holy cross day

holy cross day

“Discovery of the True Cross” by Agnolo Gaddi (14th century)

I saw glory’s tree honored with trappings,
shining with joys, decked with gold;
gems had wrapped that forest tree worthily round.


— from “The Dream of the Rood” trans. Jonathan A. Glenn (1982)

Many Christians celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross—also known as Holy Cross Day, Holy Rood Day, or Roodmas—each year on September 14th. Holy Cross Day commemorates both the discovery of the True Cross in 320 A.D., and the anniversary of the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 335 A.D.1

Although this feast day was established at the end of the seventh century, its roots lie in the early fourth century, when Saint Helena embarked on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in an attempt to discover the True Cross—the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified.2

st. helena’s pilgrimage

St. Helena, who was in her sixties when she made her pilgrimage, had begun her life as a pagan but converted to Christianity later in life, possibly due to the influence of her son, Emperor Constantine I. Constantine fundamentally changed the course of history in 313 A.D. with his issuing of the Edict of Milan, an agreement that gave full religious liberty to Christians.3 Prior to the Edict, Christianity had been illegal and Christians had been subjected to terrible persecutions.

According to the Greek historian Eusebius, at the time that St. Helena arrived in Jerusalem there was a pagan temple dedicated to Venus lying at the top of the hill of Calvary (otherwise known as Golgotha), the site where Jesus Christ was crucified. Helena ordered the pagan temple to be destroyed and an excavation to be undertaken at that location. Three crosses were discovered buried some twenty feet under the ground, but it was unclear which was the True Cross (two other men had been crucified alongside Jesus).4 Legend says that Helena touched each of the three crosses to the body of a terminally ill woman—the wood that healed her was identified as the True Cross.5 Helena took some fragments of the True Cross with her when she returned to Rome.

the building of the basilica

Emperor Constantine ordered the construction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on the newly-discovered site of Christ’s tomb, which was completed and dedicated on 14 September 335 A.D. The church was damaged by fire in the early seventh century. and subsequently destroyed during the rule of the Fatimid Caliphate in 1009 A.D. Reconstruction began about twenty years later, and concern about the long-term safety of the church and the city of Jerusalem played a role in the crusades of the Middle Ages. Though the building and the city changed hands numerous times over the centuries, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre has always served as an important site for Christian pilgrims, and today it remains a popular landmark in Jerusalem for visitors of all faiths.6

celebrate with children

Dear Lord, help us to treasure your cross above all things, and honor it in all the small crosses you ask us to carry as we follow you.
—from The Queen & The Cross

Holy Cross Day is a great opportunity to talk with children about Christ’s great love and willing sacrifice, and perhaps to discuss the cross as a Christian symbol. At our house we will be reading a book called The Queen and the Cross: The Story of Saint Helen, written by Cornelia Mary Bilinsky and illustrated by Rebecca Stuhff, which tells the story of St. Helena’s journey to Jerusalem and what she found there. We’ll also be painting unfinished wooden wall crosses that the children can put up in their bedrooms. Although typically baked on Good Friday, hot cross buns are also a perfect food to prepare for Holy Cross Day. Here’s a quick and easy recipe (no yeast involved!):

Hot Cross Buns, adapted from Cooks.com

Ingredients:
For the buns
1 c whole wheat or all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 c raisins
1/3 c milk
For the frosting
1/2 c confectioners sugar
2 tsp milk
1/4 tsp vanilla

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter with a fork or pastry cutter until it looks like coarse crumbs. Add honey, cinnamon, and raisins and stir gently to mix. Make a well in middle and pour in milk. Stir quickly with a fork and form a ball.

3. Divide dough into 6 round buns and place on greased baking sheet. Cut a deep cross through the top of each bun. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

4. While buns are baking, mix together confectioners sugar, milk, and vanilla. When buns are done, let them cool slightly, and then apply frosting in the shape of a cross on the top of each bun.


