The “Vexilla Regis”


The feast of the Triumph of the Cross that we celebrated this Sunday, September 14, reminds us of the mystery of the Redemption. let us meditate on this mystery by following the hymn of “Veilla Regis” that the Church places on the lips of priests in the Vespers chant of this feast.


Let us at first keep in mind the beautiful words of Saint Paul to the Galatians which make up the introit of the Mass of the feast of the triumph of the Cross. Saint Paul gives us the deep meaning of this mystery of the Redemption: “For us, all our glory is in the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ in which is our salvation, our life and our resurrection - in quo est salus, vita et resurrectio - by which we have been saved and freed - per quem salvati et liberati sumus “. (Gal. 6:14).


All is said and done here. Our salvation is accomplished by the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by this sacrificial act on the wood of the Cross. Our salvation, our life, our redemption depends on it. Also our glory is found exclusively in it, not in our merits. This sacrifice, offered on the altar of the Cross by our Lord Jesus Christ is a saving act, being theandric, divine and human all at the same time. In him, by the grace of him, is accomplished the remission of sins. This is expressed in the very formula of the consecration of the wine into the blood of Christ: “For this is the Chalice of My Blood... which shall be shed for you and for many unto the forgiveness of sins”.


Thus the reasons why we must worship this Lord and Master.


In Him and in his Cross is all hope, the hope of eternal life. In Him and in it is glory. The glory of Eternity.


In Him and in it is our salvation, our liberation from the slavery of Satan because in it and in Him lies the remission of our sins.


What a marvelous mystery!


Let us penetrate it a little, by meditating on the “Vexilla Regis” which is important to learn by heart, to instill upon the still fresh memories of our children.


“The standards of the king advance

“It is the mystery of the Cross”


 Vexilla Regis prodeunt

Fulget Crucis Mysterium


 It is better to give to the verb “fulgere” its own sense and to translate it as “flashes forth the mystery of the Cross”. It signifies: “to launch shafts of lightning, to flash, to burst forth. It suggests the idea of a lightning action, exploding. We will translate it as “The standards of the King advance. Flashes forth the Mystery of the Cross”.


The Cross is the standard of Our Lord, the Redeemer. It is the flashing symbol, a symbol where the Victory of Christ shines over the devil. It will be present upon the return in glory of Our Lord Jesus Christ where his Lordship will definitely shine over all things, over all the living. It is then the “pride” of the Lord. It has presided at his victory. It is His glory. He holds up his luminous cross as Saint Joan of Arc did with her standard. “He underwent pain, she states, it is legitimate that He be honoured”. This is the Cross of Our Lord. It underwent pain. It will be honoured. “The standards of the King advance. Flashes forth the mystery of the Cross”.


“Flashes forth the Mystery of the Cross where Life was subject to Death.

“Producing by death life”

“Qua Vita mortem pertulit

“Et morta vitam protulit

Here is expressed the mystery of faith, the reason of our attachment to the Cross. All the mystery of the Cross is in this opposition between life and death. It brings us life. Since this time, it is the reason for our eschatological hope.


“Life was subject to death”. Pertulit” de “perfero”, a verb which means “bringing right to the end”, “holding up to the end”. Life, i.e. Our Lord endured, supported up to the end, right to the end of suffering, of death. It is the “usque ad finem” of Saint John. “Before the feast of the Passover, Jesus, knowing that His hour was at hand, to pass from this world to His Father, after having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (Jn. 13:1)


“Qua Vita mortem pertulit


Life! Yet, it is Our Lord Jesus Christ himself. Thus He defines himself. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”. He is life. He is the principle. The principle of every being. Anything that is is not without Him. Saint John proclaims Him as: “In Him is life, and the Life is the light of the world”.


“All things were made by Him and nothing that had been made had not been made without Him”.


And because Life had not been received: “He came to his heritage, and his own did not receive him”. He underwent death. Pertulit mortem”. He went up to that point.


Well then, I remember, in the faith, this crucifixion, this manifestation of love. “There is no greater love than a man lay down his life for those he loves”. And since this time, this crucifixion appears to me, as Saint Bernard wrote, “a sting of love” from which I feel the bite. I am wounded from love, as the Song of songs says.


“I see King Solomon, Saint Bernard yet says, with the diadem with which his mother crowned him. I see the sole Son of the Father carrying his cross. I see the God of majesty covered with wounds and soiled with spit, the author of life and of glory, nailed to the wood, pierced by a lance thrust, saturated with ignominy and who at last gives to his friends his soul so cherished. I see all this and the sword of love pierces my heart... I see Life become death”. (Treatise of the love of God. Saint Bernard). “Qua Vita mortem pertulit”.


