September 14 is Holy Cross Day, a Christian celebration dating to at least the seventh century. Did you know there’s a bold woman at the heart of Holy Cross Day?
Helena, a Christian, was the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, who ruled from 306 to 337 CE. With Constantine’s support, Helena led an expedition to find lost Christian holy sites and build Christian churches to honor them. As she traveled, she founded churches, hospitals, and hostels to serve the poor and destitute.
While in Jerusalem, according to tradition, Helena ordered a temple to the Roman goddess Venus be torn down. During excavation, three crosses were discovered, one of which had a board with the title “The King of the Jews” still attached. According to legend, it was the cross on which Jesus was crucified.
Constantine ordered the Church of the Holy Sepulcher—which still stands—be built over the spot where his mother had found the crosses. The church is big enough to enclose both Calvary and the empty tomb, both of which are sites of pilgrimage to this day.
This message is excerpted from “Did you know a bold woman is at the heart of holy cross day?” by Audrey Novak Riley from the September 14, 2020, blog of the Women of the ELCA. Today is Holy Cross Day.
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