Father Artemio Vitores was the principal concelebrant of the Mess of the Invention of the Holy Cross on Sunday May 7th and Monday May 8th at the Holy Sepulcher.
This May feast day does not figure in the Roman calendar except in Jerusalem, where it is an optional memorial for the Patriarchate and a solemnity for the Custody of the Holy Land. The elders among us recall that before the reform of the Roman calendar, the feast was observed on May 3. In fact, it was in 1955 that Pope Pius XII instituted the feast day of Saint Joseph the Worker on May first, thus displacing the feast of Saints Philip and James to May 3rd. The feast of the Holy Cross disappeared in the liturgical shuffle that eliminated double feasts, while the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on September 14th was retained.
In Jerusalem, however, where the Holy Cross was found not far from Calvary in 326 by Saint Helena, Emperor Constantine’s mother, the memorial of the “invention” is retained.
The date chosen for this commemoration is May seventh. It was on the seventh of May, 351, that “an enormous, brilliantly lit cross appeared in the sky above holy Golgotha, extending as far as the Mount of Olives” (Letter of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem to the Emperor Constance, 351). This date, therefore, was absolutely indicated. On the one hand, it made it possible to remain in Easter Time, thus uniting the mystery of the Cross and the mystery of the Resurrection. On the other hand, it is still close to the original date, and also joins an ancient Oriental tradition related to the Cross, since the Oriental Churches have never stopped commemorating this vision in the skies of Jerusalem. This year, May 7 falls on the same day as the Armenian feast day, since it was deferred to the eighth.
The celebrations began on Sunday afternoon with the Franciscans’ daily procession in the basilica. However, unlike the usual procession, upon reaching Saint Helena’s Grotto it was suspended while the assembled Community sang First Vespers in front of the relic of the Holy Cross, exposed in the Crypt, bedecked with its most beautiful ornaments for the feast, though it is normally exposed to pilgrims’ gaze in a starkness that sharply contrasts with the rest of the Basilica of the Resurrection. The Mass, also celebrated in Saint Helena’s Crypt, ends with a solemn procession around the aedicule of the sepulcher. The celebrations took place in a paschal spirit, but far removed from the effervescence that reigned in the Basilica of the Resurrection on Easter and during the Octave. An intimate feast day, then, a prayerful feast day and much joy for all the faithful.
To read the homily of Father Artemio Vìtores, click here (in Italian).