Today the church celebrates Holy Cross Day. It's such a great day, that we are celebrating it all week! What an excellent opportunity to teach little ones to recognize the cross of Christ and share the story of His love displayed there!
Our preparations for Holy Cross Day started last week when we made cards to send to our shut-in friends. My little Adelae drew crayon crosses on construction paper, I cut them out into cross shapes and glued it on to the blank card. Then we glued a larger cross, cut from transparent page dividers, on top using glue sticks. Inside, I copied a couple verses of the hymn, In the Cross of Christ I Glory (LSB #427):
When the woes of life o'er take me,
Hopes deceive and fears annoy,
Never shall the cross forsake me;
Lo, it glows with peace and joy.
When the sun of bliss is beaming
Light and love upon my way,
From the cross the radiance streaming
Adds more luster to the day
Pretty uplifting words for our shut-in friends, don't you think? A hymn in your heart is always a good thing! Sealed shut and heart stamped, our love notes were shipped off to our friends.
This morning, over breakfast, instead of reading a Psalm, as we have been doing during this "green meadow" season of Pentecost, I shared two Holy Cross Day stories with the kids. First, the origin of the day. For a 7mo old and 3 year old, the story went something like this, After Jesus died, they saved His cross, but somehow it got lost for a very long time. Sort of like when you lost your sunglasses a long time ago...but eventually we found them again. A mommy went on an adventure and she found the cross, Jesus' cross. They believed it was the same cross where Jesus died for our sins. So they wanted to build something there so they'd never forget again. What kind of building do you think would be a good building for a cross?... Of course, they built a church there, and that mommy was Helena, Constantine's mommy, but we'll save those details for a few years!
The Old Testament reading for today, the Bronze Serpent (Numbers 21:4-9), is a great one! I shared the account complete with animated whining and groaning from the Israelites, who complained to God about their food from Him. (My daughter is a little young to catch the irony of this complaint, but found my whining antics hilarious!) She is afraid of snakes, so I left out the details of them being deadly, biting, fiery snakes. The fact that God sent snakes was enough! And so we began to draw snakes, scary S-shaped hisssssssing snakes. And then I drew a pole, and continued to tell and draw the story. It wasn't long before she saw that when God told Moses to place a bronze snake up on that pole and the people were to look to it for salvation, that even she made the connection of this pole and snake to our Savior on the cross. Little Pete sat and ate Cheerios. I'm sure he got something from it!
These narratives of adventure and snakes and crosses led us to the idea of heading out on our own adventure, so we packed up and ventured the half mile to the seemingly distant swimming pool, searching for snakes and crosses along the way. We found a few cross shapes in window frames and fence bars, no snakes, but two worms! What an adventure!
Back at home, Pete was napping so we gathered coffee filters, bingo markers and blue painters tape (plus newspaper to protect our green table!) to make these, "Surprise Crosses".
Adelae is a great folder, so I had her fold her coffee filter into quarters, like a slice of pie. With help, she taped the folded sides of the filter to the table, so the tape sealed off about a quarter inch of each of the folded sides. Next, she painted the exposed portion of the filter completely using the various colors of bingo markers. Very carefully we peeled the tape from the table and the filter, then opened the filter to reveal the surprise: a cross! They glowed beautifully in the window!
For dinner, I just had to make something with freshly harvested basil. According to tradition, when Helena found the cross, basil was growing around it. Be this fact or fiction, Holy Cross Day is a very good excuse to make your favorite basil dish! Mine is Caprese Salad with White Beans.
I don't do recipes very well, but this is how I make it. Halve a half pint of grape tomatoes. Stir in a cup and a half (or a can) of Cannellini Beans and a container of pearl size fresh mozzarella balls. Top with a chiffonade of fresh basil, balsamic vinegar and olive oil to taste. I use equal parts vinegar and oil, but only enough to coat the salad. Sprinkle with kosher salt and feast!
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died....
Love so amazing so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all!