Rood, from Old English rōd, crucifix, pole

SELECTED SOURCES
1 “Exaltation of the Holy Cross” by Fr. Don Miller, OFM, www.FranciscanMedia.org
2 “The Exaltation of the Holy Cross,” www.CatholicNewsAgency.org, 9/14/17
3 “313 The Edict of Milan” by David F. Wright, www.ChristianityToday.com
iv “The Finding of the Cross,” Christian Classics Ethereal Library, www.CCEL.org
v “Helen,” The Illustrated World Encyclopedia of Saints by Tessa Paul (Lorenz Books, 2014), p 94
v “Church of the Holy Sepulchre” www.ChurchoftheHolySepulchre.net

berry picking

berry picking

berry picking 13

We are very lucky to live in a part of the country where a wide variety of summer fruits grow in abundance. A couple of years ago we planted some raspberry bushes in our yard, which we hope will someday be good producers. In the meantime, we have lots of local farms where berries are the main event, and some even let customers pick their own. Our little guy is very fond of berries so we thought it might be fun for him to have the experience of going berry-picking. We chose Monadnock Berries for its spectacular view of Mt. Monadnock, and we were not disappointed (with the view or the berries!). Picking berries with family and friends is a quintessential summer activity that should not be missed. Note: there was quite a bit of “sampling” of berries happening, as well—nothing compares to the flavor of blueberries right from the bush!

I picked over three pounds of blueberries in just under an hour, most of which I put in the freezer for later in the year when I want a taste of summer. Freezing berries is easy! Simply rinse berries in a collander, dry them lightly, and then spread them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Freeze berries for a couple of hours, and then transfer them to quart-size ziplock bags and put them back in the freezer to store. If you want to use your berries right away, I highly recommend making blueberry crisp and then topping it with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream—truly a summer treat that can’t be rivaled! Here’s a recipe I like to use (can be adapted to use with any type of berries, frozen or fresh):

Blueberry Crisp, adapted from a recipe by Williams-Sonoma

Ingredients:
4 cups berries
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 stick butter
3/4 cup rolled oats

Directions:
Preheat an oven to 375°F. Grease a shallow 1 1/2-quart baking dish with butter, or spray with vegetable cooking spray. Spread the berries evenly over the bottom of the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the lemon juice. In a bowl, using a pastry blender or fork, mix together the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, butter and rolled oats until well combined. Sprinkle evenly over the berries. Bake until the top is golden and the berries are bubbling, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Serve hot or warm, with ice cream or whipped cream!

berry picking collage 1
berry picking 3
berry picking 5
berry picking 1
berry picking collage 2
berry picking 12
berry picking 9
berry picking 11

independence day

independence day

there and back 10

America celebrates its birthday on July 4th each year. Typically, it is a festive occasion, with fireworks, parades, and barbecues. All of this is fine, and it is nice to celebrate during the good times. However, there is also a gravity to the day, often overlooked amid all the excitement, and the deeper meaning of this holiday is worth exploring.

Much has been said about the American Revolution and its aftermath, but I’d like to suggest two exceptional pieces on the subject, both of which are excerpted in the July 2016 newsletter.

Below is the full text of a speech given by Mark Twain more than a century ago, enumerating the steps that were necessary to secure the America we know today. For Twain, our Fourth of July is not a stand-alone event, but one which occurred as the natural result of an impulse that began with the Magna Carta, a document created more than 800 years ago that attempted to hold the king accountable to the law, and to protect the rights of all free men.


The American Society in London gave a banquet, July 4, 1907, at the Hotel Cecil. Ambassador Choate called on Mr. Clemens to respond to the toast “The Day We Celebrate.”

MR. CHAIRMAN, MY LORD, AND GENTLEMEN,—Once more it happens, as it has happened so often since I arrived in England a week or two ago, that instead of celebrating the Fourth of July properly as has been indicated, I have to first take care of my personal character. Sir Mortimer Durand still remains unconvinced. Well, I tried to convince these people from the beginning that I did not take the Ascot Cup; and as I have failed to convince anybody that I did not take the cup, I might as well confess I did take it and be done with it. I don’t see why this uncharitable feeling should follow me everywhere, and why I should have that crime thrown up to me on all occasions. The tears that I have wept over it ought to have created a different feeling than this—and, besides, I don’t think it is very right or fair that, considering England has been trying to take a cup of ours for forty years—I don’t see why they should take so much trouble when I tried to go into the business myself.

