EXALTATION OF THE HOLY CROSS HOMILY BY POPE ST. LEO THE GREAT

jesus crucified

           Homily by Pope St Leo the Great

                (8th on the Lord’s Passion)

Dearly beloved brethren, when we gaze upon Christ lifted up upon the Cross, the eyes of our mind see more than that which appeared before the wicked, unto whom it was said through Moses: “And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee, and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life.” (Deut. xxviii. 66.) They saw in the crucified Lord nothing but the work of their own wickedness, and “they feared greatly,” (Matth. xxvii. 54,) not with that faith which giveth earnest of life by justification, but with that whereby the evil conscience is tortured. But our understanding is enlightened by the Spirit of truth, and with pure and open hearts we see the glory of the Cross shining over heaven and earth, and discern by inward glance what the Lord meant when His Passion was nigh at hand, and He said: “Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things unto Me.”

O How wonderful is the power of the Cross! O how unutterable is the glory of the Passion, wherein standeth the Lord’s judgment-seat, and the judgment of this world, and the might of the Crucified! Lord! Thou hast drawn all things unto Thee! Thou didst spread out Thine Hands all the day unto an unbelieving and gainsaying people, (Isa. lxv. 2,) but the world hath felt and owned Thy Majesty! Lord! Thou hast drawn all things unto Thee! All the elements gave one wild cry of horror at the iniquity of the Jews—the lights of the firmament were darkened, day turned into night, earth quaked with strange tremblings, and all God’s work refused to serve the guilty. Lord! Thou hast drawn all things unto Thee! The veil of the Temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, the Holy of Holies denied itself as a Sanctuary for the ministration of unworthy Priests, that the shadow might be changed for the substance, prophecy for realization, and the Law for the Gospel.

Lord! Thou hast drawn all things unto Thee! That which was veiled under types and shadows in the one Jewish Temple, is hailed by the love of all peoples in full and open worship. There is now a higher order of Levites, a more honourable rank of elders, a Priesthood with a holier anointing. Thy Cross is a well of blessings for all, and a cause of thanksgiving for all. Thereby for them that believe in Thee, weakness is turned into strength, shame into glory, and death into life. The changing ordinance of divers carnal sacrifices is gone; the one oblation of Thy Body and Blood fulfilleth them all. For Thou art the Very Paschal Lamb, Which takest away the sins of the world, and art in Thyself all offerings finished. And even as Thou art the One Sacrifice Which taketh the place of all sacrifices, so may Thy kingdom be one kingdom established over all peoples.

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