The Exaltation of the Holy Cross
By Sr. Fidelis
Today is the Feast day sometimes called “Holy Cross.” The origin of this feast is found in Jerusalem at the commemoration of the finding of the True Cross of Christ, and Constantine’s building of churches on the sites of the Holy Sepulchre and Calvary. In 335, these churches were dedicated on the 13th and 14th of September by all the bishops with great solemnity. By the end of the 7th century, this feast appeared in Rome as well.
In both the Divine Office and the Eucharist, we find many elements for this great Feast from the Holy Week and Good Friday Liturgies. It is a wonderful “remembrance” of these events in our Lord’s Passion. The hymns for both Lauds and Vespers are the ones used during Holy Week.
The Gradual for Holy Cross, Christus Factus Est, is the same one chanted on Palm Sunday, and then again sung in 3 segments during the Divine Office of the Triduum. The text is Philippians 2:8 & 9, Christ became obedient for us, unto death, even to death upon the cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him, and given him the name which is above every name.
This chant is in Mode 5, with a reciting note of DO and a home tone of FA. Despite its complexity, one can find these anchor pitches easily, especially in the body of the piece, which begins and ends on FA. The versicle, which opens the 2nd part of the chant, also begins on FA, but notice that the clef has been moved down to the 2nd line! This is to incorporate the high range of this piece, especially on the word “illum.” Christus Factus Est is one of the most famous of all Graduals for its expression and meaning. Listen and follow along, as it transports us back to Holy Week and the Triduum.