Iraqi Community Exaltation of the Holy Cross September 2015

October 22, 2015 by  
Filed under Director's Blog, Iraq, Middle East

On September 13th, 2015, the Iraqi Community of the Archdiocese of Boston celebrated the Eid Al- Salib or the Feast of Holy Cross, the finding of the cross Jesus was crucified on. The Holy Mass was celebrated by Fr. Bassim Shoni, chaplain of the Iraqi Community, in the Syriac rite making the celebration very personal and special to all the present Iraqis who have been away from their home-country for a long period of tim


Fr. Bassim Shoni, Chaplain of the Iraqi Community Carries the Cross out of the Church


Altar Servers processing out of the Church

The Iraqi and other Middle East countries always celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September fourteen of each year. This feast is very important for the Christians in the Middle East, for it celebrates the day in which the Christians returned the cross back from the Persian Empire.


The blessing of the fire during the outside procession


Aseel and Sermed Ashkouri from the Iraqi Community with their family

In a testimony given by Maima Panow M.D. she expresses that in Basra where her family lived, every Christian house had a bonfire in front of their home.  The churches celebrate by burning the collected dried wood and bushes. Not only would Christians celebrate but she recalls being in a neighborhood surrounded by Shiite and Sunni and Christians, and all came together to celebrate this feast that night. Children, adults and old used to surround the fire; many would jump on the fire and other wait until the flam was gone then jump. AS they jumped they would say, “Jump from the dark to the bright light.”

Although this was the case, Maima Panow explains that since the war, Christians suffered greatly and the Feast has not been able to be celebrated as it used to be. She explains that for safety reasons, the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church asked the Christians in Mosel to celebrate that day in the Monastery where the Christianity started 33 years after Christ. For Catholic and Orthodox were no longer allowed to celebrate that day in Mosel. They arrived at the Monastery in hundreds, old and young. Many brought with them their bundle of wood to add it to the one already prepared by the priests and the Novices living in the Monastery. They collected the bundle of wood in the yard of the Monastery. As soon as the Christians parked their cars at the bottom of the mountain, they start walking up. The Bishop and the priests with their deacons went down to meet them. They blessed them and walked in front of the faithful to chant and sing for the Lord. They arrived to the Monastery and prayed inside the church. The Orthodox youth band entered the Monastery with their drums and horns. The female choir was there to sing for that special feast.

Panow recalls that by night they went out set the fire in the bundle of wood outside the yard. Many stayed in the Monastery overnight. They celebrated the mass inside the church before leaving to their homes in Mosel.  


Child, member of the Iraqi community jumping over the fire


Woman, member of the Iraqi Community jumping over the fire


Jumping over the fire

Just like mentioned above, here in the Archdiocese of Boston, following Mass,  the Iraqi community and those who joined them in this special celebration, processed around the church as Fr. Bassim Shoni carried the lit cross to continue the celebration with the jumping over the fire as it is custom in their home country. All took turns jumping over the blessed fire, and were all very happy to be able to peacefully celebrate this Feast Day as mentioned above, it is currently not safe for their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to continue this tradition in the Middle East.


Fr. Michael Harrington with the members of the Iraqi Community at the reception following mass and the jumping over the fire

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