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Two Feasts on the Holy Cross

On Wednesday and Thursday of this week, the Church celebrates the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and Our Lady of Sorrows, respectively. These two feasts, always celebrated back-to-back on September 14 and 15, give us a chance to deepen our devotion to our Lord, his cross, and also our Lady. Here is a little background on each of the feast days:

The Exaltation of the Holy CrossYEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF THE EXALTATION OF THE HOLY CROSS (1) -  Catholic For Life

This feast day has its origins in three events:

  1. The finding of the True Cross by Saint Helena in 320.
  2. The dedication of the Anastasis and Calvarium which were built by Constantine in 335. These churches were destroyed in 614, rebuilt in 626, and destroyed again in 1009. The current Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built in 1149 stands on the original site.
  3. The restoration of the True Cross to Jerusalem in 629 by Byzantine Emperor Heraclius.

This feast has been observed throughout the Roman Church since the seventh century. The readings and prayers for this liturgy are a mixture of sorrow and triumph as we recall his suffering but rejoice that he has defeated sin and death.

Our Lady of Sorrows, by Pieter Pourbus, 1556Our Lady of Sorrows

This memorial remembers the Seven Sorrows of Mary, but especially focuses on the sorrows she experienced at Jesus’s passion. Observed as early as the twelfth century, its celebration used to be on the Friday before Palm Sunday. Pope Pius X moved it to September 15 in 1913 to pair it with the Feast of the Holy Cross.

Following the psalm, the sequence Stabat Mater Dolorosa (At the Cross Her Station Keeping) may be sung. This hymn is also commonly used at the Stations of the Cross.


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