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The Invention of the Holy Cross (I)

The Invention of the Holy Cross (I)

Recalling the ancient feast of the Holy Cross (May 3), now fused with that of the Exaltation of the Cross, I want to talk a little about this "invention" of the Cross, the date and details are sketchy, as well as unreliable by the contradictions in stories:

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (March 18), being a priest (at 345), had among its duties to instruct the catechumens of the city. In some of his teachings, Cyril mentioned "the wood of the True Cross, which is among us today", and even said that some parts were already scattered around the world. Later, in 351, already Patriarch of Jerusalem, wrote to the Emperor Constantius, clearly stating that "the log of salvation, was found in Jerusalem" in the days of his father Constantine the Great.

St. John Chrysostom (September 13) referred in his homily 58 to the finding of  the Cross, and was identified by the title, but did not make reference to the nails, much less to St. Helena (18 August, in the image) .

Rufino, who lived in Jerusalem between 374 and 397, expanded in the year 400 the "Ecclesiastical History" of Eusebius. It says that on Calvary had built a temple to Venus, to clear the place of worship of Christians. So the place was known by all as the Calvary. It says that Helena   destroyed the temple, dug through the ruins and found three crosses, along with the title, but this was apart of the crosses, and could not identify the one of the Savior. Then, on the advice of St. Macarius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, touched a sick person with the three crosses, and to be healed with the touch of one, it was decided that the cross of Christ. They were also found the nails, which gave two to his son Constantine, who put one in the bridle of his horse, and another in his crown. He reported that Elena sent a part of the cross to his son, while the rest were kept in a silver casket in Jerusalem. (1)

In 488 the elder Socrates, in his extension of the "Ecclesiastical History" (I, chapter 13) reaffirms this legend, adding that Constantine placed the fragment of the cross that was given by his mother, a pillar of porphyry in the forum Constantinople,  meant that he did not took it  to Rome. As for the nails, said that during the sea voyage back to Rome, there arose a tempest, and Helena tied a nail with a rope, threw it into the sea and this calmed down. Sozomen on the same date, adds some more details as to the location of the tomb of the Lord was discovered by a Jew, whose father had told him where I was, and that the true cross was distinguished from the other two healing a sick woman (and not a man), but also by the return to life of a dead  man.

The most solemn reference to the finding of the Cross by Saint Helena, makes St. Ambrose of Milan (December 7) in the funeral sermon by the Emperor Theodosius. Giving the fact of history without hesitation. And from then until today. But, as usual, a simple reference source, are added minute details that make the legend made into a quirky and full of nonsense. Thus was born the "Acts of Ciriaco", a jew named Judas and assistant to the finding, which became (and was named Ciriaco) to see the wonders of Santa Cruz.

Also invented a spurious letter of Pope St. Eusebius (September 26) to the bishops of Campania and Tuscany, which says: "The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, has been discovered recently (...) on 4 May. Command all celebrate Day said solemnly the feast of the Invention of the Cross". (2) Anastasius the Librarian, in his "Lives of the Popes", by recounting the life of St. Eusebius, says: "In its time it was discovered the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ on May 4, and Judas was baptized, that is the same Ciriaco."

In the V century, the Armenian historian Moses of Khorene says "Constantine sent his mother, Helen, to Jerusalem, so she could find the cross  Elena found the  savior log, along with five nails." In the eighth century, St. Andrew of Crete says it all happened in 303, and gives an interesting version: St. Elena threw Judas the Jew down a well, and kept him there until he confessed wich one was  the true cross. Already converted to Christianity, Judas (not renamed here) was a priest and bishop of Jerusalem.

It must be said that Pope St. Gelasius I (20 November) condemned this legend in his decree "Recipiendis Libris" in 496 (ie, newborn the canard). And in his "Corpus Juris Canonici" in a section called "De inventione Crucis", it names these stories as apocryphal  and modern, and orders should not be read by Catholics. But in vain because the people liked were read in the liturgy, from antiquity to commemorate the "fact" of the discovery. (3)

In the Middle Ages these legends were accepted and expanded by many of the medieval chroniclers, and Regino of Priim (tenth century), who says "The cross of our Lord was found by Judas, but, as we read in the Acts of the Romans Popes, was under Constantius, the father of Constantine, and was discovered while Eusebio was the Pope of Rome. This Judas was the son of Simon, brother of St. Stephen the first martyr, and grandson of Zechariah. Judas had heard of his father Simon’s site in which they found the cross and the grave, and went and revealed to Santa Elena. Judas was given the name of Ciriaco, by Pope Eusebius, or as some say, by Pope Sylvester." In other words, a nephew of St. Stephen is still alive three centuries after Christ, when he allegedly found the cross!

And here suffice as strokes, references added documentaries and legends in the history of the Church. In the next article, the contradictions and conclusions.

By Ramon Rabre (text) and Marco Antonio Martinez Ruvalcaba (translation)


(1) I. Ecclesiastical History Chapters 7 and 8.
(2) This letter is one of the Pseudo-Isidore forgeries inserted in the collection of decrees attributed to St. Isidore.
(3) The antiphons of Lauds on the feast of the Invention of the Cross, in the Breviary of Trier, is one example. Take data from apocryphal works condemned by St. Gelasius, being this is the only remaining relic literiaria a liturgical service.

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