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The fest of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the Byzantine tradition and on the Arbëreshe table.

Today the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is celebrated and hoping not to offend any sensitivity I have decided to publish a writing by His Exc. Emanuel Nin which explains in a clear and intelligible way, to the faithful or to the simple curious, the religious significance of this feast in the Byzantine tradition.

Believing that it is also important in some way to link our traditions to the liturgical calendar, I also wanted to remind you that today in the tables that respect the traditions we will taste the "stranguj" which are usually prepared in the family the day before.

Enjoy the reading

Salvatore Vasotti


by S. Ecc. Manuel Nin

The feast of the Exaltation of the Cross - Universal exaltation of the Cross precious and life-giving is its title in the liturgical books of the Byzantine tradition - has a Jerusalem origin linked to the dedication of the basilica of the Resurrection, built on the tomb of the Lord in 335, and also to the celebration of the finding of the relic of the Cross by Empress Elena and Bishop Macario, represented in the icon of the feast. The Cross has an important place in the Byzantine liturgy: it is commemorated every Wednesday and Friday of the year with the singing of a troparium, the third Sunday of Lent, May 7 and August 1, always presented as a place of victory for Christ over the death, of life over death, death place of death. The celebration of September 14th is preceded by a pre-feast on the 13th, which celebrates the dedication of the basilica of the Resurrection, and is prolonged with an octave until the 21st. that of the Cross: "Most venerable Cross that the angelic hosts surround joyfully, today, in your exaltation, by divine will you lift all those who, by the deception of that fruit, had been cast out and were precipitated into death"; "Once in paradise a tree stripped me, because by making me taste its fruit, the enemy introduced death; but the tree of the Cross, which brings men the garment of life, has been planted on earth, and all the the world is filled with all joy "; "the Cross that the Most High carried, as a cluster full of life, shows itself raised from the earth today: through it we have all been attracted to God, and death has been completely swallowed up. O immaculate tree, for which we taste the immortal food of Eden, giving glory to Christ! ".

Esaltazione Santa Croce
Santa Croce con Basilico - foto Papas Jani Stassi

One of the troparia of the evening office, with touching and profound images, summarizes the whole mystery of salvation: "Come, all peoples, let us adore the blessed wood for which eternal justice was achieved: since he who with the tree deceived the progenitor Adam, is lured by the Cross, and falls overwhelmed in a fatal fall. With the blood of God the poison of the serpent is washed, and the curse of the just condemnation is annulled for the unjust condemnation inflicted on the just: for with a tree it was necessary to heal the tree, and with the passion of the impassive to destroy the passions of the condemned in the tree ". In another troparium, the incarnation of Christ, God in the flesh, is presented as the bait that attracts and overcomes the enemy on the Cross: "For you fell he who had deceived with a tree, was lured by God who in the flesh in you has been stuck, and which gives peace to our souls ". Several texts make a Christological reading of the many passages of the Old Testament that the patristic and liturgical tradition has read and interpreted as prefigurations of the mystery of the Lord's Cross: "What Moses foreshadowed once in his person, thus routing Amalek and demolishing him , what David the cantor ordered to venerate as your footstool, your precious Cross, O Christ God "; "tracing a cross, Moses, with the vertical stick, divided the Red Sea for Israel who passed it with dry feet, then reunited it on himself turning it against the chariots of the pharaoh, drawing, horizontally, the invincible weapon"; "in the bowels of the sea monster, Jonah, spreading his palms in the shape of a cross, clearly prefigured the saving passion: therefore, going out on the third day, he represented the resurrection of Christ God crucified in the flesh who illuminated the world with his resurrection on the third day". At the end of the morning the rite of the exaltation and veneration of the Holy Cross takes place. The priest takes from the altar the tray containing the precious Cross placed in the middle of basil leaves - the fragrant herb which, according to tradition, was the only one to grow on Calvary and which surrounded the Cross when it was found - and in procession carries him holding the tray on his head up to the central door of the iconostasis and in the middle of the church. There he places the tray on a small table, makes three prostrations to the ground and, taking the Cross with the basil leaves in his hand, looking to the east, raises it above his head, then lowers it to the ground and finally traces the sign. of the cross, while the faithful sing "Kyrie eleison" a hundred times. Repeating this great blessing towards the four cardinal points and again towards the east, the priest invokes the mercy and blessing of the Lord on the Church and on the whole world. At the end, the priest raises the Cross and with it blesses the people who then go on to venerate it and receive basil leaves, to remember the good scent of the risen Christ that all Christians are called to witness in the world.

Manuel Nin


by Salvatore Vasotti

In our tables, that still respect the tradition, today the dishes will be filled with "stranguj" the typical small dumplings that are rigorously seasoned with fresh tomato sauce and basil leaves that were distributed during the religious service.

These dumplings are prepared the day before and their preparation involved the whole family and the neighborhood that contributed to the production also for a surplus that was distributed even to those who could not afford them.

The ingredients and preparation are very simple. All you need is flour and water for the dough. The flour is placed in a fountain on a pastry board and then a hole is created in the center which is enlarged. Salt water is poured into it and kneaded. The dough must be long and energetic. Once finished, a ball is created and covered with a cloth to prevent it from drying out. A small portion is detached from the ball of dough that you work with your hands to make it stretch, creating a roll with a thickness of about one centimeter. At this point with a knife small cylinders are cut and a skilful hand using the thumb that pushes on the dough with a movement that ends upwards to make these dumplings. Usually the grandmother started and then everyone and especially the children were involved.

Once the production is finished, they are left to dry to cook on the day of the Holy Cross in boiling salted water for less than two minutes.

The gnocchi are served on a plate and seasoned with the fresh tomato sauce, which is prepared in this period and the basil leaves that the faithful receive today in church.

A traditional recipe that is very simple and that we should all keep alive.

To remember the unforgettable Sister Caterina Musacchia I decided to publish these unpublished photos that I took of her years ago while she was preparing the "stranguj".

Salvatore Vasotti

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