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January 22, 2013

Theophany 2013: 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 in the church 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, videos and a brief summary.

Theophany in Constantinople, Turkey (Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I threw a wooden cross into the waters of the Golden Horn and over a dozen swimmers raced to be the first to retrieve it.)

Theophany in Tarpon Springs, Florida (Forty-seven male teens dove into 65-degree water Sunday to grab the cross in this 107 year old ceremony. Sixteen year-old Vassilios Harding was the first to retrieve it and was blessed by the Archbishop and carried off on the shoulders' of fellow divers as he hoisted the cross in the air. This year's cross floated rather than sank because organizers decided to make it lighter.)

Theophany in Kalofer, Bulgaria (350 men in traditional dress waded into the icy Tundzha River with national flags. Led by the town's mayor and encouraged by a folk orchestra and homemade plum brandy, they danced and stomped in the rocky riverbed.)

Theophany in Constanta, Romania (3,000 Orthodox believers turned out to watch priests hurl three crosses into the icy sea. Dozens, some wearing diving suits, dived into the waters to retrieve the crosses. "We the people are so like the sea," said Romanian Orthodox Archbishop Teodosie Tomitanul. "We hope that, as the sea has been calm until now this year, our souls will be just as calm.")

Theophany in Durres, Albania (Hundreds of faithful gathered at the seaport of Durres, accompanied by Metropolitan Nicholas of Apollonia, with four eager young men who dived into the icy cold waters to retrieve the cross. A 22 year old from the University of Tirana got the blessing of retrieving it first.)

Theophany in Australia (Because Australia experiences a warmer climate this time of year, many celebrations take place at various seaports throughout the country, and they usually have more participants for the cross diving ceremony as well. It is so popular that it has become a tourist event.)

Theophany in Alexandria, Egypt (Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria and All Africa, following the Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Annunciation in Alexandria, went to the Greek Yacht Club of Alexandria to hold the blessing of the waters ceremony, with local Greek school students participating. This is a tradition he established since he first became Patriarch.)

Theophany in Vienna, Austria (For the seventh year in a row the Greeks of Vienna celebrated the Sanctification of the Waters ceremony in the Danube with the casting of the cross.)

Theophany in Rhodes, Greece (On a beautiful sunny day in Rhodes, Gregorios Grigorakis retrieved the cross, praying that the crisis would soon come to an end and that the people will see better days ahead.)

Theophany in Herakleion, Crete (Archbishop Irenaios of Crete presided over the ceremony of the Sanctification of the Waters in the port of Herakleion, and several youths jumped into the icy cold waters. 23 year old Michael Maravegias, a plumber by profession and second time diver, came out the winner, wishing everyone health and enlightenment.)

Theophany in Argithea, Greece (In Argithea is the Cave Monastery in Koumpouriana. At Stefaniada Lake the monks and faithful gathered following the Divine Liturgy for the Sanctification ceremony, followed by a traditional meal at the Monastery.)

Theophany in Nafpaktos, Greece (Following the Divine Liturgy at the Metropolitan Church, Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos led a procession to the port with hundreds of faithful and many participants in the dive. However, controversy erupted and malicious rumors began to spread when the Metropolitan left and a priest went to take back the cross from the winner. Instead, the winner took the cross and threw it back into the sea, prompting another swimmer to go retrieve it and hand it to the priest. These actions by the winner are considered pre-planned.)

Theophany in Halkidiki, Greece (With brilliance and fidelity to Holy Tradition was the celebration of Theophany in Paleochori, Halkidiki. The Sanctification of the Water ceremony took place towards the East and the vestments of the clergy were white, according to the tradition for the feast. Unfortunately many hold the ceremony to the West and wear blue vestments, to match the sea.)

Theophany in Preveza, Greece (After the Divine Liturgy at the Metropolitan Church of Saint Haralambos officiated by Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Nicopolis and Preveza, a procession took place to the harbor where the Sanctification of the Water took place, and a marble cross without a cord was thrown. About 20 braved the cold and plunged the cold sea, but Demetris Karamanidis for the second consecutive year retrieved the cross.)

Theophany in Corinth, Greece (Metropolitan Dionysios and the unfortunate swimmers in Corinth experienced the unexpected. When the Metropolitan threw the lightweight cross into the water and the swimmers dove into the water, suddenly a strong gust of wind took the cross and flew it into another port. Nothing like this had ever happened before, where the cross is thrown in one port and retrieved from another.)

Theophany in Athens, Greece (The largest Sanctification of the Waters ceremony in Greece takes place in its largest port, that of Piraeus. Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and many government officials participated, with the central message of giving hope to the people for the future of Greece.)

Theophany in Thessaloniki - Metropolitan Anthimos led the faithful to the seaport of Thessaloniki for ceremonies. Yiorgos Ipsilantis, 28, was the first to retrieve it. Among the 20 divers was 9 year old Haralambos, who had to be pulled out of the water because he began to suffer hyperthermia. Later in the hospital he told reporters: "I wanted to catch the Cross, that I may supplicate God to make the world well."

Theophany at Mount Athos - Festivities this year were quiet due to recent protests not allowing pilgrims to visit Mount Athos. Yet there were still all-night vigils taking place everywhere as well as various ceremonies for the Sanctification of Waters at the sea.

Theophany in Cyprus - Churches throughout Cyprus celebrated Theophany. Archbishop Chrysostomos was in Kato Paphos this year, with other Metropolitans serving other areas throughout the island.

Theophany in Antioch - The new Patriarch of Antioch, John, celebrated Theophany in the largest parish of Damascus, the Church of the Holy Cross.

Theophany in Munich, Germany - The Sanctification of the Isar River has become an important event in the city of Munich, yet this year swimmers were not allowed to dive into the waters because heavy rainfall made the waters dangerously violent.

Theophany in Frankfurt, Germany - For the sixth consecutive year the parishes of St. George and Prophet Elijah came together to plunge into the River Main.

Theophany in Venice, Italy - Metropolitan Gennadios led the ceremonies along the Venetian canals. For the first time, this year a gondola was used to help retrieve the cross.

Theophany in Hong Kong

Theophany in Nigeria