Today in our Church calendar we commemorate the Elevation of the Holy Cross as one of the Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church. This feast is also referred to as the Exaltation of the Cross.
This feast commemorates the finding of the Cross by the Empress Helen (the mother of St. Constantine the Great) on Golgotha in 326 AD, the place where Christ was crucified. On the spot where the Cross was discovered, St. Helen had found a hitherto unknown flower of rare beauty and fragrance, which has been named "Vasiliko", or Basil, meaning the flower of royalty. Note that the word “Vasiliko” means “of the King,” since the word “Basileus” in Greek means "King"; so, the plant Vasiliko, Basil, is tied to the Precious Cross of the King of Glory, our Lord Jesus Christ. Underneath the Basil, the Cross of Christ was found, but with it were the other two crosses, those used to crucify the two thieves on either side of Christ.
In order to determine which one was the true cross, and as a funeral procession was passing that way, the body of the dead man was placed on each of the crosses, and when it was placed on the True Cross, the dead man came to life — thus the name the “Life-Giving” Cross, which gives life not only to that man, but to each person who believes in the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and His all-glorious three day Resurrection. When the true Cross was identified, it was lifted on high for all the people to see, who then continually sang “Kyrie eleison” (Lord have mercy), a practice which is still enacted at current celebrations of this feast.