Fr. Justin Sheehan, OCSO
Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Today’s feast has been considered from many different angles, but this morning I’d like to look at it from the viewpoint of the Cross itself. It comes from an anonymous Anglo-Saxon poem entitled The Dream of the Rood. This is what the Cross says:
“Many years ago – the memory abides –
I was felled to the ground at the forest’s edge,
Severed from my roots. Enemies seized me,
Made of me a mark of scorn for criminals to mount on;
Shoulder-high they carried me and set me on a hill.
“Many foes made me fast there. Far off then I saw
The King of all mankind coming in great haste,
With courage keen, eager to climb me.
“I did not dare, against my Lord’s dictate,
To bow down or break, though I beheld tremble
The earth’s four corners. I could easily
Have felled his foes; yet fixed and firm I stood.
“Then the young Warrior – it was God Almighty –
Strong and steadfast, stripped himself for battle;
He climbed up on the high gallows, constant in his purpose,
Mounted it in sight of many, mankind to ransom.
“Horror seized me when the Hero clasped me,
But I dared not bow or bend down to earth,
Nor falter, nor fall; firm I needs must stand.
“I was raised up a Rood, a royal King I bore,
The High King of Heaven: hold firm I must.
They drove dark nails through me, the dire wounds still show,
Cruel gaping gashes, yet I dared not give as good.
They taunted the two of us; I was wet with teeming blood,
Streaming from the Warrior’s side when he sent forth his spirit.
“High upon that hill helpless I suffered
Long hours of torment; I saw the Lord of Hosts
Outstretched in agony; all embracing darkness
Covered with thick clouds the corpse of the world’s Ruler;
The bright day was darkened by a deep shadow,
All its colors clouded; the whole creation wept,
Bewailing its King’s fall; Christ was on the Rood.”
And now I give you bidding, O man beloved,
Reveal this Vision to the children of man,
And clearly tell of the Tree of glory
Whereon God suffered for man’s many sins
And the evil that Adam once wrought of old.