So must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. 

Happy Roodmas! It’s funny to think that this was a common greeting between medieval Christians on this feast day. Although it sounds strange to us, the word “Rood” is the Middle English word for “cross,” so the greeting means, “Happy Cross Day!”

The story behind this celebration focuses on St. Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine. She is said to have been eighty years old when she made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem around AD 326. Her goal was to restore the holy sites of the city. Once there, she ordered the destruction of a Temple to the goddess Venus that had been built on Mount Calvary.

During an excavation of the site, three crosses were discovered. There was no way of knowing which cross was the one that held the Lord, so Helena had each of the crosses brought to a woman who was near death. Although the woman showed no improvement after touching the first two crosses, as soon as the woman touched the third one, she was immediately healed. The true cross had been found! To honor the Lord and commemorate this miraculous event, Helena and Constantine ordered that a grand church be built over the site.

It may seem odd to hunt so fervently, build a basilica, and have a feast day to celebrate the instrument of torture that killed the Son of God. But Helena knew that this cross is also the instrument of our salvation. She knew that the cross brings us forgiveness, healing from the wounds of sin, and strength for our journey to heaven.

St. Helena devoted herself to finding the true cross, and God rewarded her greatly for it. Today, let’s devote ourselves to finding the power of this cross in our lives: the power to heal, to save, and to strengthen all who gaze upon it in faith. Happy Roodmas!

“Lord, I come to your cross in thanksgiving for your sacrifice. Heal me. Forgive me. Strengthen me.”

Numbers 21:4-9
Psalm 78:1-2, 34-38
Philippians 2:6-11
John 3:13-17


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