This post may come a little late, and I should repost in the spring, but as we find ourselves harvesting our gardens and many of our plants going to seed, if we planted basil this year, we probably noticed its little white flowers. Hopefully we clipped the blooms to prevent it from seeding so the leaves last a few more days. We will want to take some as an offer to Liturgy on Saturday, September 14th as we celebrate the Elevation of the Holy Cross.
Here is the story of the Holy Cross I found on www.goarch.org the website for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
Saint Helen, the mother of Saint Constantine the Great, when she was already advanced in years, undertook, in her great piety, the hardships of a journey to Jerusalem in search of the cross, about the year 325. A temple to Aphrodite had been raised up by the Emperor Hadrian upon Golgotha, to defile and cover with oblivion the place where the saving Passion had been suffered. The venerable Helen had the statue of Aphrodite destroyed, and the earth removed, revealing the Tomb of our Lord, and three crosses. Of these, it was believed that one must be that of our Lord, the other two of the thieves crucified with Him; but Saint Helen was at a loss which one might be the Wood of our salvation. At the inspiration of Saint Macarius, Archbishop of Jerusalem, a lady of Jerusalem, who was already at the point of death from a certain disease, was brought to touch the crosses, and as soon as she came near to the Cross of our Lord, she was made perfectly whole. Consequently, the precious Cross was lifted on high by Archbishop Macarius of Jerusalem; as he stood on the ambo, and when the people beheld it, they cried out, "Lord have mercy." .
Another source described the tradition of the basil:
On the spot where the Cross was discovered, St. Helen had found a hitherto unknown flower of rare beauty and fragrance, which has been named “Vasiliko”, or Basil, meaning the flower of royalty. Note that the word “Vasiliko” means “of the King,” since the word “Basileus” in Greek means “King”; so, the plant Vasiliko, Basil, is tied to the Precious Cross of the King of Glory, our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, it is a tradition to bring basil to be blessed at today’s Divine Liturgy.
For the Feast of the Holy Cross, churches will decorate a tray of basil to surround a cross as a reminder of this history. Following the service, as people receive a blessing from the piece, we will receive a small spray to take home. I try to put the stems from my basil in water to root for next year. Caring for it all year is a good reminder of the value and importance of the Cross. Most times, I have to buy seeds because I didn't so such a good job. :)
We must remember to bring our children to church on Saturday, making this holy strict-fasting day a priority above soccer and other Saturday morning lessons. We must help our children navigate the many choices that they will have to make and by our example, model that the church calendar is our compass, our guide to living and experiencing a full Orthodox life.
Slow down this weekend. Attend Liturgy Saturday morning to honor the Cross and then again Sunday morning to honor Christ's resurrection. Plan a Lenten meal to cook for your family. Let us stop for a moment and reflect upon our cross that we carry. Let us raise it to our shoulders bravely and carry it as we follow Christ and His teachings, as taught through the Bible and Holy Tradition. For many of us, this "cross" is to decide that Liturgy is the most important thing this Saturday.