Sunday, September 10, 2017

Celebrate the Memorial of the Exultation of the Cross with Food, Reading, and More!

On September 24, we celebrate the Memorial of the Exaltation (or Triumph) of the Holy Cross.  Last year, my family did this largely through prayer, conversation, reading, and food.  This year, we intend to add some further lessons.  So, today, I thought I would share a look back and a look ahead, plus share the story of the history of the day (towards the bottom of this post).

A Celebratory Breakfast

Last year, my children woke to a morning note which let them know we'd be enjoying a special breakfast together for the Memorial of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

Before the rose, I set up our simple meal as a breakfast picnic.  I decorated our breakfast blanket simply, inspired by an excerpt at
Catholic Culture which explains that:
The cross of triumph is usually pictured as a globe with the cross on top, symbolic of the triumph of our Savior over the sin of the world, and world conquest of His Gospel through the means of a grace (cross and orb).

I used a small globe and a crucifix raised up on an upturned cup.

I also set out our laptop, so we could read about the day on Catholic Culture, the Story Library of Saints so we could read about St. Helen, who found the True Cross, and Pray Always, opened to a picture of Jesus on the cross.

Our meal was a simple "apple pizza" made with a GFCF pizza crust, apples, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

After grace, while focused on our cross above the world, we prayed a quick prayer also found on Catholic Culture:

O cross, you are the glorious sign of victory.
Through your power may we share in the triumph of Christ Jesus.

Then, inspired by the following passage at "The Triumph of the Cross" at Catholic Culture, during our meal we chatted about crosses in our own lives:
"... the Finding of the Cross... is connected with the old tradition that the Empress Helena discovered the True Cross of Christ in the fourth century and built a church on that place. What the Church wants to bring home to us is this: that we must take the word of Our Lord seriously: 'Whosoever wants to become my disciple, let him take up his cross and follow Me.'
When we celebrate this feast of the Cross in September in our family, this leads to talk about the different crosses in our life, small ones, big ones."

We also read "St. Helen" in the Story Library of Saints and located relevant locations on our mini-globe.

A Quick and Easy Addition to Lunch

Tradition says that sweet basil grew all over the hillside where Saint Helena discovered the Holy Cross on which our Lord died.  Thus, as a part of our lunch, I made a small "hill" of hummus and laid a GFCF pretzel cross in it, surrounded by fresh basil leaves.   

While enjoying our lunch, we narrated to one another a bit about what we recalled from St. Helen's story.

A Symbolic Dinner

Keeping up with symbolic eats, I decided to continue the basil theme into dinner by serving a GFCF penne pasta with "love" (or "blood of Christ" tomatoes in it.

I also fashioned some bread into a quick cross.

Unfortunately, just went we sat down for our meal, ominous storm clouds rolled in. 

Fortunately, the storm held off long enough for us to pray quickly and dive into the meal with joy and gusto.

Further Lesson and Discussion Ideas

This year, I will be curious to see what my children recall about the Exultation of the Cross and St. Helen, so I plan to serve up symbolic meals again, to take out some St. Helen readings, and to see what the children recall.  I also hope to include further lessons, chats, and resources in our week's plans, to include:

One of our learning goals this year is to build our copywork muscle.  Thus, this week, we'll be using the lovely Sign of the Cross print and handwriting pages that Crusaders for Christ freely shares.  (To find the download link for these pages, just scroll down to the section of the page entitled "Holy Sacrifice of the Mass".)  When giving these pages to my children, I plan to chat with them about some of the times and reasons we use the Sign of the Cross, such as:

  • to profess the deepest mysteries of our: the Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - and the saving work of Christ on the Cross
  • before prayer to help fix our hearts and minds to God
  • after prayer to keep close to God
  • during challenging times as a sign of protection
  • as a seal at Baptism to signify the fullness of redemption belonging to Christ
  • at any point when we seek to give our entire self to God -- mind, body, soul, will, and heart.

Digging Deeper into Prayer

 Depending on the way our day is going, we might also read "Significance of the Sign of the Cross" at EWTN, which details how the sign came about, what six meanings it has, and why making it reverently can enhance one's life in Christ.

Old and New Testament

After reading the daily readings, we will also likely chat about how when Moses lifted up the bronze serpent over the people, it foreshadowed our salvation through Jesus when Jesus was lifted up on the Cross. 

Nature Study

If we have time, the children an I might also play a nature version of the cookie hide-n-seek I read about at Catholic Cuisine.  Basically, my thought is that each of us could fashion a cross out of found materials in nature and, on one of these, we'll put some red.  Then, one of us will hide the crosses and the rest will seek them.  Whoever finds the one with the red will get to lead us all in a prayer and, then, hide the crosses for another round.

Stations of the Cross 

We will likely pray the Station of the Cross at home or at church, too, especially focusing on the prayer:
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, for by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

If we do so at home, we may use our D.I.Y Stations of the Cross Prayer and Sequencing Sticks.

We may re-read The Tale of the Three Trees...

... or watch The Legend of the Three Trees on video.

A Basic History of the Triumph of the Cross

On September 14th, we celebrate the Exultation (or Triumph) of the Holy Cross on which our Lord died.  During Jesus' time, the cross was used as an instrument of public torture, punishment, and shame for criminals that broke Roman law.  Our Lord used the cross for a different reason, however.  He took on the suffering of the cross as an sacrifice for the sins of everyone else in the world, and died in public view, so people could see how much He loves us.

from Wikipedia - True Cross by Agnolo Gaddi

In the 300's AD, a Christian queen named St. Helen went to Jerusalem to search for Christ's cross.  She found three crosses here and decided to test them to see which was the one Jesus died on.  A very sick woman touched each cross and, when she touched the third one she was instantly healed.  Through this miracle, St. Helen determined which cross was the true cross of Christ.

from Wikipedia - Illumination from Tres Rich Heures, Duc du Berry by Jean Colombe  

St. Helen's son Constantine was not yet a Christian, but when he was about to go to war, he had a vision of the Cross and heard the words, "In this Sign, you will conquer."  He had crosses drawn on flags and shields, won the battle, and became a Christian.  Then, on September 14, 335, he had the Church of the Holy Sepulcher dedicated on the site where Christ died and rose again.

from Wikipedia - Treasure Room, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem with True Cross

In 614, Persians invaded Jerusalem and stole the True Cross.

In 629, the True Cross was recovered and brought back to Jerusalem on September 14.  Thus, on this day, we celebrate the discovery and recovery of the True Cross and that, through uniting ourselves to Christ's Sacrifice on the Cross, we can enter into eternal life. While doing so, we think about our love and gratitude for Jesus and respect for the cross.

For more thoughts about the feast day, listen to Bishop Barron's podcast at Word on Fire. 

Also This Week...

This is the month of Our Lady of Sorrows and the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows is on the 15th.  If you didn't catch them last year, you might like to browse my Our Lady of Sorrows Poet-Tea planning post:

You might also enjoy our post-tea post filled with pictures and descriptions of how our Our Lady of Sorrows Poet-Tea and Art time actually went.

As always, we'd love to hear your favorite prayers, ideas, resources, and practices for living the liturgical year.  Do share!
God our Father, in obedience to you, your only Son accepted death on the cross for the salvation of mankind. We acknowledge the mystery of the cross on earth. May we receive the gift of redemption in heaven. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
~Collect Prayer for the Exaltation of the Holy Cross


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