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St Helen Finds the True Cross (1) : The mother of the Roman Emperor goes to Jerusalem on a quest close to her heart.
St Helen Finds the True Cross
Part one

Based on ‘Elene’, by Cynewulf (possibly the 8th century bishop Cynewulf of Lindisfarne).

In AD 326 Helen, mother of Emperor Constantine the Great, went to the Holy Land to search for the cross on which Jesus Christ had been crucified. The story is told in one of the oldest pieces of English literature, the epic Anglo-Saxon poem ‘Helen’ by Cynewulf.

EMPEROR Constantine the Great secured his crown by displaying the sign of the Cross in battle, and soon afterwards, in 326, he encouraged his Christian mother, Helen, to go to Jerusalem to find Christ’s original, true Cross.

When Helen angrily accused the Jews of Jerusalem of Christ’s murder, they held an anxious conference: they quite genuinely knew nothing about it. But they discovered that one of them, Judas, had heard about Christ from his father, a secret believer, and handed him over to Helen.

Judas was mortally afraid of what Helen might do to those she blamed for Christ’s death, but love for his father, and a week in prison without food, convinced him to co-operate. He took Helen to Calvary, and there he prayed to be guided, as God had guided Moses to the burial-place of Jacob.

As he prayed, a mist silently gathered about a small, sweet-scented basil flower.* When Judas saw it, he clapped his hands in wonder and began digging, furiously.

* Celebrations of the feast of the Cross in the Eastern Churches use sweet basil in memory of this. The feast is held on September 14th, marking the day following the consecration of the church in Jerusalem, when the cross was brought out for the people and clergy to see and venerate.

Based on ‘Elene’, by Cynewulf (possibly the 8th century bishop Cynewulf of Lindisfarne).

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Picture: Photo by Tamerlan, Wikimedia Commons. Licence: Public domain. View original
This plaque in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem marks the place where the true cross was discovered on March 6th, 326.
Based on ‘Elene’ by Cynewulf
(8th century)

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