Yet by this death, I see life flourish again. “Et morte vitam protulit”. By this obedience of the perfect Son, by this gift of all of himself, I see the justice of God appeased, satisfied. The original fault is no longer. Eternal punishment is no longer to be feared. Our Lord, in His cross, has done enough, has even done superabundantly. His act of love, his act of justice and of mercy, his act of obedience “usque ad crucem”, though theandric, has done more than enough. He has superabundantly ransomed the malice of original sin. His offering on the cross was the ransom, the wages of the ransom, “the spilled sum” of the liberation of the fallen victim, indeed, in the sin of Adam, in the blows of Satan, in slavery and in death. An act of infinite malice, sin, because it is addressed to God, aversio a Deo, infinite Majesty, has been superabundantly compensated by the act of Christ the Lord, in His passion. A theandric act. An act divine and human all at the same time and, thus, an act of infinite goodness, since all acts are relayed to the person and, in this case, this person is God.


This theandric act is, since the time of our liberation, our deliverance, our life, our reconciliation with God. Adam was the principle of our death, of our decline, of our slavery. Our Lord, the New Adam, is the principle of our deliverance, of our liberation, of our freedom. This theandric act of Christ is the whole redeeming mystery. Thus, with Saint Bernard, I can say in contemplating the Cross: “I finally see death put to death and the author of death led behind the chariot of the One who triumphs. I see captivity captive”. (Treatise of the love of God) It is what the Vexilla regis says, under a poetic mode: “Qua Vita mortem pertulit et morte vitam prolulit” And Saint Bernard comments: “”And from the cross, life again sprung forth anew”. “I perceive that the earth, which is under the ancient malediction, would only produce brambles and thistles...death..., flourishes anew, under the effect of a new benediction which makes it young again”. And again Saint Bernard says concerning the subject of Christ, crucified, died, resurrected: “His flesh, sown in death, anew in the resurrection and his fragrance, spread throughout the fields of our valley of tears, has made green again the deserts, heated up frozen plants, brought life to all that was dead”. “Et morte vitam proluit”. For Christ, truly, died in order to expiate for us, in our place, our sins. It is the dogma of the Redemption that the prophet Isaiah expresses so well in the poem of the suffering Servant: “Truly, it was our illnesses that he carried and our pains that he took upon himself...He had been pierced because of our sins, bruised for our iniquities. The punishment which brings us peace had been placed unto him and it is by his wounds we are healed...Yahweh made the iniquity of us all fall upon him... But when his soul will have offered the expiatory sacrifice, he will see a posterity (Life), he will prolong his days...” (Is. 53)


And since then, I can understand this beautiful strophe of the Vexilla Regis:


Beata (crux) cuius brachiis

“Blessed cross whose beams

had withstood the price of the world

pretium pependit saeculi

pretium”: The ransom for the liberation of the world, a slave of Satan


“Et statera facta corporis

“Balance where the body is weighed

Tutitque praedam tartari

“Who ravishes the prey to Hell


And if that is the way it is with the mystery, one will understand then the exclamation of the following strophe, especially sung at the time of the pascal Triduum: “O crux, ave, spes unica” “O Cross, salvation, sole hope”. Sole hope of salvation, “For you have washed away (or annihilated) the sins of the guilty”. “dele crimina”. The verb “delere” means: to erase, destroy, ruin, annihilate, exterminate”.

Sole hope for you are the sole source of salvation. “Te, fons salutis”. Because you carried, because on you hung the sole capable victim, because both human and divine, to expiate our sins, to repair the infinite offense of original sin. “This is the chalice of My blood...which will be shed for you and for many unto the forgiveness of sins”.


Thus this cry of thanksgiving, of praise and of love should spring from our hearts: “Te fons salutis, Trinitas collaudet omnis spiritus”. O Cross, source of salvation, that every spirit, every creature, O Holy Trinity, give You glory. Praise You. Collaudare”. Let us note the choice of this verb: “Col-laudare”, for cum-laudare. This glory, this praise should be an act, a collective chant, from all. There is no question of the “gloria” which is a hymn in honour of Our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Holy Trinity, being the act of one sole person. Of one sole priest. “Omnis spiritus collaudat Deitatem” because it is the source of salvation and of hope. Fons salutis”.


“By the Cross you have made us win. Give us as well the crown”

Quibus Crucis victoriam

Largiris, adde praemium


Thus, before the Cross of Our lord, I can only express this prayer of Saint Bernard: “I will love You, Lord, You who are my strength, my support, my refuge, my liberator and all that is desirable and adorable. My God, my help, I will love You for your gifts, and up to my measure which will indeed be below the just measure, yet not inferior to my power to love. For as long as I can give as much as I should, I would not go beyond my power. Without any doubt, will I be capable of loving more when you will deign to bring me more love, and however I would never love to the proportion to which You merit. Your eyes have seen my imperfection, but in your book will have been written the names of those who do all they can, even if they cannot do all that they should.” (Treatise of the love of God)