The traditional Vespers hymn for the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross is Vexilla Regis, one of the greatest liturgical hymns in the Latin treasury.
I was reading over it last night to prepare a homily for today, and I was struck by the English translation given in the Mundelein Psalter. Although this particular translation actually adds a sentiment or two not present in the Latin, I found this line wonderfully enhanced: “Hail, holy altar . . . by which Life chose and welcomed death.” [Original: Salve, ara . . . que Vita mortem pertulit.]
Along with the many joys in your life, you can probably think of many crosses that have come your way. It’s not good enough, though, simply to have crosses in our lives. As Christians, we must “choose and welcome death.” Our crosses must become crucifixes!
We, ourselves, are to be the sacrificial victim. Jesus Christ is both Priest & Victim, and so must we be both. We must offer the sacrifice, and we must be the sacrifice. Only then, mysteriously, do our crosses become life-giving. We have to be able to say with St. Paul: “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in me.”
Everyone who is baptized has been anointed Priest, Prophet, & King, so we have been given the power to lay down our lives (John 10:18)—the power to “choose and welcome death.” Insofar as we exercise that power—that is the Triumph of the Cross!