Vasiliko (Basil Herb)

The sweet smelling, aromatic herb known as Basil derives its name from the Greek word «βασιλικό» meaning royal or kingly plant. Tradition tells us that in the year 326AD, St Helen, the mother of St Constantine the Great, the first Christian Emperor of Rome, embarked on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in search of the True Cross of Christ. It is said that the sweet smelling scent of the vasiliko alerted her to discover the hiding place of the three crosses: the cross of Jesus, the repentant thief St Dismas, and the other thief Gestas. A dying man was brought forward and when placed on the True Cross, his healing was made complete. St Helen then ordered that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre be built upon this Holy site.

Since then the vasiliko has been associated with various Feasts of the Cross. The first of these is on the Third Sunday of Great Lent, known as the Veneration of the Holy Cross or ‘Stavroproskiniseos’. The cross, decorated with vasiliko, is taken in procession around the church to encourage us to take strength from all that it represents: namely the Sacrifice of Our Lord who leads us to eternal life. Small bundles of the vasiliko are given to the faithful after they venerate the Cross. The faithful are urged to place these small cuttings in water until roots develop and then to replant them as a blessing in their homes.

These are to be taken back to church on the 14th September when we celebrate the Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross,commemorating the historic event when the Holy Cross was raised high after being found by St Helen. Finally, at Theophany on January 6th each year, the priest uses the vasiliko to sprinkle the Holy Water on the faithful both at the service and during the blessing of their homes. Therefore it is a blessing to have vasiliko growing in our homes!


Source: Lychnos August / September 2016