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September 14

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Ember day (Fall)

The Story of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Early in the fourth century, Saint Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, went to Jerusalem in search of the holy places of Christ’s life. She razed the second-century Temple of Aphrodite, which tradition held was built over the Savior’s tomb, and her son built the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher on that spot. During the excavation, workers found three crosses. Legend has it that the one on which Jesus died was identified when its touch healed a dying woman.

The cross immediately became an object of veneration. At a Good Friday celebration in Jerusalem toward the end of the fourth century, according to an eyewitness, the wood was taken out of its silver container and placed on a table together with the inscription Pilate ordered placed above Jesus’ head: Then “all the people pass through one by one; all of them bow down, touching the cross and the inscription, first with their foreheads, then with their eyes; and, after kissing the cross, they move on.”

To this day the Eastern Churches, Catholic and Orthodox alike, celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on the September anniversary of the basilica’s dedication. The feast entered the Western calendar in the seventh century after Emperor Heraclius recovered the cross from the Persians, who had carried it off in 614, 15 years earlier. According to the story, the emperor intended to carry the cross back into Jerusalem himself, but was unable to move forward until he took off his imperial garb and became a barefoot pilgrim.


The Syriac Church of the East celebrates the finding of the Cross on September 13, and considers it to be a major feast. The Syriac Church considers the Sign of the Cross to be a seventh sacrament, by which all of the other sacraments are sealed and perfected (it takes the place of marriage, which they do not name in their traditional list of sacraments). Saranaya (Syriac) hold a shara every year in cities like Chicago, Illinois, and Modesto, California, and other parts of the world. The shara in Modesto is held every Sunday prior to September 13 at East La Loma Park, where they sacrifice lambs in remembrance of the Feast Of the Cross. People gather and feast and sing and dance to celebrate a happy day.


the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem


In Germany visit the amazing library and abby of 

Wiblingen Monastery Library, Ulm, Germany

Schloßstraße 38, 89079 Wiblingen, Germany

It is said to hold a piece of the true Cross!



What was the wood that made the Cross?

It was a trinity of wood: Cypress, Pine, and Cedar

The fall of man came from the tree of life and and its seeds saved man!

Old Testament - New Testament

One of the most intriguing legends makes a direct connection between the Fall of Man and the Passion, by which Christ paid for the sin of Adam. Seth, one of Adam and Eve’s sons, sought relief for Adam when he was sick. Denied the request for a few drops of oil from the Tree of Life, he was given a branch of that tree instead. Upon Adam’s death, Seth planted the branch over his grave, and the tree grew. From that tree, centuries later, was hewn the vertical part of the cross.

“The crossbar was made of cypress, the piece to rest the feet upon was of palm, and the inscription was written on a piece of olive,” Wall relates. 

Another form of the same legend, however, explains that St. Michael the Archangel, who refused Seth the oil from the tree, gave him three seeds from the Tree of Knowledge (the one from which Adam and Eve illicitly ate) to be placed beneath the tongue of Adam when he was buried. The heavenly messenger promised that from those seeds should grow a tree that would bear fruit whereby Adam should be saved and live again.

“From the three seeds sprang a trinity of trees of three separate woods, cedar, cypress, and pine, although united in one trunk,” Wall writes. “From this tree Moses cut his rod. It was transplanted by David to the borders of a pool near Jerusalem, and beneath its branches he composed his psalms.”

Solomon had it cut down to form a column in his Temple, but being too short, it was rejected and cast over a stream to serve as a bridge. The queen of Sheba, when visiting Solomon, refused to pass over on that tree, declaring that it would one day occasion the destruction of the Hebrews. The king ordered that it should be removed and buried. This was done near the pool of Bethesda, at which time the virtues of the wood were immediately communicated to the waters. After the condemnation of Christ, it was found floating on the surface of the pool and the Jews took it for the main beam of the Cross.

There has long been a tradition that the cross was made up of a number of different woods — usually three, in honor of the Trinity, but sometimes more. “An old legend makes out that the Cross was made of ‘Palm of Victory,’ ‘Cedar of Incorruption,’ and ‘Olive for Royal and Priestly Unction.’ And in a Latin verse we are told:

The foot of the Cross is Cedar, The Palm holds back the hands, The tall Cypress holds the body, The Olive in joy is inscribed.

The question of where the wood of the cross came from has also given rise to traditions leading to the construction of eccleciastical structures to commemorate the supposed spot or spots. “To the west of Jerusalem is a fair church where the tree of the Cross grew,” Sir John Mandeville said around 1360.

Henry Maundrell (1665-1701), in his description of a Greek convent that he visited about half an hour’s distance from Jerusa­lem, says: “That which most deserves to be noted in the convent is the reason of its name and foundation. It is because there is the earth that nourished the root, that bore the tree, that yielded the timber, that made the Cross. Under the high altar you are shown a hole in the ground where the stump of the tree stood.”

