Good Friday in September
On 14 September the Church celebrates Holy Cross Day. While Good Friday is dedicated to the Passion of Christ, Holy Cross day celebrates the cross itself, as the instrument of our salvation.
According to tradition, the true Cross was discovered in 326 by Helena, mother of Constantine, the Roman emperor, during a pilgrimage she made to Jerusalem. The church of the Holy Sepulchre was then built at the site of the discovery, by order of Helena and Constantine. The 14 September marks the dedication of the church in 335.
The emphasis on this feast is of the glory of the cross and its life-giving nature. Some crucifixes in churches reflect this by showing Christ not hanging in agony on the cross, but vested as Christ, King and Priest – reigning from the tree.
In Hereford Cathedral we have a wonderful depiction of the crucifixion in our Lady Chapel. The chapel contains glass from the 13th century. The glass is from a Munich workshop and was originally in St Peter’s Hereford and was removed from there in the 1820s. Somehow or other, the cathedral took possession of it and now it is celebrated as the very oldest stained glass in the cathedral. One panel shows the arbor vitae, or ‘tree of life’, in which Christ is shown, carrying a vividly green cross – green the colour of life. The message is clear – the cross is the means of Christ’s shameful death but it is also the means of his life for us today.
Of all the texts we might associate with this, perhaps those words from John’s gospel express it best:
‘I, if I be lifted up, will draw all unto me’.
As Christians, we are called upon to bear a cross – but it is a green cross – a message of hope for our broken world.
Yes, there is grief and despair all around but we have the means, through our faith and selfgiving, to transform that grief, through the knowledge of Christ’s death and resurrection.
I love these words by D H Lawrence (1885-1930)
The phoenix renews her youth only when she is burnt, burnt alive, burnt down to hot and flocculent ash. Then the small stirring of a new small bub in the nest with strands of down like floating ash shows that she is renewing her youth like the eagle, immortal bird.