Sir Mortimer Durand, too, has had trouble from going to a dinner here, and he has told you what he suffered in consequence. But what did he suffer? He only missed his train, and one night of discomfort, and he remembers it to this day. Oh! if you could only think what I have suffered from a similar circumstance. Two or three years ago, in New York, with that Society there which is made up of people from all British Colonies, and from Great Britain generally, who were educated in British colleges and British schools, I was there to respond to a toast of some kind or other, and I did then what I have been in the habit of doing, from a selfish motive, for a long time, and that is, I got myself placed No, 3 in the list of speakers—then you get home early.

I had to go five miles up-river, and had to catch a particular train or not get there. But see the magnanimity which is born in me, which I have cultivated all my life. A very famous and very great British clergyman came to me presently, and he said: “I am away down in the list; I have got to catch a certain train this Saturday night; if I don’t catch that train I shall be carried beyond midnight and break the Sabbath. Won’t you change places with me?” I said: “Certainly I will.” I did it at once. Now, see what happened.

Talk about Sir Mortimer Durand’s sufferings for a single night! I have suffered ever since because I saved that gentleman from breaking the Sabbath-yes, saved him. I took his place, but I lost my train, and it was I who broke the Sabbath. Up to that time I never had broken the Sabbath in my life, and from that day to this I never have kept it.

Oh! I am learning much here to-night. I find I didn’t know anything about the American Society—that is, I didn’t know its chief virtue. I didn’t know its chief virtue until his Excellency our Ambassador revealed it—I may say, exposed it. I was intending to go home on the 13th of this month, but I look upon that in a different light now. I am going to stay here until the American Society pays my passage.

Our Ambassador has spoken of our Fourth of July and the noise it makes. We have got a double Fourth of July—a daylight Fourth and a midnight Fourth. During the day in America, as our Ambassador has indicated, we keep the Fourth of July properly in a reverent spirit. We devote it to teaching our children patriotic things—reverence for the Declaration of Independence. We honor the day all through the daylight hours, and when night comes we dishonor it. Presently—before long—they are getting nearly ready to begin now—on the Atlantic coast, when night shuts down, that pandemonium will begin, and there will be noise, and noise, and noise—all night long—and there will be more than noise there will be people crippled, there will be people killed, there will be people who will lose their eyes, and all through that permission which we give to irresponsible boys to play with firearms and fire-crackers, and all sorts of dangerous things: We turn that Fourth of July, alas! over to rowdies to drink and get drunk and make the night hideous, and we cripple and kill more people than you would imagine.

We probably began to celebrate our Fourth-of-July night in that way one hundred and twenty-five years ago, and on every Fourth-of-July night since these horrors have grown and grown, until now, in our five thousand towns of America, somebody gets killed or crippled on every Fourth-of-July night, besides those cases of sick persons whom we never hear of, who die as the result of the noise or the shock. They cripple and kill more people on the Fourth of July in America than they kill and cripple in our wars nowadays, and there are no pensions for these folk. And, too, we burn houses. Really we destroy more property on every Fourth-of-July night than the whole of the United States was worth one hundred and twenty-five years ago. Really our Fourth of July is our day of mourning, our day of sorrow. Fifty thousand people who have lost friends, or who have had friends crippled, receive that Fourth of July, when it comes, as a day of mourning for the losses they have sustained in their families.

