross enables us to hold on and go ahead.
This feast is also very important for us as Carmelites. It is the only feast mentioned in our Rule. The Carmelite Order was born in the atmosphere of the Holy Land. We celebrated the Rite of the Holy Sepulcher late into the 20th century and, increasingly, the loss of this Rite and its spiritual dynamism is being seen as a loss. The Rite of the Holy Sepulcher and our spirituality came not from a fixation on the tomb of Christ, but the empty tomb of Christ, the Resurrected One. In the Carmelite Rite, there is no feast of Christ the King on the last Sunday before Advent, but Carmelites celebrated Easter again on that Sunday. Always, the Risen Christ present in our midst, and our being present to the Risen Christ, was the draw of our spirit. Today we would begin the fast of the Order, and it would extend until Easter. The Discalced Nuns hold on to this element, and renew their vows today, and again at the Easter Vigil right after the renewal of baptismal vows. In my Province, we renew our vows either today or on the Feast of St. Albert the Lawgiver, on Thursday.
The reading from the Book of Numbers begins today by telling us that Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert because the patience of the people was worn out. When our patience is worn out, and hopefully before it is, let us lift up our eyes to the cross, and remember the love and care of the one who said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.” And as we say every Saturday at Evening Prayer I of Sunday, Jesus emptied Himself, and took our human form, in obedience to death on the cross, so that He could bring us with him to victory and glory in the Father. Jesus, lifted high on the cross attained victory, and we can announce for all time, as He said to Nicodemus, “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.” This is the true, Good News. The world can revolve, but we will stay with Jesus and hold fast. “We adore you O Christ, and we praise you, because by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.”
Father Mario Esposito, O.Carm.
Avila On Hudson
September 14, 2020