September 14 is known as the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and celebrates the glory of the cross of Christ by which we have been saved. It is also a day that commemorates the “Finding of the True Cross” by Saint Helena (Constantine’s mother) in the year 326. Historically, the finding of the true cross was celebrated May 3.
Small relics of the cross can now be found in great cathedrals as well as the humblest of country churches, and at one time individuals also claimed to possess relics. The prevalence of these relics prompted John Calvin to quip, “if all the pieces that could be found were collected together, they would make a big ship-load.”
Modern-day skeptics hold fast to Calvin’s assessment and claim that since there are so many “relics” of the true cross, Saint Helena never did find the cross and all of these relics are simple forgeries; pieces of ordinary wood encased in a gold container.
Well, is it true? If we gathered all the relics of the true cross and put them together, would it build a wooden ship that rivals Noah’s ark?
Myth or fact?
First of all, we need to dig into what history tells us about the finding of the true cross.
Tradition relates (confirmed by the contemporary sources of St. John Chrysostom, St. Ambrose, Rufinus, and Gelasius to name a few) that Saint Helena was inspired by God to travel to the Holy Land in search of the true cross of Jesus Christ. After Jesus’ death, the Jews hid the cross in a ditch, covering it with stones so that the early Christians would not be able to venerate it. In the years that followed, a pagan shrine was also built upon the same site in honor of the goddess Venus, most likely constructed during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian.
There were a handful of Jews who knew where the true cross was hidden and had passed down that information amongst themselves over the centuries. One such Jew, named Judas, felt compelled to tell Saint Helena where the relics of the true cross were buried.
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