I have suffered in that way myself. I have had relatives killed in that way. One was in Chicago years ago—an uncle of mine, just as good an uncle as I have ever had, and I had lots of them—yes, uncles to burn, uncles to spare. This poor uncle, full of patriotism, opened his mouth to hurrah, and a rocket went down his throat. Before that man could ask for a drink of water to quench that thing, it blew up and scattered him all over the forty-five States, and—really, now, this is true—I know about it myself—twenty-four hours after that it was raining buttons, recognizable as his, on the Atlantic seaboard. A person cannot have a disaster like that and be entirely cheerful the rest of his life. I had another uncle, on an entirely different Fourth of July, who was blown up that way, and really it trimmed him as it would a tree. He had hardly a limb left on him anywhere. All we have left now is an expurgated edition of that uncle. But never mind about these things; they are merely passing matters. Don’t let me make you sad.

Sir Mortimer Durand said that you, the English people, gave up your colonies over there—got tired of them—and did it with reluctance. Now I wish you just to consider that he was right about that, and that he had his reasons for saying that England did not look upon our Revolution as a foreign war, but as a civil war fought by Englishmen.

Our Fourth of July which we honor so much, and which we love so much, and which we take so much pride in, is an English institution, not an American one, and it comes of a great ancestry. The first Fourth of July in that noble genealogy dates back seven centuries lacking eight years. That is the day of the Great Charter—the Magna Charta—which was born at Runnymede in the next to the last year of King John, and portions of the liberties secured thus by those hardy Barons from that reluctant King John are a part of our Declaration of Independence, of our Fourth of July, of our American liberties. And the second of those Fourths of July was not born until four centuries later, in, Charles the First’s time, in the Bill of Rights, and that is ours, that is part of our liberties. The next one was still English, in New England, where they established that principle which remains with us to this day, and will continue to remain with us—no taxation without representation. That is always going to stand, and that the English Colonies in New England gave us.

The Fourth of July, and the one which you are celebrating now, born, in Philadelphia on the 4th of July, 1776—that is English, too. It is not American. Those were English colonists, subjects of King George III., Englishmen at heart, who protested against the oppressions of the Home Government. Though they proposed to cure those oppressions and remove them, still remaining under the Crown, they were not intending a revolution. The revolution was brought about by circumstances which they could not control. The Declaration of Independence was written by a British subject, every name signed to it was the name of a British subject. There was not the name of a single American attached to the Declaration of Independence—in fact, there was not an American in the country in that day except the Indians out on the plains. They were Englishmen, all Englishmen—Americans did not begin until seven years later, when that Fourth of July had become seven years old, and then, the American Republic was established. Since then, there have been Americans. So you see what we owe to England in the matter of liberties.

We have, however, one Fourth of July which is absolutely our own, and that is that great proclamation issued forty years ago by that great American to whom Sir Mortimer Durand paid that just and beautiful tribute—Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln’s proclamation, which not only set the black slaves free, but set the white man free also. The owner was set free from the burden and offence, that sad condition of things where he was in so many instances a master and owner of slaves when he did not want to be. That proclamation set them all free. But even in this matter England suggested it, for England had set her slaves free thirty years before, and we followed her example. We always followed her example, whether it was good or bad.

And it was an English judge that issued that other great proclamation, and established that great principle that, when a slave, let him belong to whom he may, and let him come whence he may, sets his foot upon English soil, his fetters by that act fall away and he is a free man before the world. We followed the example of 1833, and we freed our slaves as I have said.

It is true, then, that all our Fourths of July, and we have five of them, England gave to us, except that one that I have mentioned—the Emancipation Proclamation, and, lest we forget, let us all remember that we owe these things to England. Let us be able to say to Old England, this great-hearted, venerable old mother of the race, you gave us our Fourths of July that we love and that we honor and revere, you gave us the Declaration of Independence, which is the Charter of our rights, you, the venerable Mother of Liberties, the Protector of Anglo-Saxon Freedom—you gave us these things, and we do most honestly thank you for them.

gardening with children

gardening with children

8 Ask the plants of the earth,and they will teach you; 9 Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?
10 In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being.