Wall identifies this as the Greek Orthodox monastery of the Holy Cross, a mile or two west of Jerusalem. It was founded not long after the discovery of the cross by St. Helena. 




Traditionally on this fall Ember day, we remember to give thanks for the grape harvest. So many amazing recipes to be enjoyed on this day using grapes from roasted chicken and grapes to something as simple as peanut butter and jelly, but I think it would be an amazing night to have a grape themed dinner party or even a wine tasting event. However, you spend this day enjoy this time of thanksgiving.



Thyme Roasted Chicken with Caramelized Shallots & Grapes

Perfectly crispy thyme roasted chicken with caramelized shallots

and sweet juicy grapes, all made in a single pan.



  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon of dried thyme kosher salt
    and freshly ground pepper

  • 6 chicken thighs about 2-2.5 pounds

  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon honey 12 to 15 whole medium
    shallots peeled, halved if large 2 cups of red
    grapes stem on kosher salt to taste



  1. Pre-heat oven to 425 ºF.

  2. Pat the chicken dry and season it with thyme, salt, pepper and pepper.

  3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook without moving it until well browned and crisp, about 8 minutes total, lowering heat if it starts to smoke excessively. Flip chicken and brown lightly on second side, about 3 minutes. Transfer chicken to a large plate and set aside. Use a splatter guard over the fry pan if needed.

  4. Stir in vinegar and honey until combined, all the shallots, season with salt and stir until the shallots are all coated. Cook shallots until they begin to brown evenly, about 10 minutes, then turn the heat off.

  5. Nestle chicken back into pan, pushing the shallots aside so that they chicken skin remains exposed. Add the thyme sprigs. Transfer pan to oven and roast, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Add the grapes to the pan, on top of chicken, and roast for an additional 15 minutes.

  6. Remove from the oven and set chicken aside while you reduce the pan sauce. Place pan on stovetop over medium heat, until sauce is thickened and reduced, about 8-10 minutes. Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper.

  7. Serve with the sauce drizzled over the chicken thighs, alongside the caramelized shallots and roasted grapes.


Roasted Grape Goat Cheese Tart

This is an amazing tart which is very easy to make and if you don’t have time to make the pie shell us a store-bought pie shell. Don’t stress, make this recipe work for you.


Brown Sugar Shortbread Tart Shell

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter – at room temperature

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Whipped Goat Cheese Filling

  • 2 cups goat cheese (or cream cheese) – at room temperature

  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt – at room temperature

  • 1/3 cup honey (To Taste)

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 medium orange – zested, reserve the rest for grapes

Roasted Grapes

  • 3 cups red and/or black grapes

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

  • 1 medium orange – reserved from above

  • 6-8 sprigs fresh thyme


Brown Sugar Shortbread Tart Shell

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

  2. Whisk together the salt and flour in a medium sized bowl and set aside.

  3. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar together on medium/high speed for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy, stop the mixer and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl a few times. Add the vanilla and mix until fully incorporated.

  4. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients, scraping the bowl a couple of times. Only mix until the ingredients have just come together and the dough is still crumbly so it is easier to distribute in the pan.

  5. Evenly spread the dough in the bottom of a 9" tart pan with a removable bottom, then lightly press the dough into place so it covers the bottom and slightly up the sides of the pan. Gently prick the dough with a fork.

  6. Bake for about 25 minutes until the shortbread dough puffs up a bit and is a warm golden color all over. Allow the tart shell to cool in the pan on a wire rack.


Whipped Goat Cheese Filling

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attached, whip the goat cheese for a few minutes until it is light and fluffy. 

  2. Add the Greek yogurt, honey, vanilla and orange zest. Whip together until smooth. 

  3. Pour the filling into the cooled tart shell and smooth the top with a spatula. Chill in the fridge for at least 3-4 hours to allow the filling to set before topping.


Roasted Grapes

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

  2. Slice half of the reserved orange into very thin slices. Juice the other half and set aside.

  3. Place the grapes on a rimmed baking sheet. Add orange slices, sugar, olive oil and thyme. Toss together until grapes are coated. Coat the orange slices with sugar.

  4. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes just until the grapes start to break down, have shriveled a bit and some have slightly burst. The thin orange slices should candy and will make for a beautiful garnish on the tart. Remove the items carefully with a small spatula.

  5. Allow to cool on baking sheet.

Assemble & Serve

  1. You will need a 9" tart pan with a removable bottom for this recipe.

To serve, remove the filled and chilled tart from the fridge. Then carefully spoon the juicy grapes on top of the tart. Garnish with the candied orange wheels and fresh thyme. Slice and serve immediately!

Alternatively, you can slice the tart first, then individually top each slice with the roasted grapes and garnish just before serving or make the shell into tartlets.

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