Reverend Clergy, Honorable Parish Council Members and Beloved Parishioners,
As we approach the Feast of the Holy Cross on September 14th, please remember to bring basil for the Feast of the Holy Cross. You can learn more about why we offer basil at church on the Feast of the Cross below:
If you purchase or have a potted basil plant you can bring it to the church, and we will keep them in the breezeway between the entrance and the chapel.
What is the significance of basil on the Feast of the Cross?
When St. Helen discovered the Cross, she found in surrounded by a fragrant plant as confirmation of it's authenticity. For this reason, the plant was called vasiliko or basil by St. Helen meaning "of the king." As we remember its miraculous discovery we offer basil in remembrance of God's providence and mercy. Ultimately, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem was constructed around His Tomb, as well as the site where the Holy Cross was recovered.
Following the Divine Liturgy on the Feast of the Cross, the priest distributes basil to all the faithful as a blessing. This basil can then be planted in your garden and used throughout the year, and even be used the following year for the next Feast of the Cross. Basil roots very easily when placed in water, and it can then be planted in your garden! It takes about a week for roots to grow.
What do we celebrate on the Feast of the Cross?
"In the twentieth year of his reign (326), the Emperor Constantine sent his mother Saint Helen to Jerusalem to venerate the holy places and to find the site of the Holy Sepulchre and of the Cross. Relying upon the oral tradition of the faithful, Saint Helen found the precious Cross together with the crosses of the two thieves crucified with our Lord. However, Helen had no way of determining which was the Cross of Christ.
With the healing of a dying woman who touched one of the crosses, Patriarch Macarius of Jerusalem identified the True Cross of Christ. Saint Helen and her court venerated the Precious and Life-Giving Cross along with many others who came to see this great instrument of Redemption.
The Patriarch mounted the ambo (pulpit) and lifted the Cross with both hands so that all of the people gathered could see it. The crowd responded with "Lord have mercy".
This became the occasion of the institution in all of the Churches of the Exaltation of the Precious Cross, not only in memory of the event of the finding of the Cross, but also to celebrate how an instrument of shame was used to overcome death and bring salvation and eternal life.
The Feast is an opportunity outside of the observances of Holy Week to celebrate the full significance of the victory of the Cross over the powers of the world, and the triumph of the wisdom of God through the Cross over the wisdom of this world. This Feast also gives the Church an opportunity to relish the full glory of the Cross as a source of light, hope and victory for Christ's people. It is also a time to celebrate the universality of the work of redemption accomplished through the Cross: the entire universe is seen through the light of the Cross, the new Tree of Life which provides nourishment for those who have been redeemed in Christ (from Goarch.org)."
Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology
We are blessed in the Boston-area to be so close to Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, our archdiocese's seminary and graduate school. Hellenic College Holy Cross also has a relic of the Holy Cross which is brought out for veneration on the Feast of the Cross.
Not only is the feast a beautiful celebration, but is significant for the students of the school and our archdiocese. Every year at the great vespers of the feast on September 13th, rising seniors in the School of Theology receive the blessing from Archbishop DIMITRIOS of America to wear the exorasson, a black robe worn over the anderi. This practice has come to symbolize the blessing to preach, and inaugurates a new period in these students' formation as they begin preaching in their final year.
As we approach the Feast of the Holy Cross, please keep our school, its teachers, staff and students in prayer.