Blessing Basil on Holy Cross Day

On Saturday, 14 September, we will celebrate Holy Cross Day with a Procession & Solemn Mass at 10.00 am, including the blessing of sprigs of basil.

Christian tradition says that the cross on which Christ was crucified was discovered by Saint Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, on pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 326. It was divided into three, with one piece remaining in Jerusalem, one going to Rome, and one to Constantinople.

The feast also marks the dedication in 335 of the Churches of the Holy Sepulchre and Mount Calvary in Jerusalem, and the restoration of the True Cross to Jerusalem in 629 after the Persians conquest. The feast was celebrated in Rome before the seventh century, and the ancient Gallican Rite also had a liturgy for it in the early seventh century, as did the Eastern Orthodox and Syriac Churches.

In a practice we adopted from Eastern Orthodox tradition, a sprig of fresh basil is attached to the processional cross and blessed during the procession, as a symbol of how the cross grants new life to the world.

Why basil?

The herb basil has long been associated with today’s feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The word “basil” is related to basileios, from the Greek word for king.

According to one version of the legend, the Empress Saint Helena found the location of the True Cross by digging for it under a colony of basil, and basil is said to have sprung up at the foot of the Cross where the blood of Christ and the tears of his mother fell. A sprig of basil was also said to have been found growing from the wood of the True Cross. On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross it is customary in the East to rest the Holy Cross on a bed of basil before presenting it for the veneration of the faithful.

Also, from the practice in some areas of strewing branches of basil before church communion rails, it came to be known as Holy Communion Plant. The blessed basil leaves may be arranged in a bouquet at the foot of the crucifix; the dried leaves can also be used by the faithful as a sacramental.

Summer Camp Concludes - Day 5


The final morning meant hard work at rehearsals and an interesting snack at the morning break - asps - as well as the usual round of dates, olives and pineapples. Head-ware and collars received their finishing touches. Children also created a cartouches with their own names in Egyptian hieroglyphs.

We took a break in Healey Willan park with several returning to don swim suits when the wading pool beckoned. Mother Johanna demonstrated her own athletic skills.

Then it was time to put on a show for a capacity crowd of grandparents, parents and siblings and show them all the things we had learned - including movement, using our ability to create a machine, playing Orff instrucments and singing a welcoming and departing song. Between segments, we heard the story of Joseph one last time. Parents and grandparents applauded and joined in a final feast.

A camp program like this one happens only with the dedicated commitment of many volunteers. Thanks to all those who shared their gifts and especially to Adam McComb for his leadership. As a tribute to all staff and volunteers who make summer camps such a wonderful experience for children and young people, our picture also appears on the Facebook site of the Women’s Interchurch Council of Canada . After many goodbyes, the hard working volunteers all departed for a celebration and supper at a neighborhood pub - and to say farewell to Adam as he begins a new year of studies. We shall miss his enthusiastic presence and leadership in all our children and youth programs in the current year.


Camp in Session -Day 4


The early morning soccer game now has many players.


Each session becomes more focused as we move toward the presentation to parents on the last day and show them all the things we have learned.

After much practising of singing and dance, we moved on to the end of the story of Joseph and his brothers. There seemed to be tension before we finally got to the happy ending when all was forgiven and everyone was united.


The younger group of campers - either the Pharoahs or the Sphinxes - headed off for beadwork crafts:

The older group - either the Pharoahs or the Sphinxes - headed up to the quiet of the church where each received a set of scrolls - unlike the original ones in Joseph’s time, these were edible. But first they sat around a fire and heard about how scrolls told the story of early peoples and their histories. Nearly everyone listened and focused on the story rather than the photographer.

Camp in Session - Day 3


Campers now feel at home; the energy level is high and friendships form as they get to know one another. They continued to learn new songs and movement routines under music leader Kim’ s direction.

Story leader Viola told us about Joseph’s dream:

A highlight at snack time was a gingerbread cartouche. These cookies that mirror yesterday’s craft assignment received expert help from camper Lara.


And with the return of good weather, campers followed an indoor game with one or two outside - though dumping the water from a bird bath wasn’t included in the rules . . .

In the afternoon we visited the ROM. The children’s room was a great place for dressing up.

Camp in Session - Day 2


The camp routines are falling in place - first games and colouring followed by assembling with leader Adam. Then the shoes come off for music and dance with Kim.

Yesterday’s Welcome Song and dance is remembered and starting to make sense.

Then it’s time to hear more about the story of Joseph - some of it carefully edited for young ears - and then time for snack billed as an Egyptian Feast served on gold bordered plates. Both olives and dates were surprisingly popular.

It was too wet to go outside, but we had a visit from our historian, Martha, who told us about Egypt, while our newest camper looked on - still recovering from an international flight. Meanwhile the collars made yesterday were on display and showed the talents of artists of all ages. Today’s craft project involved making a cartouche and Mother Johanna, our new curate,dropped by to observe.

And it seemed a great day to visit the Gardiner Museum in the afternoon and work with clay. After brief instruction, the campers get to work and produce some amazing results.

Summer Camp Begins - Day 1


Camp began with a flourish as children arrived to travel to Egypt and the land of the Pharaohs - or at least as our converted church hall imagines it to be.- to learn about Joseph and his amazing adventures as dreamer, prisoner and viceroy to the Pharaoh. It’s also a story about brothers and how they reconcile. We started the morning adventure with 17 eager campers and another expected tomorrow. It’s our fifth consecutive camp and for each one we welcome children who return and those who attend for the first time.

Those who arrive early have a chance to get acquainted while the story lady checks the topic. When the drum sounds, the shoes come off and everyone follows the music lady in a lively procession; and then has a chance to learn everyone’s name through an active game where each camper invents a special move and the others follow and try to remember it.

Designer snacks are a camp tradition. The kitchen crew outdid themselves yet again by creating small one eyed mummified bananas as well as vegetables and pretzels.

Then it was time to get organized into two groups. Campers ranged from four to eleven in age and headed off to games and crafts appropriate to their ages and abilities.