Homilist Mary Jo Leddy, Celebration of the Feast of the Holy Cross, September 19, 2015
Each year our resident community at Holy Cross Priory, Toronto, celebrates our patronal festival with a Eucharist & Reception to which our Companions, Associates, friends and the wider community are invited. This year the Presider was our Bishop Visitor for Canada, Bishop Linda Nicholls
The Homilist was well-known author, activist and founder of Romero House for Refugees in Toronto, Mary Jo Leddy.
Suzette L. Cayless is a Companion of the Order of the Holy and the creator of the Order’s Tree of Life symbol. She and her husband, Anthony, who is also a Companion of the Order, travelled from their home in North Carolina to attend our celebration this year.
Mid-September brings a special feast; the observance of Holy Cross Day. Each year, the Order of the Holy Cross holds special celebrations on that day and we were fortunate to be at Holy Cross Priory in Toronto for their annual celebration. Associates, Companions, and friends of the Order gathered for a Eucharist and Reception with the Brothers. It was a lovely occasion as long time friends exchanged news and enjoyed the reunion.
The Order of the Holy Cross uses a symbol known as the Tree of Life Symbol. It depicts a simple cross, with a shadowy outline. In the centre of the design brances and twigs with new leaves spring from the wood of the cross.
Mary Jo Leddy illustrated her reflection on the joy and redemptive power of the crucifixion with this striking Spanish Icon of Jesus smiling on the Cross.I find this a very meaningful concept. All of us experience suffering of one kind or another and it can be all consuming. Yet as Christians we can be sure that the cross with its suffering is not the whole story. In the midst of suffering, God is at work through the Holy Spirit to create new life. Even while we may be suffering bodily or emotional pain, we can trust that such new life is springing up within us. This is where faith comes in as we learn to rely on the strength that God provides at all times and in all places. St. Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians wrote about “the foolishness of God”. In verse 25 of the first chapter he says: “For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” Here Paul is talking about the Cross, the method of death suffered by Jesus. To the world it seems incredible and indeed impossible that God would allow his Son to suffer this way. Yet this was what happened. God’s ways are indeed mysterious and quite opposite to what would be expected.
Often, when we think about the crucifixion of Jesus, we concentrate on the obvious—the suffering that Jesus endured. We ignore, forget, the fact of the resurrection. The Cross of Jesus indeed had at its heart the springing up of new life, of salvation, for each one of us. We cannot stay at the surface of things but need always to recognize the great mystery of that new life coming into being at the heart of the Cross.
As the Feast of the Holy Cross is celebrated each year I like to think of that Tree of Life symbol that brings to the fore the new life in Christ that is available to all.
Tree of Life graphic, created by Suzette L. Cayless for the Order of the Holy Cross
God of hope,
whose ways are mysterious
open our eyes to see your work
even in the darkest of situations.
God of love,
enable us to enter into the new life,
springing up at the heart of suffering
and available for each of us.
God of joy,
help us to celebrate not only
the dying of Jesus on the Cross
but more especially his glorious
God of faithfulness,
may we embrace the
cost of discipleship and
also the company of your son
on the road to life.
— Suzette L. Cayless