Monday, September 14, 2015

Feast of the Holy Cross

Detail of my Summer 2015 Quarter Year Liturgical Calendar
September 14 - The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is one of the markers for the seasonal-liturgical calendar year. Holy Cross Day marked the beginning of monastic winter in some communities; the Rule of St. Benedict has a summer and winter schedule for the monks' working, eating, and prayer days, and as the days grew noticeably shorter, this was the point in which the schedule changed over--meals would be lighter since outdoor work would be decreasing. 

"From the Ides of September until the beginning of Lent
let them always take their dinner at the ninth hour.
But this evening hour shall be so determined
that they will not need the light of a lamp while eating,
Indeed at all seasons
let the hour, whether for supper or for dinner, be so arranged
that everything will be done by daylight."
--from Chapter 41 of the RSB

Holy Cross Day also is the marker for the Ember Days at the end of of summer, arriving near the autumnal equinox (September 23 this year) and before the next Quarter Day, Michaelmas (September 29). The Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, following the Sunday after Holy Cross Day (got that?), are the Ember Days, which are days of thanksgiving, prayer and fasting in appreciation of the harvest, the fruits of the earth and the fruits of the Spirit, all of which grow and nourish us, thanks to the grace of God. 

Ember Days at a glance
Reflect & orient oneself to the coming season 
Wednesday: give thanks for the harvest - devotion to Mary
Friday: we ask the Lord to bless our labors - light a candle and pray for the souls of loved ones 
Saturday: anticipating the celebration - pray for priests & vocations

These would be good days for garden clean up, planting new trees (before that first frost hits), preparing for colder and wetter days ahead. I have grapes and basil to harvest, as well as a lot of summer greens to clear up and out. The pumpkins and squash are doing great still, but you can feel the garden starting to die back with less sunlight and more cold days.  

Holy Cross is also my parish, so this is our patronal feast day. One Eastern Orthodox Christian practice I read about for Holy Cross is the veneration of the cross (on the vigil of the feast) by placing a small cross on a tray, surrounded by basil leaves and flowers. This would be part of the feast's liturgy, and would be venerated (kissed) and incensed in a procession. This idea could easily be adapted for home use as part of your family evening prayer time.