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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. 1. What is the purpose of the veneration of the Holy Cross during the Holy Week?

A. 1. The veneration of the Holy Cross finds its origin in 326. On a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Saint Helen, found a piece of the original Cross. Since then, on every Good Friday, Catholics have been venerating the Holy Cross.

The practice has been that the Bishopo would place the relic of the Holy Cross on a table in the chapel of the Crucifixion. The believers would approach it, touching brow and eyes and lips to the wood as the priest would say: "Behold, the Wood of the Cross."

Because Catholics venerate a Crucifix (Cross with the Body of Christ on it), that does not mean that they are adoring an object, but rather, what it represents. By kneeling before a Crucifix and kissing it, we are paying the highest honour to our Lord's Cross as the instrument of our salvation. In view of the fact that the Cross is inseparable from the sacrifice of Jesus, by showing reverence to the Holy Cross, in effect, we are adoring Our Lord Jesus Christ. That is why we affirm: 'We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee because by Thy Holy Cross Thou has redeemed the World.'

I quote the following from the 1908 Catholic Encyclopedia:

"In A.D. 787, the Second Council of Nica held for the purpose of reforming abuses and putting an end to the disputes of Iconoclasm, fixed, once for all, the Catholic doctrine and discipline on this point. It defined that the veneration of the faithful was due to the form "of the precious and vivifying cross", as well as to images or representations of Christ, of the Blessed Virgin, and of the saints. But the council points out that we must not render to these objects the cult of latria, "which, according to the teaching of the faith, belongs to the Divine nature alone..."

"The honour paid to the image passes to the prototype; and he who adores the image, adores the person whom it represents. Thus the doctrine of our holy fathers obtains in all its force: the tradition of the Holy Catholic Church which from one end of the earth to the other has received the gospel." This decree was renewed at the Eighth cumenical Council at Constantinople, in 869 (can. iii). The council clearly distinguishes between the "salutation" (aspasmos) and "veneration" (proskynesis) due to the cross, and the "true adoration" (alethine latreia), which should not be paid to it. Theodore the Studite, the great adversary of the Iconoclasts, also makes a very exact distinction between the adoratio relativa (proskynesis schetike) and adoration properly so called."

"Again, it should be noted that the cult of images and relics is not that of latria, which is the adoration due to God alone, but is, as the Second Council of Nica teaches, a relative veneration paid to the image or relic and referring to that which it represents. Precisely this same doctrine is repeated in Sess. XXV of the Council of Trent: "Images are not to be worshipped because it is believed that some divinity or power resides in them and that they must be worshipped on that account, or because we ought to ask anything of them, or because we should put our trust in them, as was done by the gentiles of old who placed their hope in idols but because the honour which is shown to them is referred to the prototypes which they represent; so that through the images which we kiss, and before which we kneel, we may adore Christ, and venerate the saints, whose resemblances they bear."

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