Crucem Tuam Adoremus
The church of Pope St Marcellus where today's Station is held was one of Rome's twenty-five parish churches and is situated just down the Via Lata from yesterday's Station at Santa Maria in Via Lata. It was originally the dwelling of the matron Lucina who sheltered Pope St Marcellus who was being persecuted by the Emperor Maxentius. Later she converted her house into a church and dedicated it to the martyred pontiff whose body lies under the altar. The titulus Marcelli dates to 418 and Pope Boniface I was elected here.
"We adore thee O Christ and we bless thee: because by thy Holy Cross thou hast redeemed the world."
This versicle is traditionally intoned before each Station of the Cross and is an apt key into today's readings. Daniel's account of the three young men who defy Nebuchadnezzar reminds us that, like St Marcellus, one would rather suffer martyrdom than to bend the knee before a false god. As such, when the above versicle is sung, we genuflect and adore the Lord who alone can save us, the One True God who can and does deliver us out of the hands of tyrants and proud powers and principalities (cf Dan 3:15) by the power of the Cross; and the greatest enemy that the Lord overcomes by His Cross is Death.
The medieval English practice of 'creeping to the cross' acknowledged this, as even rulers and potentates humbly and barefooted approached the relic of the True Cross. As the Catholic Encyclopaedia describes: "St. Louis of France and other pious princes dressed themselves in haircloth and crept to the cross barefoot. At present, instead of creeping to the cross on hands and knees, three profound double genuflexions are made before kissing the feet of the crucifix, and the sacred ministers remove their shoes when performing the ceremony." The practice of the triple genuflexions is retained in our Dominican custom.
Indeed, there is a great love for the Cross in the Dominican family, above all in our holy father, St Dominic, who often prayed before an image of Christ Crucified. The Florentine friar Savonarola, who was killed for preaching the truth and whose zeal blinded him to the politics of the age preached the following sermon on the Holy Cross, exhorting us to contemplate the Cross and see in it our God of love, the Love which heals, delivers and saves. It is for this reason that we bend our knees on Good Friday and creep to the Cross, adoring the One who died for our salvation upon the Tree of Life:
"Behold, let us show you the crucified Christ: he is our true love. O, how this Crucified One is Love itself!... Truly you have all the conditions of loving, O Lord Jesus. Truly, you are true love. I gaze upon your hands, feet, head, your holy mouth, and your whole body, and you are all love."
May St Marcellus and all the holy martyrs guide us to the Holy Cross, where there is fullness of redemption.