Iraqi Feast of the Holy Cross Celebration – September 13th, 2014

September 19, 2014 by  
Filed under Director's Blog, Iraq

On September 13th, 2014, 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 so long.

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Fr. Bassim Shoni holding a lit up cross as the congregation prayed and sang.

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Congregation gathered in the center of the church singing and praying in front of a lit cross.

It is believed that after converting to Christianity, Saint Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine, embarked on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in search of the cross used to crucify Jesus. During her search she stationed a group of Christians on all hilltops between Constantinople and Jerusalem. After finding three crosses, Saint Helena began to bring sick people with the hopes that the right cross would heal them. Upon touching the third cross, the sick were healed. In order to signal that she had found the cross in which Jesus was crucified on, Saint Helena lit a bonfire which was passed on and lit at the top of each hill until it reached Constantine.

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Painting of Saint Helena and the sick touching the crosses she found.

On the night of the feast in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East such as Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Jerusalem, huge bonfires illuminate the houses and villages as far as the eye can see. Faithful gather in groups and celebrate this Feast Day by jumping over the fire as a symbol of passing over the difficulties of life by the power of the cross. Additionally, Christians also hang huge crosses decorated with light bulbs on the roof of their houses and light them up for approximately a week.

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Fr. Bassim Shoni leading the procession holding the lit up cross.

At the end of 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. Unfortunately due to a poor weather conditions, the community was not able to continue the celebration with the jumping over the fire as it is custom in their home country. However, they were all very happy to be able to peacefully celebrate this Feast Day as it is currently not safe for their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to continue this tradition in the Middle East.

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Community members processing around the church singing hymns.

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Husam Handallo, member of Iraqi Community during the procession.

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