Date(s) - September 14, 2021
The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, celebrated every year on September 14, recalls three events:
- The finding of the True Cross by Saint Helena.
- The dedication of churches built by Constantine on the site of the Holy Sepulchre and Mount Calvary.
- The restoration of the True Cross to Jerusalem in AD 629 by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius, after it had fallen into the hands of the Persian Emperor Chosroes II in the AD 614 Sasanian conquest of Jerusalem.
Under Emperor Constantine, around AD 327, Bishop Macarius of Jerusalem caused excavations to be made in order to ascertain the location of Calvary as well as that of the Holy Sepulchre. It was in the course of these excavations that the wood of the cross was recovered. It was determined by Macarius to be authentic (the crosses of the two thieves were also recovered) and for it Constantine built the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre.
The feast was observed in Rome before the end of the seventh century. However, the earliest recorded commemoration of 14 September as the feast day on a Western calendar is from the 7th century A.D.
In the Gallican usage, beginning about the seventh century, the Feast of the Cross was celebrated on May 3, and called “Crouchmas” (for “Cross Mass”) or “Roodmas”. When the Gallican and Roman practices were combined, the September date was assigned to commemorating the rescue of the cross from the Sassanid Persians, and the May date was kept as the Finding of the Holy Cross or Invention of the True Cross to commemorate the finding. (“Invention” is a rendering of the Latin term inventio meaning “discovery”.) Pope John XXIII removed this feast in 1960, so that the General Roman Calendar now celebrates both the finding and the exaltation of the Holy Cross on September 14, although some Latin American countries and Mexico still celebrate the feast of the finding on May 3. Some usus antiquior communities also observe the feast of the finding of the Holy Cross on May 3.