January 6, 2011

Theophany 2011: The Orthodox World Celebrates

It is a common practice for Orthodox to bless water not only in church on Theophany, but to go to their nearest local body of water or even well and bless those waters also. The blessing is normally done twice: once on the Eve of the Feast — usually at a Baptismal font inside the church — and then again on the day of the feast, outdoors at a body of water. Following the Divine Liturgy, the clergy and people go in a Crucession (procession with the Cross) to the nearest body of water, be it a beach, harbor, quay, river, lake, swimming pool, water depot, etc. (ideally, it should be a body of "living water"). At the end of the ceremony the priest will bless the waters. In the Greek practice, he does this by casting a cross into the water. If swimming is feasible on the spot, any number of volunteers may try to recover the cross. The person who gets the cross first swims back and returns it to the priest, who then delivers a special blessing to the swimmer and their household. Certain such ceremonies have achieved particular prominence, such as the one held annually at Tarpon Springs, Florida. In Russia, where the winters are severe, a hole will be cut into the ice so that the waters may be blessed. In such conditions, the cross is not cast into the water, but is held securely by the priest and dipped three times into the water. The water that is blessed on this day is known as "Theophany Water" and is taken home by the faithful, and used with prayer as a blessing. People will not only bless themselves and their homes by sprinkling with Theophany Water, but will also drink it. The Orthodox Church teaches that Theophany Water differs from regular holy water in that with Theophany Water, the very nature of the water is changed and becomes incorrupt, a miracle attested to as early as St. John Chrysostom (Homily on Christian Baptism in P.G., XLIX, 363).

Most of these articles are in Greek, but are accompanied with pictures.

1. Theophany at the Phanar in Constantinople and the Cross throwing in the Golden Horn which was banned by the Turks for many years but restored into pratice 9 years ago. See two videos below and read here.

2. Theophany in Tarpon Springs, Florida where its 105th celebration took place and 78 young men jumped into the waters. 105 doves were released in honor of the 105 years of celebration in Tarpon Springs. See more in the video below. Read more here.

3. Theophany in Khartoum, Sudan was celebrated by Metropolitan Emmanuel at the Annunciation Church.

5. Theophany in Austria (which in the 300 year history of Orthodoxy in Austria, the Cross throwing ceremony has taken place for the past 5 years in a row in the waters of the Danube in Vienna).

6. Theophany in Messolonghi, Greece where Metropolitan Kosmas of Aitolia preached the following in the Cathedral of St. Spyridon: "Today, the day of Theophany, we contemporary Christians must believe stronger in the Holy Trinity. We must bring the Holy Trinity into our lives, to bring the Holy Spirit that He may illumine us by His Grace, then all will be blessed in our lives."

7. Theophany in Kyparissia, Greece where Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Trifylia gave the winner of the cross throw in the cold waters a gift of a golden cross.

8. Theophany in Kastoria, Greece where two cross throwing ceremonies took place - one at lakeside area of "Stavros" where five children dove for the cross, and one at the Monastery of Panagia Mavriotissa which was established in 1080 AD and next to which other children dove for the cross.

9. Theophany in Langadas, Greece where there were two cross throwing ceremonies and both winners received as gifts a golden cross and a diptych icon of Christ and the Virgin Mary, while the rest of the divers received icons of Panagia of Tinos.

11. Theophany at the Patriarchate of Alexandria where Patriarch Theodoros is the only Patriarch that has been able to convince the Egyptian government to allow for the Cross throwing ceremony to take place in public for the past six years. Despite the recent attacks on New Years against the Copts by the Muslims in Egypt, the Patriarch expressed his sorrow while also emphasizing the good relationship between Greece and Egypt as well as Muslims and Christians in the region.

12. Theophany in Cyprus was celebrated in all its free area, with the cross throwing ceremonies taking place in the major harborside cities such as Lemessol, Larnaka, Paphos, and Agia Napa.

16. Theophany in Rhodes, Greece where at the cross throwing ceremony a professor of Aegean University retrieved the cross. See more in the video below.

17. Theophany in Piraeus, Greece was celebrated by Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece in the presence of many politicians of Greece.

19. Theophany in Corinth, Greece where over forty divers tried to retrieve the cross.

20. Theophany in Thessaloniki, Greece where there were over twenty divers, two of whom were girls.

21. Theophany in Timisoara, Romania had an interesting ceremony take place when the huge reservoir supplying the city of 300,000 was blessed so the holy water can be supplied by tap.

22. Theophany in Kalymnos, Greece. In the video below the Divine Liturgy at Holy Trinity Church in Vathi is shown together with the cross throwing ceremony and the procession to the sea.

23. Theophany in Florina, Greece

24. Theophany in Hong Kong

25. Theophany in Adelide, Australia

26. Theophany in Kefallonia, Greece

27. Theophany in Kalamata, Greece

28. Theophany in Bowling Green, Kentucky

29. Theophany in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania

30. Theophany in Sugar House Park, Utah

31. Theophany in Bavaria

32. Theophany in Glyfada, Greece

33. Theophany in Mantineia, Greece

34. Theophany in Ermoupoli, Greece

35. Theophany in Frankston & Rye, Australia

36. Theophany in Elia, Mykonos

37. Theophany in Geneva, Switzerland