—Job 12:8-10

Gardening is a wonderful activity for children that can last from early spring until late summer, even here in the frosty Northeast. Before the snow even begins to melt, we’re already excitedly poring over our seed and garden supply catalogs, trying to decide what tasty veggies we will plant this year.

garden 2014 // the beginning 5

While gardening is one of my favorite warm-weather activities, I just want to note that this page is not meant to be taken as expert advice about growing a garden—there are so many resources for that already, and I am still a beginning gardener, myself. However, I thought it might be nice to touch on some of the ways that children can play a role in planning, nurturing, and enjoying a family garden.

garden 2014 // the beginning 4

We’ve had success creating gardens straight from seed and also with started plants. I think both methods have their benefits and drawbacks. Starting from seed allows children the opportunity to really understand the life cycle of plants, which is wonderful, but there is a lot of waiting involved and not everything you plant will be successful—we constructed a beautiful pea and bean teepee last year that really didn’t thrive and that was disappointing to all of us. On the other hand, using started plants generally guarantees a higher rate of success, and there’s a feeling of almost instant gratification, especially with fast-growers like zucchini! The downside is that buying started plants skips one whole stage of the plant life cycle, and sometimes the plants aren’t as healthy as one would hope. Always buy your seeds and started plants from reputable growers.

Shall I not have intelligence with the earth?
Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself.
—Henry David Thoreau

garden 2014 // the beginning 6

Vegetable gardens need a lot of sun, so it’s important to take some time to find the right spot for planting. I highly recommend using containers and/or raised beds to start, as they are so much easier to manage (think: less weeding), and you have a lot more control over growing conditions. We actually have two raised beds in our front yard because that’s the sunniest spot—they’re off to one side, so they’re not too obtrusive. We’re planning to add another 1/2-sized bed this year just for our youngest. He’ll have a space all his own to tend, and I think that will be really special for him.

garden 2014 // week one 1

If you’re new to gardening, start with some tried-and-true favorites like herbs (basil is a good one to try) or greens like kale and swiss chard—they’re almost impossible to kill, and they’ll keep growing until you rip them out in the fall. If you find your greens are really prolific, you can always make smoothies with the surplus! My favorite recipe is very simple: cube a fresh pineapple, divide into four servings, and freeze in Ziploc baggies. When you’re ready to make a smoothie, blend one serving of frozen pineapple with a peeled banana and two handfuls of greens; add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water until smoothie is desired consistency. Kids love these smoothies, even when made with strongly-flavored kale.

smoothie collage

I will reiterate that there are many, many resources out there for beginning gardeners, and it can be a lot to weed through (pun intended). I recommend starting with a university extension—this excellent utility will help you find your local office. I always print out the planting schedule from my extension, which gives me a rough timeline for getting my plants in the ground, and ensures I won’t end up planting too early or too late.

26 // 52 // Zane

Besides selecting what to plant, there are many ways that children can help with the family garden. With supervision, they can excel at weeding, watering, and harvesting, to name a few of the many tasks that need doing throughout the growing season. We often have itinerant helpers (neighborhood kids) who stop by to assist and to enjoy a ripe tomato or two—depending on the circumstances, planting a garden can be a community affair, and even a form of ministry.

What was paradise, but a garden full of vegetables
and herbs and pleasure? Nothing there but delights.
—William Lawson

garden week 3 collage

My final words of advice: Don’t be too hard on yourself if things go all “pear-shaped,” as the Brits say. Gardening can be very rewarding, and also very frustrating. Sometimes plants die, or get covered in downy mildew, or have blight, and that’s all part of the experience. There are ways to prevent these things, but the solutions can be expensive and/or involve chemicals you don’t really want your family to ingest. Sometimes you take what you get, and you do what you can with it (to quote my parents). And, for added reassurance, I will confess that I’ve had tomato plants with nothing left but yellowing stalks and a handful of shriveled, brown leaves and yet they still produced delicious fruit. Things don’t have to be pretty to be tasty!

For more inspiration, visit the “Gardening for Children” section of my recommended reading page. You can also read my posts in the “Our Garden” series on my personal blog.

Happy gardening, friends!