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How did St. Helena find the true cross of Jesus Christ?

Saint Helena

Renata Sedmakova | Shutterstock

Philip Kosloski - published on 08/18/21

Many miraculous healings occurred when St. Helena discovered a cross she believed was the true cross of Jesus Christ.

According to local tradition, in the 4th century St. Helena was inspired by God to travel to the Holy Land in search of the true cross of Jesus Christ.

It is believed that after Jesus’ death, the cross he was crucified on was hidden in a ditch, covered with stones so that the early Christians would not be able to venerate it. In the years that followed, a pagan shrine was also built upon the same site in honor of the goddess Venus, most likely constructed during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian.

There were a handful of people who knew where the true cross was hidden and had passed down that information among themselves over the centuries. One such person, a man named Judas, felt compelled to tell St. Helena where the relics of the true cross were buried.

The miraculous story is narrated in the Golden Legend.

Then Judas made himself ready and began to dig, and when he came to twenty paces deep he found three crosses and brought them to the queen, and because he knew not which was the cross of our Lord, he laid them in the middle of the city and abode the demonstrance of God; and about the hour of noon there was the corpse of a young man brought to be buried. Judas retained the bier, and laid upon it one of the crosses, and after the second, and when he laid on it the third, anon the body that was dead came again to life.

An alternative version of the story is found in the Roman Breviary.

Macarius, Bishop of Jerusalem, after offering solemn prayers to God, touched with each of the three a woman who was afflicted with a grievous disease. The two first had no effect, but at the touch of the third she was immediately healed.

Both stories have been passed down over the centuries and highlight the fact that three crosses were found, and in order to identify which one was the true cross, the sick were brought to it. When the sick were healed after touching one specific cross, St. Helena believed she found Jesus’ cross.

Whatever the validity of these stories, the tradition of St. Helena finding the cross reminds us that Jesus’ crucifixion was a real historical event and it is through his cross that our wounds are healed.

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