by Ken Rolheiser
Happy Roodmas and celebrating the Cross of Christ

Medieval Christians greeted each other with “Happy Roodmas” on the feast of the Exhaltation of the Cross which we celebrate on September 14. There is a great story behind this tradition, but first let us recall the beginning of this powerful celebration.

There’s a serpent on the cross that comes with promised hope. Cold morning dew dripping down its bronze tail. It hangs on a cross erected in a camp at the foot of the unforgiving Sinai.

Would help come from a mere serpent made of bronze? …it has panacea that suffocates our snake bites wounds with anti-venom. It saves our wailing women and dying children.

…A dark cloud occasionally descends from the mountain, shaking the earth with his undeniable presence. Lights that crawl on perpetual fog escort the rumbling voice . He frightens, he frightens, and yes he frightens, yet we in our hearts know he is our only hope to the land of honey. (From

A little further on in the text we read: “Condemned by Romans, son of Joseph is nailed on the cross. His blood, it is said, will sanctify the sins of humanity. It will clear the iniquities. If and only if you look up to the cross for that help.”

In this poetic version we read of the serpent on the cross which saved all those bitten by the poisonous snakes. (Numbers 21:8). Later centuries reflect our further search to understand the power of the Cross. St Helena, Emperor Constantine’s mother, devoted her life to finding this power.

In AD 326 Helena ordered the destruction of the temple to Venus that had been built on Mount Calvary. In the excavations they discovered three wooden crosses. Not sure which was the Cross of Christ, a dying woman touched each cross in turn. When she touched the third cross she was immediately healed.

A basilica was built on the site to celebrate that the instrument of torture that killed the Son of God brings forgiveness of sin and strength on our journey to heaven. So many miraculous events relate to the Cross of Christ

When Christ died on the Cross, Darkness came over the land, the Temple veil that covered the entrance to the Holy of Holies was torn in two, the earth shook and the rocks split. Graves opened and the saints came out, and after the resurrection they appeared to many people, and many were converted, like the Centurion: “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Miraculous events concerning the Cross of Christ continue. One of the most celebrated is the Miraculous Crucifix of Limpias, Spain. In 1914 a workman fixing an electric light above the alter supporting his ladder began cleaning the crucifix. The eyes of the corpus closed and opened. He fell from the ladder but recovered normally.

Many others witnessed movement from the figure on the cross, including the struggle for the final breath of Christ as he expired. Eye movements are the most frequently observed by the devout and pious as well as non-believers.

Lives are changed by the Cross. Our fears turn into hope. Forgiveness and new beginnings give our lives new purpose.

“If your lips confess that Jesus is Lord, and if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved.” Rom. 10:9. 

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